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Why Ghanaian-American Jeffrey Ampratwum is the menswear expert to watch in fashion!

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At the start of the Victoria era, early 19th century – the English began to tone down the royal style dressing of the French army, namely those adorned in prestigious regalia and heavy embroidery. It was a sign of English nationalism and sparked a new wave of appearance in men. A few decades later, the suit was born and heavily influenced those in Italy and America. The British and the Americans have a rich revolutionary history, of course, and coincidentally the British colonized the African country – Gold Coast – until 1957 when they declared their independence and changed their name to Ghana. 

 

As part of an independent Ghana, a host of individuals began to exercise new freedoms and venture out of the country into new territories. Many Ghanaians set their eyes on American travel and a wave of trail blazers left the country and settled in the infamous New York City. For most, it was an opportunity to plant new seeds in the hopes that their children would be afforded even more opportunities for a prosperous life.

 

One of these children of the diaspora is Bronx-born Jeffrey Ampratwum. The only child to Kate Bampoe and Eugene Asante-Ampratwum Mpere, who met in the Bronx after immigrating from Ghana. The dynamics of having African parents and being raised in a heavily eclectic environment gave rise to Jeffreys style and prose. More importantly, we can honestly say that there are only a handful of Ghanaian-Americans living in the states that can exhibit a special presentation that reflects both their African heritage married with the esthetic of their nationality. We recently caught up with Jeffrey to discuss how his early influences provided him with a framework to now become such a strong force in the menswear industry in fashion.

 

Jeffrey. 

AD: Jeffrey, Ɛte sɛn?

 

Jeff: Haha, Eye.

 

AD: I had to test your Twi really quick! You know most Ghanaians who are born in the states dont have a clue about the language unless its spoken fiercely in the home.

 

Jeff: You are 100% correct with that. Ha. But for me, I was lucky in that my mother took me to Ghana before I even knew how to use words. So, in actuality, Twi was the first language and vocabulary I learned, and in essence, English is my second language. So, Im really decent when it comes to using Twi. Im a cheat code! But keep that quiet. Ha.

  

AD: How much of the remnants of the Ghanaian culture factored into your approach to your style and presentation?

 

Jeff: When I was younger and in school, particularly in the Bronx – it wasnt always your proudest moment to be from Africa or to say your family was African. Part of the silly embarrassment was perhaps from the narratives that were spinning on television. Americans were being indoctrinated with visuals of feed the children” which only highlighted the extreme poverty in a few Africans countries. The images and broadcasts were all the same, for decades. So called philanthropist and humanitarians took camera crews into ravaged areas and televised starving children for us to see here in the states. I believe that had a profound effect on young boys and girls born from African parents.

Jeffrey

However, as for me – I always looked at being dark skinned and being deeply rooted into my African culture as a super power. I liked the idea of being different, even though all the kids in all my classes were also children of immigrants. They just couldnt grasp the concept of it at that time. So, from there, it was showtime. My Uncle, Joseph Ken Mintah – was the pioneer as the first in the family to travel to the states – he had extreme style. My mother also is very detailed with her sense of jewelry and fragrances. I adsorbed it all. 

 

AD: Did you start dressing in traditional African attire? What do you mean exactly?

 

Jeff: Not exactly! But, being an only child really allowed for me to sit deep in thought for long periods of time. Being left-handed allowed for me to be extremely dexterous and detailed. And being raised solely by my mother further allowed me to pay attention to the importance of clothing and accessories – as she dressed herself each morning. It was the ultimate cocktail and I was already drunk with creativity. I started customizing all the clothes I had. By no means were we wealthy, so I had to manage just a few outfits for school.

 

My styling began when I would turn 5 outfits into 15 – so essentially, a 5-day school week became New York Fashion Week for me. I would airbrush my sneakers, turn Old Navy sweaters inside out for a fleece appeal, and cuff my jeans in 4 different ways depending on my footwear. This soon became a bad habit and made me late for school many mornings.

 

AD: You see, if you are late to school in Ghana back then – you might as well have sat by the road to hide from both your mother and headmaster! What was college like for you then?

