The last decade, however, has seen a change in mind-set and the way that designers approach their lines and this is turn has seen Africa making its mark internationally. At the Afropolitan we are in constant search of the beauty of Africa and we found it in Adjoa Acquah’s design line “Africanista Conversations” produced under her label Joansu Jewellery.Joansu pieces are all limited edition and inspired by travel. The current Spring Summer 2012 collection reflects the vibrant colours of Accra (“Africanista Conversations”), the sophistication of Paris (“La Lune”), the serene beauty of Cape Town (“Cape Town”), the playful beach collection (“Boju Beach”) and the elegant charm of Vienna (“Musik”). Joansu limited edition jewellery is hand-made in London and crafted from the finest materials including precious stones such as Sapphires, Topaz and Citrine; precious metals; and clear resin. The Joansu brand logo (6 lines) mimics the Mmeeda geometrical pattern of Ghana’s Kente cloth; a pattern that means “something that has not happened before”; a subtle reminder to approach each day in that spirit: full of wonder, anticipation and love.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I spent my childhood living in the elegance and conservatism of Austria and the vibrant, bold colours of Ghana. Both have shaped my designs tremendously – classic pieces but daring shapes and colours. What I carry from Ghana into my designs are those memories of colour upon colour and women matching and mismatching pieces to create a statement.
I have always admired African women who accessorise fearlessly. This is combined with the structural elegance of Vienna; Austria has shaped my conception of beauty and fashion.
Ever since the beginning of an age where people on the African continent became fashion conscious most, if not all, of their fashion preferences were of pieces with western influence.
Did you always want to be designer or did that happen by chance?
I am and have always been fascinated by the way jewellery enhances and alters an outfit and is versatile and emotive. I knew I wanted to design for myself but designing professionally was by chance – I went into law and business first and built up a successful career in that field before moving into design.
How has your work been received in the market?
Great feedback! African fashion is in a period of re-definition. Designers, such as myself, are embracing our personal reflections of Africa in our designs and the market is responding with enthusiasm!
What hurdles have you had to overcome in order to realize your dream?
It’s difficult to set up a business – the long nights building and creating can be overwhelming and often lonely. I found that the hurdle is often you – the designer – and your own self doubts. It’s important to pick yourself up and have a trusted group who can help you keep moving even if it looks scary.
Africanista Conversations – what inspired this particular collection?
My African heritage is most prominently displayed in the Africanista Conversations collection; a tribute to the beautiful and revolutionary women of Africa whose conversations, passions and strength create change. I wanted to show a collection that celebrated the beauty of our cultures but in a way that really reflected my relationship with, and view of Africa.
I am one of a handful of designers who work with resin - a material that has increased in prominence over the last few years. I combine this with Ankara (wax print) and other fabrics such as Ashoke in this collection.
The prints and patterns of the African textiles have meanings that are often deeper than the attractiveness of their design. This is what drew me to use African materials – you can tell a story with the bold colours and patterns. Capturing and encasing them in clear resin creates a unique collection of modern glamorous jewellery.
Do you feel people outside the continent are becoming more willing to try out African print on design?
Yes – absolutely! I think there are three fundamental reasons why African prints are slowly becoming the ‘norm’. Firstly, Africa is now a serious business partner and as it rises up in that world, the spotlight catches the rich tapestry of culture and brings it to the fore. We see this in dance, music, cuisine and of course increasingly in fashion. Secondly, African designers are more innovative with their use of prints and that innovation is naturally going to create a following from a new target market. For example, women who are conscious that prints are too loud to wear as an outfit may be more comfortable wearing an Africanista Conversations cuff on their wrist. We are playing around with prints and adapting them. Thirdly, African prints add colour and life. The trend to see more vibrancy in fashion in Spring Summer 2012 is in direct contrast with the economic climate in most Western countries: loud colours have a terrific way of getting us to look beyond the doom and gloom.
Do you get any online orders from Africa for your pieces?
Yes – mostly from West Africa. However it is difficult to send items, in particular jewellery to many parts of Africa. The postal system is not always efficient and the cost of sending things over (safely) is often prohibitive. Joansu launched at the Christie Brown boutique in Accra, which has been amazing in sharing the brand in West Africa. I would love to launch the branch in South Africa too – watch this space!
Neuner Schmuckatelier boutique, Vienna located on the exclusive shopping street Kärntnerstraße (www.neuner-schmuck.at)
Christie Brown boutique in Accra (christiebrownonline.com)
Online at www.ltdo.co, as well as Joansu's website, www.joansu.com.
For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.