For an international audience, the name Christie Brown rings a bell to Beyonce fans, or the ‘beyhive’, who will remember the designs in the Mrs. Carter World Tour. The award winning Creative Director, Aisha Ayensu, credits the success of Christie Brown to their embrace of the modern African woman: how she should look and feel in her clothing. As Christie Brown continues to grab the eyes of women throughout the globe through their eccentric designs, it’s clear that Ayensu has her eyes on something bigger. More than relevance in international markets, in this interview Aisha Ayensu reveals that what’s next for Christie Brown is a revolution of retail culture throughout the continent.
The StyleHQ: What’s your fashion story?
AA: I launched Christie Brown in March of 2008 and that was when I was still in university studying psychology. It was my final year but I’ve always loved fashion. During that period when I was trying to figure out what career path to take, I started to really think about pursuing a future in fashion. I loved psychology, but I just couldn’t see myself working in that field- I was always close with my grandmother. She was a seamstress but she never really had a big fashion house. I decided to take a risk and go for it- and in honor of her, I decided to name the label after her. So this is me not knowing how to stitch or draft a single pattern, I just had ideas of how I felt the African woman today, or at the time should look.
At the time, one of my grievances was that people weren’t really experimenting with prints-so I thought why not? I think it was good that I was naïve and didn’t think about the risks. The response was amazing, and I just felt like everyone was supportive and wanted me to succeed. Once the demand picked up, I realized I needed to expand so I enrolled in fashion school and immersed myself in the technical aspect of fashion. In that same year, I was invited to the first ever Arise Fashion Week. Can you imagine? It was a huge playing field and new to me but I learnt a lot. That year, I won the award for emerging designer of the year. Fast forward five or six years later and we are in our second store!
How would you describe the aesthetic of Christie Brown?
AA: I think the aesthetic, is what I would like to wear if I had a bigger budget for myself on a day-to-day basis. It’s how I want the modern African woman to dress, how I feel like she should look and embrace where she’s from. Yes, you can afford any other brand in the world, but there’s that je ne sais quoi when it’s part of where you’re from. That’s how I see our pieces. They need to be relevant to this African woman today, in her lifestyle and what she does. In the same vein, I also need someone in Japan to feel like she can participate in the aesthetic as well.
What are your thoughts on the development of the fashion industry in Ghana? Africa?
AA: Well, I think a lot of people are trying to build the fashion industry on their own and it’s difficult. Because how do I say ‘I’m Christie Brown– give me all these grants and single handedly I’m going to change the face of fashion.’ What we need is a collective, and because a lot of us are only a few years in, most of us are thinking more on how to sustain and build our own brands rather than making collaboration a priority. I think this fares a lot in different countries on the continent, where fashion has the potential to grow into a huge industry, but we’re not necessarily getting the support we need from the government. In the past five years though, the growth has been immense, and I like to think it will continue that way.
What is your vision for Christie Brown in the next five years?
AA: Definitely Expanding. As a brand, we’re trying to build on our ready-to-wear collection- and that’s really our way of going beyond Ghana, West Africa, but trying to be around the entire continent. I’ve been inspired by a lot of things as of late, like barber shop art and other things, but we’re transitioning from print to embroidery- the details. We are constantly looking at the international fashion industry but ideally we want to make the brand more relevant in other cities and other markets on the continent. Having our designs in Beyonce’s tour really made me realize that we’re not too far from the brands and people we see in Vogue. And while it’s great publicity and puts us on certain playing field, I’m also really interested in creating collections that impact Africans- North, South, East, West- wherever!
What is your favorite moment from the past five years?
AA: Getting picked for ARISE that first year and winning the award for emerging designer of the year was definitely a moment where I felt like I was receiving an affirmation from God that I was doing exactly what I was meant to.
Interview by Stylehq.com