 

Jeff: Right! Ha. It grew legs during my undergrad. Now all the pretty girls were around, I had more freedom to come and go, and more importantly – I had a stage to showcase my style. I joined a student club in the SEEK Program, and soon became the President and started hosting a string of events based around fashion. 4 years and a bachelors degree later, there were 6 fashion shows and 3 beauty pageants under my belt. Huge successes. I started to doubt my real educational reason for attending college, which was to become a dentist. Fashion was dancing on one shoulder and dentistry on the other. But somehow, I figured out how to still involve the two. My best buddy, Kenny – whom I met at the college on the road to become dentists – made it through. So, I live vicariously through him. And now, coincidentally – together we’ve developed a brand – a service of bespoke mens luxury shoes and women’s handbags, and ready to wear womenswear shoes as well. Named, Kenjeffreys. It is serendipitous because all of the products are sourced and handcrafted in Haiti and infused with Ghanaian culture. As Kenny is from Haiti, we properly employ artisans within the community and focus heavily on our social impact.

Following undergrad, I then began at FIT as student, really just trying to test my styling hand – and to learn more about the industry. While there, I came across extremely talented and knowledgeable fashion professionals that have really guided me. Namely, Sadia Seymour and Joseph DeAcetis. Both wildly experienced, patient and embedded with a wealth of information. Respectfully in womenswear and menswear. You cannot beat that, and I am grateful for it.

 

AD: That is strangely unique and admirable. Talk to us about how all those experiences and inspirations give rise to the Jeffrey or Che we see today and ultimately, where that places you in your field of fashion and menswear.

 

Jeff: Sure. Great point. I have been indoctrinated by the basic principles of creativity as an adolescent – with respect to clothing. That is extremely hard to shake. Innately, styling was my ultimate form of communication, seeing that I was a shy introvert. So now, I still revert back to those same feelings…. the feeling of home, warmth, memories, great food and innocent fun. My approach now is exactly the same in the sense that when I am dressing, styling or designing for someone – I am taking into account their entire repertoire and holding a mirror in front of them which reflects the items that they love most. It is a skill that perhaps only empaths are only able to exhibit.

 

Having the ability to read into thoughts and connecting with the motivating spirits that drives people – is a gift. I ran the New York City marathon three times, and the 2nd time I ran it in a tuxedo! It was my ultimate homage and pledging of allegiance to fashion. Ha.

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I also believe my extensive traveling experience has aided to the arsenal. Recent trips to Ghana always resets a creative instinct with me, as I look around and arrive back to a place of self-awareness. It feels right. My cousin Harry knows where to be to capture the real essence of the land. And, coincidentally enough, I am often back and forth to the UK as well. Savile row in London, England -as you know – is a menswear connoisseurs Disney Land. It is the traditional hub for the world’s best tailored-bespoke suits. Naples and Florence are a close second. However, sartorially, the British have etched their names in the fine-art making of the suit. I do though spend most of my time in Brighton, UK. Its where my love is and also like a second home for me. The culture there is infused with various styles and the community is inviting. The Duchess of Brighton-Hove, Lady Donna and her amazing friends will assure that you have a great time! 

 

AB: Finally, talk to us about your styling approach with respect to specific talent that you work with.

 

Jeff: Definitely. This is perhaps an area you cannot teach. It is learned with years of experience and even reading the room wrong most times. I tell my fashion students often that they have to continue shooting airballs at the basket. Get out the miss shots, now – and properly learn your subjects. For example, if I am styling a celebrity for the red carpet – several nuances are to be considered before arriving at a dress or a tuxedo. Such as, what stages in life is your talent currently in, how body conscious are they and what are they most nostalgic about. These (and some of my other secrets that I cannot give away) are the pillars to nailing great style, image and presentation.

WhatsApp Image 2022 05 18 at 2.20.33 PM 1 

If I am shooting for a magazine in a studio – its party time. If you are not dancing as a model or grooving as a photographer, you are are in the wrong business, per say! Haha. With me, you are very liable to hear everyone from Bob Marley, James Brown, MJ, and Jay-Z to Queen, Lady Gaga, Biggie, Nas and Beyonce all on the same playlist. I say that to say: I enjoy what I do in fashion, and I will always represent the joys of that. I believe that is what makes me an enigma in this industry. Always professional however, but make it subjective and inject areas of your creativity wherever you can. Particularly in menswear – I keep a very intimate and close pulse on traditional, casual and street styles of these sub genres – and study them gravely like the science they are. That all still comes from sitting deep in thought as I did
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People & Lifestyle

Charity Meets Fashion for Ghana’s Health – UKGCC Raises Funds For UGMC With 1st Royal Ascot Ladies Day Commemoration In Ghana

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The UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce (UKGCC), a member- based trade association that promotes bilateral trade between the UK and Ghana, has raised funds to support the establishment of a clinical trials unit at the University of Ghana Medical Centre. The UKGCC raised the funds while commemorating the first Royal Ascot Ladies Day Event in Ghana at the Polo Court Gardens, Accra.

