Her inspiring startup story and how she created a whole world of accessories to global acclaim
In the competitive world of global accessories and handbag design, one Ghanaian designer is making the world sit up and take notice, with her unique take on beautiful handbags , Millinery, handcrafted pieces that celebrate the art of craftsmanship combined with a uniquely African touch. Velma Owusu-Bempah is talent personified and her great eye for design, together with a deep appreciation for African culture and textiles, has allowed her to create accessories that have a great story to tell and a wonderful visual appeal.
Velma is one of the respected names in the fashion industry. A BSc. Marketing graduate from the University of Ghana Business School, In 2004, Velma was inspired by her mother Sarah Crossland to go after her passion of being one of the world’s celebrated Milliners, Bags and Jewelry designer.
Trained in the United Kingdom at the Central Saint Martin’s School of arts in London where she studied Millinery, Bag designing and Communication before returning to Ghana in 2006 to set up Velma’s Millinery and Accessories which started by designing hairpieces to complement Ophelia Crossland Designs, she has since created a fashion and lifestyle brand that includes ladies occasion wear, bespoke hats, headdresses, fascinators, handbags and clutches as well as selling her stylish ready to wear designs cherished beyond the shores of Ghana. Velma is a member of the Hat Academy, Europe and has been featured many times on the Hat Academy official website.
An un-parallel figure in Ghana’s fashion scene, Velma Owusu-Bempah is a distinguished Milliner, women’s clutch and Jewelry designer for over a decade. She is unique and known for her effortless take in glamour. The CEO of Velma’s Millinery and Accessories has built a thriving and successful business operating from the Sarah’s Fabric Building in the heart of Osu, Accra, where she offers her clients impeccable hats or fascinators and the best of accessories for today’s women.
With great respect for her comprehensive style and exceptional taste, Velma’s expertise is accessible to her growing audience.
Her first ever clutch collection was called the Ankara Collection which really hit the African market with a bang. She later came up with the Royal Collection made out of silk pieces, Jute and leather. Closely behind that was the Metallic Collection and then the Semi-precious stone collection, which were made out of real stones and pearls. Velma is known for her hand-made pieces and her passion for designing clutches makes her collections unique. Her designs come in a variety of shapes be it boxy, oval or envelope shapes.
“Every woman deserves to stand out on their own and be unique”, the inspiration behind every piece she created. Velma enjoys sourcing for raw materials from different places in order to put a piece together and this makes her pieces unique and uncommon even amongst her clientele.
Among her tall list of clients, celebrities here in Ghana and some other African countries. She also has client across the globe; UK, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, just to mention a few. Here queen clutch design really made a statement on the second lady of the Republic Ghana, Her Excellency Mrs. Samira Bawumia during the Ghana @60 parade.
2016, Velma participated in a workshop organized by Swarovski West-Africa and was awarded a certificate in the application of a wide range of Swarovski crystals which reflects on most of her new pieces.
Which are mainly percher hats, transforming laces like the guipure into statement headpieces, using silk abaca etc. Velma remains an inspiration to a section of Ghana’s fashion industry and is attracting more admirers.
Velma Owusu-Bempah knows a thing about making stunning and elegant headpiece to make a woman look classy and elegant; she is therefore recognized as one of Africa’s top Milliners.
Velma’s New Collection named CLASSIC AND SOPHISTICATED which she exhibited on “RHYTHMS ON THE RUNWAY” on April 1, 2017, caught the eyes of the audience and to the admiration of all present in that very night of fashion and music.
Her range of collection, “Classic and Sophisticated”, is made up of 40 statement pieces including Hats, Percher Hats, Fascinators and timeless clutches. This she used to tell the difference between Percher Hats, Fascinators and Etiquette of wearing a fascinator. Undoubtedly, she is the point of contact for assistance on what to wear for all occasions including weddings, tea parties, cocktail parties, anniversary parties etc.
