House of Aama is not just another unisex clothing brand. The mother-daughter masterminds and founders Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka draw from nostalgia, folklore and the experience of their ancestors in the postbellum Southern United States for their emerging fashion label. Together, they aim to capture the "spiritual expression" of their partnership in material form, celebrating their Caribbean background and cultural heritage as African Americans.
The roots of House of Aama were first planted back in 2013 when Shabaka was in high school in Los Angeles. As a teenager, she started to experiment with making her own clothes with the help of her mother, Henry, who is an attorney. "I desired to wear clothes that expressed my culture and I couldn't find the clothes I wanted in the marketplace, so I began making my own. Friends saw my clothes and asked if I could make clothes for them and thus House of Aama was born," recalls Shabaka.
The two set out to create their first collection, titled "Urban Nomad," which debuted in 2014. Kenyan tartan and Ghanaian Kente textiles were transformed into modern silhouettes and emblazoned with emblems from the West African Ashanti and East African Maasai tribes. The clothing eventually caught the eye of the organizers of Afropunk Music Festival and the brand was invited to be a vendor at the youth culture event in Brooklyn. Upon attending, Akua and Henry realized there were several other creatives out there experimenting with African fabrics as well, so they decided to find new ways to tell their stories beyond traditional fibers. Over the next few years, they took their time to refine their aesthetic and rebrand themselves.
House of Aama officially relaunched in November 2017 with a collection titled "Bloodroot." Drawing inspiration from the spiritual properties of the bloodroot herb, which was given to Henry as a child by her grandmother in Louisiana, the collection is an ode to the co-founders' Creole roots and spirituality. The collection seeks to honor the tales of Southern rootworkers, as bloodroot was a rare herb used by old-time conjures who saw it as a "powerful guardian for the family."
This inspiration is translated via striped corduroy military jackets and pants, Victorian shirts made from silk and lace and halter tops in African patterns. A few standout items include an orange faux-fur coat mixed with printed snakeskin material and a bell-bottomed, high-neck jumper embroidered with rose-colored flowers and white accents. Currently, the line is solely sold online through House of Aama's website.
Though Akua left home in 2015 to attend Parsons in New York, her mom still lives and works in LA, where their garments are made. Despite their bicoastal partnership — and the fact that they are 30 years apart — the duo still shares the same general cultural views, which Akua says fuels their designs. Differences of opinion do occur at times, but it's their strong bond that keeps the pair's collaborative process balanced and fluid. "My mother was always fashionable and had a keen, sophisticated style to her, mixed with [that of] a Southern belle," says Akua. "Growing up, I'd see that come to life all the time and was always encouraged to beat my own drum."
House of Aama doesn't operate on the traditional fashion calendar. Instead, Henry and Akua aim to release a special mini collection for summer 2018, and is in the process of planning a new collection for 2019. Moving forward, the co-founders hope to expand their audience, along with creating pieces that go beyond clothing, such as incorporating lifestyle products.
At the heart of everything they do is the power of Black pride and storytelling: "Our customers tell us that our brand is different from other brands because of the stories we are telling behind our clothes," says Akua. "We are not just making clothes. We are folklorists telling our stories through clothing and this has resonated with our customer base."
See more of House of Aama's latest collection in the gallery below.