Ascot, one of Britain’s most well-known racecourses, holds a special week of races in June each year called the Royal Ascot, attended by Her Majesty the Queen. This week has become Britain’s most popular race meeting, welcoming over 300,000 visitors all dressed in their finest attire.IMG 20220622 WA0015

The UKGCC’s version of the Ladies Day , co-hosted by Ace presenter and radio and Television personality, Nathaniel Attoh, and Ghanaian actress, Sika Osei, paid homage to this iconic British tradition.

As a charity fundraiser, all proceeds from ticket and raffle sales will be donated to the UNIVERSITY OF GHANA MEDICAL CENTRE (UGMC) MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH CENTRE (MSRC) FUND RAISING COMMITTEE.

Read Also: mBanqer Partners MMAAG to Support MoMo Agents

Executive Director of the UKGCC, Adjoba Kyiamah, remarked that “The UGMC MSRC was chosen because given the backdrop of the recent global pandemic, now more than ever, we need more clinical trials in our country to help identify the best treatment for diseases in our environment. The UGMC’s work, in undertaking research, will discover new treatments, methods and procedures to improve the health status of Ghanaians, Africans and the world and so we must support their efforts.”IMG 20220622 WA0014

Dr. Chris Owoo, Clinical Lead, Ghana Infectious Disease Centre, Ga East and member of the UGMC MSRC Board, expressed gratitude to the UKGCC for organising the charity fundraiser and added that as the first purpose built clinical trials centre in Ghana, the unit will research both foreign and locally manufactured (including plant-based) drugs.

“The opportunity to invest in the health of our present and our future population is now and what we do at the moment will determine where we will be when we have another pandemic or other disease conditions that continue to plague us”.IMG 20220622 WA0010

He appealed to other organisations and individuals to support the establishment of the centre, slated to be completed by the end of this year, and drive the change the country needs.

The 1st Royal Ascot Ladies Day Experience in Ghana concluded on a high note with memorable highlights that included

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Fashion

Chalé Socks ‘Athletics Collection’ Designed for People with Active Lifestyle

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The new Chalé Socks Athletics Collection is an active wear range carefully designed for people with active lifestyles.

 

The pieces seek to capture the competitive spirit of Africa into an active wear piece and provides an alternative to already established and well-known brands.

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Chalé Athletics is made up of three pieces, the MaskMan X, Chalé WVS and Chalé WVS ankle socks and with plans to introduce new designs seasonally. MaskMan X comes in yellow and black while the Chalé WVS waves comes in black and off-white. The ankle comes in off-white, beige, black colours.

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With seamless and quality ribbed knit design, the Athletics collection promises to provide and make all who wear it enjoy comfort, unmatched style, and optimum all-round performance.

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Kurtis Kudjo, Designer and Co-founder at Chalé Socks shared that “it is our intention to compete in the global market of athletic socks and we are making a bold statement with the launch of our Athletics Collection.”

Every piece in the Chalé Athletics Collection is composed of 75% cotton, 20% polyester, 5% spandex and features Signature WVS insignia print to the side/Signature MASKMAN™ X insignia embroidery, CHALÉ logo print to the side.IMG 7807

Chalé Socks is a Ghanaian brand offering culturally inspired socks while telling stories of strong African heritage. The brand is inspired by the creative exploits of the people of Agotime-Kpetoe, a weaving community in the Volta region of Ghana. Chalé Socks are made for people who not only choose to walk or run their own path but are also willing to ensure others have the opportunity to do the same.IMG 7788

Every purchase of a Chalé Socks goes to support the brand’s “OneChalé Project “ which gives back to children in creative but underprivileged communities.

Products of Chalé Socks can be purchased via website www.chalesocks.com and also stocked in Ghana at LokkoHouse, Wild Gecko, Naya by Africa and The Lotte. In South Africa at AfricaRise, in Germany: Akuas Family, AfroSchick, USA: Adorn Me Africa, IndigoStyle Barbados: Afro.disiak.

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Contact: +233 302906839 WhatsApp: +233 558738540 Instagram: @chalesocks

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Hamamat Montia is pregnant with baby number 3

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Hamamat Montia

Former Beauty Queen and entrepreneur, Hamamat Montia has shared news of her pregnancy. (more…)

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Fashion

Nana Kofi Asihene Is Hitting His Stride

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Nana Kofi Asihene

It would be impossible to tell the story of Nana Kofi Asihene’s career without moving across multiple mediums. As a designer, filmmaker, and creative director Asihene’s influence on the creative industry is impressively multi-faceted. But to hear him tell it, the journey has only just began and the only way is up.

