African designs, styles, and colors have experienced an spectacular growth in the latest yrs. African concepts are front and center and now, more than at any time, African creatives are staying regarded as the trendsetters and champions of revolutionary trend.

Ghanaian wardrobe stylist and fashion designer Charlene Akuamoah is a person of these trendsetters making an attempt to break barriers. Akuamoah, who is primarily based in Toronto, started off out by styling good friends in the leisure marketplace. She tried her hand out in wardrobe and editorial styling for enjoyment at first, ahead of others took recognize of her skills and started employing her. In 2016, a several many years into her occupation, Akuamoah and two of her ideal close friends started out their attire model BROKE&Dwelling, a passion job focused to women stretching and screening their imaginative talents. The now unisex brand name separates their clothes into two sections BROKE, their fundamental principles + day-to-day wear assortment, and Residing, the company’s completely ready-to-wear line. Akuamoah was named one particular of OkayAfrica‘s 100 most influential ladies amongst the diaspora in 2019, as the brand took off.

From years of volunteering her time for free at studios and on sets, Akuamoah has scored styling partnerships with Sony Tunes Canada and has had her do the job highlighted in a quantity of publications like Fashion Magazine, Afropunk, The Fader, The Marilyn Denis Display, and much more.

Akuamoah is centered on generating a network of Black and African creatives in just her industry and encouraging youthful creatives who want to pursue careers in fashion, styling, and wardrobe and costume creating. Her knowledge of fashion, from the two a layout and editorial angle, has offered Akuamoah the skill to approach all her tasks with a distinctive, unique viewpoint.

We spoke with Charlene Akuamoah on her target on dressing narratives in even bigger and improved strategies, and being the particular person she necessary when she started out out.

*This job interview has been edited for size and clarity


How did you get to develop into a style stylist?

Actually, I feel I fell into it. A lot of my buddies are super creative they’re all creatives, writers, artists. A several decades in the past, a friend of mine was operating on an MTV aftershow and she asked me to costume her in a few items, and my two ideal mates and I begun styling issues and performing resourceful tasks just to pass the time, and fulfill our creative wants. People today began inquiring us to style distinctive editorials and points like that. Then we received into creating Do-it-yourself jewelry, thrifting, and just mainly because we couldn’t really come across anything at all out there that worked with the vision that we experienced. So, I started off from there, and then it snowballed into folks seeking me to fashion them from new music video clips, and men and women wanting to have me costume style a undertaking that they had been operating on, and then it just grew from there.

That is so interesting, it started off just for pleasurable, and then persons were like, “I could fork out you for that, by the way.”

Yeah, specifically. In advance of we ended up just executing it for no cost, It was two of my greatest buddies, so we had been pretty much just acquiring a fantastic time, and just producing, and staying extremely resourceful, and creating things up as we go. Then it grew to become a point wherever it was like, “This could actually be a vocation, this is one thing that I appreciate carrying out, and I like observing a thing appear out of nothing.” So, I guess the universe began bringing factors to me, and here we are.

Guiding the scenes shot of Charlene styling on established. Photo courtesy of Charlene Akuamoah

How do you use trend, model, or structure, to assist you notify stories?

The point I like about that, in certain, is that you genuinely have to get into the psychology of the particular person. Specially, in costume layout, it’s like, “Who is this character? Are they a messy human being? Are they a cleanse human being? Are they certain about what they have on, and their shades?” That formulates exactly where I would shop for that particular person, the shade waves, and the pieces of garments that I would get them. No matter if it can be meant to appear wrinkled, or messy, or filthy, if they are intended to be a stain on it. It is really predominantly the character that speaks to me and tells me what they would be sporting, and that is how I let the style identify in which it goes. It truly is also really a great deal a collaborative factor — specifically with actors. It really is like, “Nicely, what’s your eyesight for this character? What were being you envisioning? What had been you contemplating?” Then we mix it in that way.

I just feel that is actually stunning due to the fact I get to stretch my creativeness outside of what I originally considered that this individual would seem like. Then even in tunes video clips, the treatment speaks to me, and I have manufactured it a point to only function on projects that truly discuss to me in a precise way. Not essentially just anything that arrives my way, which I confess, I’m pretty privileged to be able to do that and say no to particular factors. But if the creative speaks to me, if it tends to make sense, if it is really just a beautiful tale, then I will go via it, and just let the character immediate the place I go browsing, effectively.

You have Ghanaian and Dutch roots, how have these two distinctive cultures motivated your individual fashion, as perfectly as in your work?

