By Tonaé Lee, Special to the AFRO
Happy Black History Month, Style Fanatic readers! Although Black creatives and figures should be celebrated everyday, you know our goal is to continuously spotlight and honor Black-owned brands creating a difference in the fashion world. This month we were able to sit and chat with AFROTHREADS, a sister-owned design studio that celebrates the beauty, versatility and cultural significance of African fabrics. Sisters, Erika and Evonne, sustinably source and sell one-of-a-kind textiles from different parts of Africa, while also designing a variety of products such as tulip hats, coasters and much more. Raised in a Ghanaian household in the United States, the sisters fell in love with kente cloth and other fabrics at a young age. Over time, learning more about the history of fabrics, the duo realized how important it is to preserve traditional techniques. They are also no strangers to the AFRO, having been featured in its podcast “Pleasure Doing Business With You” led by AFRO Business Writer Megan Sayles. Erika and Evonne have one goal for AFROTHREADS: to connect people with beautiful and meaningful items no matter where they are in the world.
What does fashion mean to you?
Erika & Evonne: Fashion is an expression of wearable, meaningful art that activates the senses of yourself and those around you.
Fashion is the freedom to experiment with what makes you feel comfortable and beautiful. I love how it provides opportunities to get creative with certain materials, colors, and styles, and I also love how it allows you to promote designers and companies that you respect.
What is the inspiration behind the brand and current collections?
Erika & Evonne: We find inspiration everywhere! From our deep existential conversations, childhood memories, travels, current events, moods and more. Our upcoming collection is focused on enjoyment, and embracing all of the ways that basking in enjoyment can look as well as feel. One of my go-to ways to stimulate a mood of enjoyment is by practicing gratitude.
Community and craftsmanship are also really important to us. We’ve been exposed to so many different kinds of art throughout our lives. We grew up in Worcester, Ma., which is home to a vibrant immigrant community. Our friends are from the United States and many countries around the world, and although our family is originally from Ghana, our relatives are spread all over. We’re inspired by the beauty, history and diversity of our loved ones and by the creative people who have come before us. We also really love all things handmade and we love giving people the opportunity to find what colors and patterns speak to them. Each collection is about creating useful, meaningful pieces that empower the consumer.
Why is sustainability important to you?
Erika & Evonne: Sustainability is important to me because I have a mindset of leaving every space I enter better than how I found it. It is important that I implement sustainable practices throughout my lifestyle and encourage others to do the same–aspiring for a collective understanding of protecting our spaces.
Sustainability also makes room for mindfulness, respect, and hope for the future. When we have sustainability in mind, we invest in the things we buy and make and we appreciate not only the people involved, but the earth. Living a sustainable lifestyle benefits us, our communities, and our future generations.
What does a day in the life of working for AFROTHREADS look like?
Erika & Evonne: Africa, balancing full-time careers in law and healthcare, brainstorming and discussing product designs, sewing products, attending small business development workshops, and overall just enjoying the opportunity to create and connect with others. We try our very best to maintain a balance of work, rest, thought and play.
How has your business impacted the design community in Baltimore?
Erika & Evonne: We’ve had nothing but positive experiences thus far, working with creatives in Baltimore. We’ve had the opportunity to share our unique fabrics with interior designers, seamstresses, musicians and photographers. It always results in both parties learning something new. We appreciate the hustle and dedication of Baltimore artists and look forward to future partnerships and collaborations.
What do you feel your biggest accomplishment has been thus far?
Erika & Evonne: Our biggest accomplishment has been launching our company and continuing to develop it throughout this pandemic. We’re proud to have this opportunity to express our passion and love for our culture, share and exchange stories about African textiles with people around the world, reflect on our growth, creativity, and tenacity, and build something for our future generations.
If you could, what aspect of the fashion industry would you change?
Erika & Evonne: I would expand upon the different body types we see in the media. I want to see and empower folks with different abilities, neurotypes, heights, circumferences, face shapes, all of that. I would like to see more diversity in beauty beyond skin color.
I would also make it easier and more affordable to order custom-made clothing so that we can all feel comfortable and beautiful in our skin. Too many of us are left out of traditional retail because our heights, curves, abilities, etc. are not appreciated. We have some ideas on how to change this–stay tuned!
What’s next for the AFROTHREADS® brand?
Erika & Evonne: Exploring more ways to upcycle our previously loved and used textiles.
What’s your favorite quote to live by?
Erika: Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail.
Evonne: No God, no peace; know God, know peace.
Want to learn more or keep up with the AFROTHREADS sisters? Follow them on all social media platforms at @shopafrothreads and visit them online at www.shopafrothreads.com. Remember, shop local and Black 365!
Follow Tonaé Lee, the beauty behind the brand, on Instagram @stylefanaticstylings, Facebook – www.facebook.com/misstonaelee and connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/style-fanatic-stylings.
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