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Pan-African Creatives: The Ghanaian womenswear designer reigniting women’s love affair with clothes even in a pandemic

Pan African designer, Ophelia Crossland was planning a Spring Summer 2020 collection that speaks to the essence of womanhood when Ghana recorded its first case of the COVID-19.

The luxury designer, who has designed for notable personalities including Bozoma Saint John, Jackie Appiah, Tracy Wilson, Joselyn Dumas and the first Ghanaian woman to run for president, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawling was looking to infuse joy and excitement to the wardrobe of women across Africa

Within two weeks of the COVID-19 case, it had closed down and halted production on the ready-to-wear clothes inspired by traditional African textiles and modern ideas.

“Despite issuing strong communication directives about safety protocols in our flagship store and rescheduling in-house appointments, we had to close down two clear weeks before Ghana’s government issued a lockdown of cities affected by the virus and mitigate the spread,” brand director, Ophelia Okyere-Darko said about the pandemic

Ghana’s COVID-19 cases overview stands at 41,725 confirmed, 39,495 recovered and 223 deaths and is currently the third-highest in Africa following South Africa and Nigeria.

The industry has greatly been affected by COVID-19 and the fashion industry isn’t left out.

“It was a tough time for most businesses including ours but we quickly resorted to doing business fully online and halted on personal couturier and styling sessions which have become our signature for almost 16 years,” she revealed

For the latest collection, the brand uses the lessons and inspirations from the pandemic to celebrate women for their boldness and creativity even in unprecedented times.

The collection titled ‘Pure Love’ expresses the designer’s renewed interest in her clothes and an appreciation of the things we took for granted prior to the lockdown.

“The disease has really affected women, especially, who have had to juggle family life, career, business and mental health. It’s been a tough season for every woman wherever you find yourself and our new collection is a treat to every woman to reignite their love for clothes again,” the brand said.

The new ready-to-wear collection is a cocktail of traditional hand-dyed silks, creative faux linen with gold print ‘Adinkra’ symbols which are synonymous with Ghanaian folklore, vibrant motifs and vintage yet modern silhouettes. The brand is also experimenting with virtual reality and AI joining the likes of Tongoro Studios, Hanifa and many others who are working with 3D Garments.

An award-winning fashion designer, who is the creative behind the fashion of eight African First Ladies and a mother herself, Okyere-Darko said she was greatly affected by the pandemic in both business and personal life.

However, her eclectic style and design which reflect life, optimism and humour helped her ‘cope during the tough times’

The alumni of the prestigious Vogue Style School of Fashion and Design where she graduated with the Most Outstanding Student award in 2004 said she learnt and achieved how to put colours together to create her masterpieces even as a young girl.

Ghana at the beginning of May announced the ease of several restrictions and movements while sticking to high-level protocols such as social distancing and wearing of nose masks which has informed its decision to open their doors to the world again.

‘We are using this collection to highlight the joy of being black, modern, determined and a woman even in the face of brutality, fear and unrest,’ it added.

But while people go back to their routines and others try to find a new rhythm after the lockdown, Crossland does not want fashion to be just a vain experience for women rather a medium of self-expression and self-love.

“Our ready-to-wear collection reminds us of love in so many ways and love is really needed in our world today. Love is strong, radiant, charming and too beautiful to be hidden in a closet,” she graciously affirms.

The ground-breaking collection retails at the Lotte Concept Store in Airport City, Accra, Viva Concept Store, Temple Muse, Lagos and other digital platforms.

Written by Nathaniel P. Tollo

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