TEXT: MICHAEL ANTHONY HALL
Upon meeting Nana Kwame Adusei, you immediately understand his vision and deep-rooted values. The Ghanaian designer, based in Los Angeles, is unabashedly himself, brimming with warm energy and a love for African fashion–a recentering of preconceived notions. "Africa, to me, is not your skin color or geographical location. It is more so about body type, which is why the brand is built to complement curves," Adusei notes.
The young namesake label, Kwame Adusei, is an attempt at, first and foremost, fashion, where African sensibilities meet an international audience. While many individuals within the fashion industry may trivialize what African influence is or is not, Adusei is filling in the gaps, creating garments centered on the person, regardless of size or identity. Pulling from his culture, Adusei interprets West Africa through clothing, where social gatherings, inclusion, and community live in abundance. "Community building was a big part of life growing up in Ghana. We were typically raised by 5 or 6 people because everyone took care of and looked out for one another," Adusei recounts. "Everybody needs a support system, and that doesn't necessarily mean you have to know those people for a long time. We are not designed to be an island. Humans are social creatures."
A departure from hyper-individualism that finds its way into all parts of the fashion industry, Adusei's approach to fashion and the community he serves, is not all methodical; it's organic, fostering authentic connections along the way. This ethos of community and inclusion is found in every stitch Adusei sews, where fit models are friends, and each piece produced contemporized perceptions of African style. "African fashion before colonization was always genderless. If you look at pictures of our traditional outfits, you'll notice the fabric often gets draped to cover vital parts of the body, making it indistinguishable from a man's or woman's garment," Adusei points out. "My intention is to incorporate the rawness of the unique African style." With strides within the fashion industry to center collections on "gender-inclusivity" and "genderless fashion," Adusei understands that this existed outside of the Western world, subverting the notion that any of these efforts are new– they're not.
With years of technical experience and a lifelong vetted interest in fashion, Adusei's masterful craft took time. In honor of his mother, his first brand, Charlotte Prive, bolstered him up within Ghana, folding into owning his first garment production factory and stores. Through this success, Kwame desired a new environment where his creative ambitions could roam free, sparking his ultimate move to the states. Struck by the COVID-pandemic, forcing the closure of his stores and factory in Ghana, Adusei found difficulty in establishing his namesake label. "I wanted to start a label out here that would fuse both worlds but still stay true to my Ghanaian heritage," Adusei explains. Through perseverance, the contemporary fashion designer carved out space in Los Angeles and continued to create sexy, confident, timeless garments, but this time, under the title Kwame Adusei.
Emphasizing the dynamicity within African style that is more than vibrant colors, Adusei creates sustainable, unique, and confident garments, much like the consumer he designs for. "[The Kwame Adusei customer is] someone who values how a garment fits and how they want to be perceived and wants to feel both sexy and comfortable," Adusei explains. "They are less concerned about price points because they care about quality. Our consumers are sustainable because they are constantly shopping for pieces that they know will last."
These unwavering intentions of quality and sustainability fold into the design process, where Adusei conjures up pieces that tell a life story while lasting the test of time. “[The design process] varies every time. It's almost like an experimental process because every collection has its own different inspirations. It can start off with a trip or a conversation," Adusei notes. "The older I get, the more I gravitate toward minimalism because I understand how minimal African fashion was before fabric manufacturers introduced colorful prints to African style."
Officially established in 2022, Kwame Adusei is reimagining what fashion can be, with bold silhouettes swathed in distinct color and seductive allure. An amalgamation of various inspirations and deep considerations of the consumer and the planet, Adusei desires a brand where craftsmanship trumps clout. "I want to emphasize the concept of people wearing garments because of how they complement the body rather than wearing garments based on the name," the Los Angeles-based designer explains.
The first year for Adusei has been triumphant with his debuted resort collection at Soho Warehouse in Los Angeles, where he emulated traditional Ghanian villages poolside. Enveloping into showing work at a pop-up during September NYFW, Adusei ended the year at Art Basel Miami, where he put on a spectacular show, a display of metallics and experimentations of shape and form. "The first year was about internal growth and establishing the brand's presence within the industry. In year two, we are focused on tuning in on the brand's vision," Adusei notes.
In a market that appears exceptionally saturated, it's rare for a brand to cut through the trends and fast productions, honing in on quality and the meaning of a garment– where the technical and experiential collide. While Adusei's brand is entering its second year, looking onwards, the Los Angeles based- Ghanaian designer hopes to share a slice of West Africa, connecting individuals worldwide and inspiring a shift in our perceptions of garments and the histories and futures they hold.