Nana Kofi Asihene’s love for fashion and the creative field started very early when he would either go to the library in Accra Central and read old fashion and style magazines or buy them from the back stalls of the Odorna Station in Circle. Perusing those pages gave him an eye for the arts. His foray into creating was nurtured while studying Visual Arts in Accra Academy and the creative process crystallised while getting a Diploma in Fine Art from the Ultimate School of Art.

The arts gets a bad rap in Ghana, however, coming from a family of creatives like Theodosia Okoh and T-Michael, Nana Asihene always knew what was possible with art.

Read Also: Afromusicon & Nana Kofi Asihene shoot video for Worlasi

He spent the following years getting a degree in Textiles from KNUST and setting himself up for a career as a fashion designer. He won the British Council International Young Fashion Entrepreneur and was a finalist at the Redds Fashion Design Awards. He apprenticed for Jimi Delaja Couture and started his own fashion line. His young fashion line would set him in the path of the late Kofi Ansah who became a mentor.

Then came the pivot into the visual medium. As a student in KNUST, he had dabbled in making music videos. Therefore, it became easy to direct music videos for musicians who needed them. He helped shape the music video industry in Ghana.

In the last decade, he formed NKACC, a brands and communication company, where he is the Creative Director and Lead Consultant. He has worked with brands such as Tullow Oil, Old Mutual, Dalex Swift, Vodafone Ghana, KFC Ghana among others.

To talk to Asihene is to have a conversation about film, photography, business strategy, and fashion. The depth of his knowledge and experience is an unending well. He has helped shape a lot of businesses’ brand identity, creative culture, advertising campaigns and brand communication goals. Gaining an MBA adds another layer to the knowledge he dispenses.

Exploring where he wanted to go, he created the Nana Asihene Design Studio. This is the product design studio, that focuses on user centric design, African craftsmanship and aesthetics. The ethos is rooted in the essential characteristic of African art being both aesthetic and functional

Having 20 years experience in any industry is not a cake walk. However, for Asihene this is the time to build and harness all those years of experience to position him as a creative consultant who helps brands and organisations build strong emotional connections with their audience through strategic creative communication.

This is a full circle moment for Asihene as he gets ready to launch his new collection. It is only right for him to enter into his new era paying homage to his first love, fashion. His attention to detail is evident in this collection. The clothes by their very nature are not at all timid; they are simple in cut but not in impact.

“When you’re a perfectionist like I am, no matter what you do, you never really feel satisfied or that it was perfect enough,” he says. “That’s one of the things that drives me, I always feel there is something more to do”

over Size Shirt with Stitch detail + Kimono inspired Dip dyed Cotton pants

over Size Shirt with Stitch detail + Kimono inspired Dip dyed Cotton pants

Notched Collar Shirt with Stitch detail Kimono style Dip Dyed Cotton Pants

Notched Collar Shirt with Stitch detail + Kimono style Dip Dyed Cotton Pants

Grind detail Silver Ring for Men

Grind detail Silver Ring for Men

Dip dyed White shirt with Kiss detail

Dip dyed White shirt with Kiss detail

Writer – Aphua Larbi Amoah
Photos- Benjamin Adu
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Larry Jay makes debut international catwalk showcase in Switzerland

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With a few new pieces added to the recently launched ‘Soyayya – “Love” – Collection’, master craftsman, Jafaru Mohammed of Larry Jay, made a strong showing at the Fashion Trunk Show during the African Fashion Night event held at the Kunsthaus Zürich, an art museum in Zürich, Switzerland a couple of weeks ago.

Read Also: Powerhouse of timeless style, Larry Jay connects with rurul artisans to construct sustainable fashion pieces

Presented in bold orange and blues, Larry Jay’s unisex outfits, mostly created using Northern fugu fabric, elicited much applause from the eclectic audience during the catwalk show.

Photos by Stefan Heesch, Nordfriisk Photography

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Digital creator, Racheal Abbey introduces new women’s fashion line, Rae’s Collection

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Racheal Abbey introduces new women’s fashion line, Rae’s Collection

Young up-and-coming Ghanaian-born digital creator, Racheal Abbey is flexing her entrepreneurial muscles into the world of fashion. Her Rae’s Collection is all about women’s fashion and redefining the fashion space in the US. (more…)

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