I did not seriously dig into my Ghanaian roots until eventually, I’d say, the initial time I went back again to Ghana as an adult — n 2016 or 2017. I don’t forget stepping off the airplane and looking at everyone that appears to be like like me, speaks the similar language, and just the innovative scene in Ghana. How carefree they looked in the way that they dressed, and incredibly considerably into mixing prints, shades, designs, and silhouettes. Even the common prints, and how they incorporated that into their Western design and style. That for me was the 1st time I felt like I was household. Lastly. For the reason that of that, I’ve included that into my design and style as nicely.

Photo courtesy of Charlene Akuamoah

You uncover a great deal now with youthful Africans who dwell in the West that it really is getting a large amount easier to link with their African heritage. It is really popularized, and it’s everywhere now. So, I’m guaranteed there were phases increasing up exactly where you didn’t want to be Ghanaian, or you failed to want to settle for your African components.

Accurately. I don’t forget when I was youthful and would go to school, and it truly is that full like, “You are African, you have flies” and blah, blah, blah. It was like, “Properly, no, I grew up in Amsterdam, so I am Dutch.” Just wondering about that version of me just tends to make me sad, due to the fact it truly is like I know why I did that, but sensation empowered now to just be equipped to be myself, and just truly depict Ghana in the greatest way doable makes up for that a minimal little bit.

Have you witnessed an enhance in the range of Black creatives inside of the world of manner and styling in latest many years?

One particular hundred per cent. You have all of these Black stylists and designers seriously earning a mark and it has grow to be so beautiful to watch. Jason Rembert and Zerina Akers are two who occur to mind, but there are so several additional. I mean, even in Toronto, it’s the same matter the place, ahead of, I applied to only glimpse in direction of a unique team of stylists, and now you will find a complete heap of Black trend stylists and designers that are killing it. So, it can be been beautiful to see the area that we’re having up and the fact that we are truly ready to be in these rooms with these men and women. It truly is so inspiring, I love it so significantly.

The last time we spoke with you, you had been named one of OkayAfrica’s 100 females to view. How have you been since then? How’s BROKE&Living?

Points have been great! I think with Broke & Living ideal now, the three of us are just so hectic figuring out what our future moves are heading to be. I wouldn’t say it truly is on hold, it’s absolutely in a rebranding section. We are operating on redeveloping ourselves so that we can be there for the brand a single hundred % and items that we’re likely to come out with are heading to be beautiful for the reason that of that.

Personally, I’ve come to be a large amount a lot more streamlined with where by I want to go and the impact I want to have on people today that are coming following me. I imagine being on that list also gave me that spark, and just reminded me that I am on the proper observe, and I am executing what I am meant to be doing, and points are only obtaining improved and they have. So yeah, it is really been fantastic.

Talking of paving the way for some others, what tips do you have for younger Africans, younger Black men and women, who want to get into trend and into styling?

I would say just commence. I say this all the time and it truly is like, “Do not wait for possibilities, generate those people prospects for oneself.” With what ever you have, create editorials, do what you can with what you have all around you, and also, will not be worried to attain out to men and women. I have experienced a couple of individuals achieve out to me, just being like, “Hey, I would appreciate to get the job done with you.” I assume that’s so important due to the fact when I was first obtaining began, I did not know in which to go, or who to arrive at out to, or exactly where to start out mainly because I just felt intimidated by every person that was presently carrying out all these remarkable points. But I imagine it really is genuinely vital to take that initiative, and get to out, and just begin developing on your individual, so that people today can see what you happen to be able of. So that they can throw revenue at you, so you can create even extra points.

Also, volunteering your time. The initial detail that I did that was definitely movie-related was I did a lower-spending plan, indie venture for free of charge. Then I assisted a costume designer who was doing work on a movie, and she needed volunteers. Once again, I know that is definitely coming from a privileged place and not absolutely everyone can manage to do the job for free. But I think that there are techniques all over that in which you can arrive at out to persons, and see if there’s any other way that you can support them, and they can enable you out. Appropriate now, generate options for your self, because there are so many alternatives right now to get into the market.

Image by Samantha Falco

What recent tasks are you energized to be functioning on?

I am now operating on a website series, it truly is on Amazon Primary and OutTV, known as Avocado Toast. I’m functioning on period two, and it truly is this sort of a attractive job. I was stating before that I am seriously targeted on operating on jobs that are attractive, and that discuss to me on different ranges and have a lot of heart. I believe that this task truly has that. The staff that I am doing work with is completely amazing, they are genuinely wonderful and telling a genuinely beautiful story this period. I am really enthusiastic to be head of the wardrobe division for the clearly show. I’m truly excited to exhibit anyone what these items glimpse like.