TEXT: AKOSUA AFRIYIE-KUMI
A A K S is a luxury accessories brand that creates handcrafted quality bags in modern styles while maintaining the spirit of Africa through traditional methods of weaving with bright exuberant colors.
Our design philosophy prioritizes attention to detail, authenticity of technique and ethical values to shape a truly unique product. Each collection silhouette tells a different story through detail, color and shape. At A A K S, we maintain control over every stage of the design and production process to ensure that the end result is imbued with the spirit and soul worthy of the A A K S stamp.
The initial concept behind the first Spring/Summer 2015 collection was to create a traditional basket bag with a twist. I have grown up around basket bags when I lived in Ghana and as a child, I used to give them as gifts and also for storage. Having lived in the U.K. for some time, I remember having a lot of ‘I wish it was more like this , I wish it was more like that’ moments when wanting my own basket bag.
A central tenant of my business philosophy is to preserve traditional techniques by combing them with modern design and usability. I wanted my dream basket bag to be almost foldable, more colorful with blends of colors which were tasteful and modern and completed to the highest standard of quality. Raffia is the only material which allows me to achieve these goals.
Initially, raffia proved to be the most difficult fiber to find in Ghana. Serendipitously, after traveling throughout the country in search of the elusive fiber I found it on our family farm in Southern Ghana. It was being grown minimally and only sold to string bead vendors. I immediately knew this was the perfect material once I felt it! The softness and strength was key and then when I started looking into its benefits I was completely sold on it. The fibers being an organic, natural, renewal and biodegradable fibre was an inherent ethical value that was attractive to me and in line with the vision and ethos I had for my brand.
The community I work with to produce these bags uses a traditional weaving technique that has been passed down through generations in the Ghana’s Northern Region to produce the main body of the bag. There are no machines used in the weaving process. Because the bags are handwoven by individuals, each bag retains an inherent uniqueness and this is what our handcraft entails.
The weaving process starts by twisting the raw raffia fibers by hand after they have been ecologically harvested. After twisting about 10,000 strands, we gather the raffia and prepare a dye bath. The dye bath consists of natural and a few chemical dyes mixed into boiling water, sometimes even natural tree bark is used in the bath to create good color intensity. It takes approximately 10 – 30 minutes to dye each strand depending on the color we want to achieve, the dyed raffia is dried in the direct sun. To create the base shape of each bag, weavers maneuver the strands between their fingertips, skillfully handling the raffia until the bags take shape.
The woven body is then transported back to my studio, a 12 hours drive away in Kumasi, Ghana for finishing. This is where the sewing of linings (usually cotton or linen with drawstring closures), hand stitching of buckles and leather handles finalize the bag. After a final quality control, the bags are then ready for postage to stores such as Anthropologie USA and clients worldwide.
To learn more visit www.aaksonline.com.