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With their designs and inspired approach to storytelling, these dynamic brands are birthing subcultures of like-minded African creatives.
  

By Brimah Mahmoud

Nov 25, 2021

The eclectic city of Accra possesses a large population of young people eager to express themselves via their style, which draws inspiration from Hip-Hop culture and Ghana’s rich heritage. Streetwear, a dressing style that emerged in the 90s, is a fusion of New York’s Hip-Hop lifestyle and California’s surf culture—peppered with elements of punk, sportswear, and some Japanese street style. Having grown to become a force in the industry, it has even dominated the luxury market through brands like Off-White and Supreme.

Among the continent’s young creatives and purveyors of the continent’s thriving art, music, and fashion scenes, streetwear is gaining significant traction. It has transcended beyond fashion as a movement, contributing to the emergence of a nascent subculture in perfect harmony with Africa’s cultural innovations.

In Ghana’s fast-growing fashion industry, Ghanaian brands offer their approach to the streetwear movement through a distinctly unique lens. We spotlight three gender-nonconforming labels, Atto Tetteh, Daily Paper, and Free the Youth, each of whom are spearheading an entirely new niche through elevated iterations of streetwear that prioritize the use of traditional fabrics, dye techniques, and motifs to create one-of-a-kind, thoroughly sustainable luxury pieces. Atto Tetteh creates high-quality, trendy pieces that are carefully crafted to appeal to a local cosmopolitan audience who desire an authentic edge to their clothing; Amsterdam-based Daily Paper is fast-gaining a rapt international audience while staying true to its roots by combining African prints and motifs with sleek, luxury apparel; and Free the Youth, a collective-led label, is on a mission to empower and inspire its community through design and camaraderie. Read on to discover how these brands have successfully married heritage and contemporary culture to create a nuanced approach to regional streetwear.

1.

DAILY PAPER

Daily Paper SS‘21. Photo: via @dailypaper

Daily Paper SS‘21. Photo: via @dailypaper

Daily Paper SS‘14. Photo: via @dailypaper

Daily Paper was established in 2012 by Hussein Suleiman, Jefferson Osei, and Abderrahmane Trabsini. Based in Amsterdam but with its heart and soul deeply embedded in the multi-ethnic African heritage of the founding trio, the fast-growing brand is defined by its celebration of Africa’s rich and diverse culture. For instance, their SS‘14 collection contained a contemporary reimagining of the 400-year-old Kuba Kingdom of the Kasai region of Congo using geometric shapes, patterns, and bold colors.

Like many other streetwear labels, Daily Paper’s value hinges primarily on the power of community and collaboration. We can see this in their partnerships; for example, teaming up on the issue of glorifying Blackness, they worked with the Nigerian streetwear brand Wekafore on their first-ever capsule collection ‘The Spirit Don’t Die,’ inspired by the iconoclast Fela Kuti and his ideals. Speaking on the significance of Daily Paper’s involvement, Wekafore Manju Jibril, the founder of Wekafore, reveals, “Like Fela, the pieces are very pink, very psychedelic, and very African at the same time. I think being able to speak that way through a platform like Daily Paper is a testament to contemporary African consciousness.” 

2.

ATTO TETTEH

Atto Tetteh SS‘22. Photo: via @attotetteh

Atto Tetteh SS‘21. Photo: via @attotetteh

Pepper Row SS‘22. Photo: via @pepperrow

Started solely as a menswear brand by George Nii Tetteh in October 2014, Atto Tetteh took on a more luxury approach to streetwear using rich traditional handwoven options like the Northern ‘Fugu,’ a historical Kente fabric fashioned into modern, wearable pieces. Seven years down the line, the brand continues to create works with silhouettes primarily made up of African-inspired pieces of clothing like their reconstructed Kaftan, along with other elements that combine bold colors, signature cuts, and abstract art heavily inspired by its Ghanian roots.

Atto Tetteh’s Spring Summer ‘21 collection dubbed ‘Theorem’ introduced their fans to signature motifs, including the remarkable original calculus print, which was designed and created in collaboration with other creatives and embroidery of the ‘sad face’ that inspired the collection. In their just-released SS‘22 collection, ‘Back to Basics,’ the brand introduces bright marble tie/dye prints, reinventing traditional African patterns with a modern twist. The designer created this signature print from a memory he holds of the forecourt of the 1753 British-built Fort Williams—a place he used to ride his bicycle to as a little boy. With inspiration rooted in nostalgia and history, Tetteh advocates the need for today’s young creatives to cultivate a newfound sense of pride in their Africanness.

3.

FREE THE YOUTH 

Free the Youth T-Shirt. Photo: via @freetheyouth_ghana

Free the Youth Denim. Photo: via @freetheyouth_ghana

Free the Youth Vest. Photo: via @freetheyouth_ghana

Free the Youth launched in 2013 with a single mission: to showcase Ghanaian street style via social media. The brand, founded by a collective of fashion entrepreneurs—Jonathan Coffie, Winfred Mensah, Richard Romano, and Kelly Foli (among other vital members)—has now flourished into a company with three divisions: a fashion label, a creative agency, and a non-governmental organization. By the last quarter of 2015, they had created a collection that would solidify them as one of the leading streetwear brands in Ghana. ‘This Pain Is Printed On Cotton,’ a sentiment that describes the plight of the youth in their community, was the inscription emblazoned across the chest of their t-shirts and sweatshirts in solidarity with a wider disenfranchised community.

Free The Youth cite Tema, a growing metropolis near the capital city of Ghana known for its spirited underground rap music, street dancing, and basketball scene, as their home. In perfect synergy with what Tema is known for, they have built a label inspired by the eclectic community while offering their disciples designs and styles that fit seamlessly into their vision for an original approach to African fashion. Moreover, conscious of creating sustainable impact for their community, Free the Youth has developed into a creative agency and an NGO (Ghetto Youth University), empowering youngsters from their home in Tema with training in photography, graphic design, and music production. “Free the Youth is not just a fashion brand. Clothing happens to be a productive way to engage this generation”, states Kelly Foli, a member of the founding group.