In conversation with Awurama Mankatah, the Ghanaian creative designer and manager of Threaded Tribes.
Awurama Mankatah is a young Ghanaian stylist, creative designer and manager of luxury clothing and visuals brand, Threaded Tribes. She hit the trail with Tribes (short for Threaded Tribes) 3 years ago, and has since mixed outstanding self-fashioning with a thorough and refreshing aesthetic sense to fashion a brand which is naturally relatable with a distinct subgroup of society—"the carefree and unique."
It says something about the impact of Tribes that their vibrant, hand-woven pieces—which range from cloaks to dresses—aren't only popular among Accra's cool kids; you can find the brand in concept stores from Elle Lokko in Accra to GLOBUS in Zurich. Tribes' garments is due to showcase in Paris this weekend at Innov'Ethik Fashion Week.
We spoke with Mankatah about the beginnings of Threaded Tribes and touched on some questions pertinent to her work as creative designer and founder of the brand.
moshood for OkayAfrica: Have any of your current career paths been influenced by some early life experiences of yours?
Awurama Mankatah: I think my career paths have all been influenced by my existence; just me being here. Threaded Tribes, for instance, is just like a path that fell into my many paths. And I went with it. So, I wouldn't say anything in particular has shaped me and made me want to do this, but everybody strives to survive—to make money, be comfortable—and I've always been into business. I like to add to the resources that the world has given me and make more out of them. I remember in my high school days, I would download songs off of Waptrick and bluetooth them to my colleagues for, like, 30 Ghana Pesewas a song. In my first year at university, I was selling hair; because it was quite in demand and I just so happened to find a good plug. So it's stuff like that; little interests and hobbies that come along the way which I follow and make something out of.
Tell us about Threaded Tribes and the story behind the name.
I was in a market the first time I came across the mud cloth fabric, and I was awed by it. I thought people could be doing shit with fabric like this and I hadn't seen people do that around me. I thought to myself, "I'd like to be wearing this." The 'threaded' part of the name comes from the mud cloth—when you look at it, it's very carefully woven together. And 'tribes' comes from all the patterns and symbols that the cloth had, and, beyond that—the notions of unity and togetherness and just finding a place to belong. Also, when you further consider 'threaded,' it's not just about mud cloth. It's also about other kinds of fabric that we have in Africa like kente, baule and other kinds which are all intricately woven from scratch.
The name evinces an image of communities that are literally closely-knit around a common identifier. What are your personal thoughts on style and how it intersects with people's identities?
The reason why I even started Threaded Tribes was personal. I discovered mud cloth and I wanted to wear it all the time. But it was just too good to just keep to myself. I feel like people's style and their personalities intersect a lot and it's necessary for us to be able to wear whatever the fuck we want, however we want to. Threaded Tribes is about creating cool things for people who are, say, trying to find a tribe and stick to it; and I find that for a lot of people, as soon as they latch on to the garment, it becomes their personal style. I know some people who have about nine of the garments in their closets. It's what they wear, their everyday thing; it becomes something to identify them by. So, if, say, person A sees the next person wearing the same thing, I think they realize that 'Hey, that's my sis.' As in, they realize they could have some kind of affinity.