On September 23rd, I attended an event called New Africa, hosted and curated by l’âme inconnue. l’âme inconnue is a creative management firm who are ardent believers that Africa is filled with some of the greatest talent to date. Their motto is to redefine African designers into a modern aesthetic and to help them integrate into the Western market.
New Africa brought together Ghanaian fashion designer Nina Barkers-Woode of Barkers-Woode (a new addition to the l’âme inconnue roster) and Asia Clarke of Wild Moon Jewelry for a timeless collaboration and memorable evening. I spoke to the l’âme inconnue team to hear what they had to say about the collaboration.
“The Barkers-Woode brand embodies a minimalist aesthetic. Each garment is made up of clean lines and an essence of timelessness. It is inspired by world history and generations of women. Androgynous artworks play on the mixture of masculinity and femininity.
“Wild Moon’s jewelry collection lies on the border of fine jewelry and nature-inspired, mixed with industrial aesthetic of everyday jewelry. Elegance and a tribal sensibility in her designs are achieved through the incorporation of 100% recycled and eco-friendly fine silver mixed with brass, semi-precious stones and 14k gold nuggets.
“Several creative influencers of African descent are photographed and filmed in both designers’ recent collections, with a series of questions that speak specifically to the black youth of today. Each influencer plays a big role in our community of honing the title as an activist. All of this inspiration has sparked the campaign of ‘New Africa,’ an interpretation of the shift of stereotypical ideology of African fashion to a modern day look.”
Tell us a little bit about the concept around this collaboration. How did you get the opportunity to collaborate with each other and what was it like?
Nina Barkers-Woode: We met Asia through l’âme inconnue, a firm that we’ve been working with for a very long time. Asia was super open about our concept and wanted to jump on board. We wanted her to be part of this vision because her jewelry speaks volumes, and it worked out perfectly because she was also preparing to come to Ghana for a great project.
Asia Clarke: The New Africa Collaboration came about with the help of l’âme inconnue, a creative management firm with a commitment to the integration of African designers into the Western marketplace. Through them I was connected to Ghanaian fashion designer, Nina Barkers-Woode of Barkers-Woode, and I was honoured to create some new Wild Moon Jewelry pieces for this special project. Both Barkers-Woode and Wild Moon Jewelry are inspired by world history and scores of prolific women, and are influenced by a classic African Aesthetic. We are both dedicated to innovating African-inspired fashion through our brands so it was easy to collaborate for the New Africa campaign.
Why did you choose to call the collaboration New Africa?
NB-W African fashion has grown on many levels, but I feel a lot of the time when people talk about African fashion they think one stream, which focuses more on our fabrication and traditional wear. We have so much talent and so many designers that push boundaries when it comes to fashion within our continent. New Africa is an interpretation of the shift of stereotypical ideology of African fashion to a modern day look which fits perfectly with the Barker-Woode and Wild Moon brand.
AC The collaboration is called New Africa because the innovations of both our brands have inspired by traditional African Style, but also Afro-futurism and we feel it is important to use our brands to change the perception of modern day African style. For me, as I am from the African Diaspora (via Trinidad, Barbados and Dominica), New Africa is my way of connecting to the continent’s past generations before me through my art.
The event itself was really great. Why did you guys choose to have a less conventional fashion show? What was the idea behind the models standing within the crowd?
NB-W It was super exciting to have l’âme inconnue on board to help with set and production design.
AC The choice of having a less conventional fashion show was based on boredom with runway shows. This was our reaction to the standard. We thought it would be best for the models and the collection to live with the audience, inviting the viewers to enter the world of New Africa and be part of the thought out moment we created.
Who else was involved in this collaboration and the event?
AC We had a lot of awesome models, but the initial buzz of the campaign was due to our awesome photos taken by Mckenzie James (see the Afropunk editorial feature here).
Also, the visual art on the walls and around the space for the show were created by Felipe Velasquez . They really helped bring our vision of New Africa to fruition.
NB-W It’s great to work with a team that understands your vision and are willing to collaborate with you on such a big level. They want to push boundaries when it comes to African Fashion on a larger scale and I can’t wait to see what else we work on together.
Nina, you’re in Ghana, tell us a bit about that and what you’re doing there?
NB-W Barkers-Woode is based in Achimota which keeps us really busy. We’re working on our launch in Accra this December which will also be produced by l’âme inconnue, we want bring this experience to Ghana and expand on this new direction.
Asia, I know you’re going to Ghana. Tell us a bit about that trip and what you’re going to be doing there?
AC Since returning from Trinidad in June I have been working on developing my passion project - the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program. A program that teaches entrepreneurial skills, shares useful tools for business automation and e-commerce, while also touching on personal leadership exploration tailored to women/womyn identifying individuals. The idea was inspired by my work as Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor with CUSO International in Dominica in 2013, where I learned how to use anti-oppressive frameworks to build capacity in disadvantaged communities within emerging economies. I’ve always wanted to visit Ghana (anywhere in Africa, for that matter) and I am excited to do so in the context of furthering my career goals.
This time, instead of staying for six months, I’ll be staying for six weeks. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Program is supported by Crossroads International, will run for five weeks and will take place in an area called Agbogbloshie, in Accra’s city centre. Their talent and passion, by fate or by chance, aligns closely with mine. They create jewelry which they sell in local markets. Crossroads International’s mandate, as aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to promote gender equality, reduce inequalities, promote decent work and economic growth as well as promote responsible consumption and production in the countries they work in. My program aims to build capacity and improve economic empowerment, by sharing how I go about planning, organizing and releasing jewelry collections in a business format
What’s next for you two and your brand?
NB-W I want to expand not only in Africa but on a greater scale. Our collection from our Toronto presentation is now available and we’re working on a new collection which will be launched in Accra, Ghana in December. I can’t wait to share the new direction with the world. Thank you for allowing us to do that!
AC I hope to be able to collaborate with the Obrapaa Women’s Group in Accra, Ghana to start a social enterprise and release a joint jewelry line in 2017. Stay tuned!