On the track of African cloth

Filming students at the Radford University Fashion Department in Accra, Ghana, photo: Filmon Abraha
Filming students at the Radford University Fashion Department in Accra, Ghana, photo: Filmon Abraha
Daniel Santafosta, Youssef Youssef, Filmon Abraha, traduction française: Carole Bonotaux, traducción española Raquel Pazos
07 July 2014

The aim of the Ethical Fashion Initiative is to provide an opening to European and other markets for cloths that are ethically designed and produced through different production channels in Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana. Burkina Faso and Mali are the source of some of the cloth used by designers in Ghana. ICV's role in this project is to provide communication support and awareness especially when it comes to local designers in Ghana. As part of their internship and collaboration with the project, Youssef Youssef and Daniel Santafosta and Filmon Abraha spent five weeks in Ghana and Burkina Faso to document some of the value chains of cloths. Here is their report...

The preparation for our adventure started in a quiet little office in Geneva but nothing could have quite prepared us for what we had in store. Having dealt with the heaviness of Ghanaian bureaucracy in Switzerland, we were finally excited to land in Accra, only to be confronted with….more heaviness from bureaucratic procedures.

Leaving the airport completely exasperated, we quickly learned that locals were not at all represented by their civil servants, as everybody we encountered throughout our journey were more than charming, helpful and very friendly.

Accra is an interesting capital, offering all the services that you would expect in a big city of international caliber. It was no surprise to find slums and shantytowns on one side of town, while the other was overcrowded with high rise condos and luxury hotels.

The stark contrast is what make capital cities in developing countries so fascinating; the clash of different lifestyles and decors are eye-catching as much as they are puzzling at times.

Our research took us to the four corners of the country; at times we traveled comfortably or even flew domestically, other times we crammed into makeshift run down overcrowded mini- buses without air conditioning but that as unpleasant as that may sound, those kind of journeys make for the best of stories and experiences afterwards.

Throughout our travels and encounters we’ve faced a few off-putting obstacles, such as one our cameras breaking down early on during the trip, but luckily our resilience allowed us to meet some very interesting people and move the project forward, all the while enjoying everything Ghana had to offer.

All in all, the trip was an eye-opening and humble experience, both on a personal and academic level; we still managed to capture traditional printing and weaving techniques, as well as interview emerging designers and foreign established brands producing in Ghana.

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