Hbeonline chatted to the inspirational Velma about her personal entrepreneurial journey that took her from a career path in translation to becoming a real creative force in the field of bespoke hats, headdress, luxury handbag and accessory design in Africa. She also speaks on her passion for creating
beautiful pieces and how she wormed her way into the hearts of women of class.
Foray into Fashion
I have always loved creating little crafts from childhood. After my first degree in BSc. Marketing from the University of Ghana Business School, I graduated knowing that I was coming to work with the family business Sarah Fabrics Limited which got started by my mother before she gave birth to me. I therefore started creating little purses and hair accessories, playing with different textures of fabrics, hand beading whilst I was working at Sarah’s fabrics limited. I went all out making little pieces for family and friends and most of them encouraged me to build on it.
Some customers came into the shop to buy fabrics, see’s my work and crafts, admire them so much and make orders for what I’m creating. There were other customers who came to the shop to acquire about where they can buy hats for their weddings. I spotted this business opportunity and with the passion for creating and working with my hands, I decided to polish these skills by applying for a bag designing and millinery courses at Central Saint Martin’s School of arts in London, an affiliate to London School of fashion to pursue my passion. It is worth noting that all these were inspired by my Mother.
Designing jewelry for over a decade, I am known for my unique and effortless skills in coming out with glamorous and exquisite pieces that make a statement. Since the inception of my brand in 2005, it made considerable inroads to becoming the accessory brand of choice with eclectic millinery styles and accessories to die for! Today, classy, elegant, versatile accessories pieces are synonymous to the Velma brand and its prolific product offerings. ”Accessorize Accessorize Accessorize ” has become more than just a repetitive cliché but a necessity in the fashion world.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Honestly, it has not been easy starting this business since not a lot of people appreciate this kind of fashion locally. I had to start making pieces to family and friends for free, so they can wear to special occasions to stand out. Due to the uniqueness of our pieces, many people enquired from these family and friends where they can get such pieces. These led to a lot of referrals. Financing was also an issue since initially most of the products had to be given for free as a way of advertising. There were also collaboration’s with few local clothing designers on runway shows, making pieces for local celebrities to showcase our pieces. Thankfully people got to know our brand and it started growing fast. We then got the brand on Social media (Facebook and Instagram) spreading our works to other parts of the world like Europe, America, other parts of Africa etc. We currently have clients from all over the world and mostly get invitations to participate in runway shows, expo and exhibitions.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
Talking about contention from my family I would say I never had one, because almost everyone in the family is creative and has entrepreneurial skills starting from my mother. I call her Queen of fabrics, my sister who is a fashion designer; my husband and family have been very supportive of what I do and continuously encourages me to pursue my passion. Few friends discouraged me along the line but I stayed focused and with hard work and perseverance I am where I am today.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
My main thing was to keep focusing on my plans and goals I set for the company and work very hard to make sure I achieve all. I definitely will not let anything distract me.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Clients/Customer behavior. Why do I say this?
Initially I work for people who come and always ask questions about your work. Some rejects the pieces and this was making me feel down all the time but now, I have learnt to manage these customers very well understanding how different each person is.
What advice would you give to the upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
To be very hardworking and focused on what they are doing. They shouldn’t look elsewhere of what others are doing, they shouldn’t allow themselves to be distracted by other possible competitors. They should believe in themselves, work very hard, not to give up along the line because you will make mistakes in initial stages and fall but you can always rise.
Velmas SS17 which was released at the world fashion centre in Amsterdam stunningly gained the attraction of the entire audience.
She starts off the year with her amazing beautiful work of art being recognised in Britain to be selected as one of the milliners worldwide, to showcase 2 exquisite pieces representing ghana’s culture and
craftsmanship this march 2018 at the xterrace Great hat exhibition at the London hat week in UK
Velma’s Millinery and Accessories is located on 15th lane, off the Osu Oxford Street. First floor of Sarah Fabrics Building Osu, Accra Ghana
Tel: +233 249 106 325
This article originally published in pleasuresmagazine