‘Alchemy’ Streetwear Brand Directs the Current in Ghana’s Growing Creative IndustryMar 25, 2021 09:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo
Ghana, West Africa is a country that continues developing its reputation as a creative hub for people of the African diaspora. In Ghanaian society, the arts are advancing as a lucrative and more recognized sector on a global scale. With artists like Beyonce showcasing African talent, including the likes of Ghanaian artiste Shatta Wale or Ghanaian dance group DWP (Dance With Purpose), international exposure is snowballing, and more African artisans are reaping the rewards of their grind.
Kwakye is a 20-something Ghanaian fashion designer with a pensive aura and creative mind who is making waves on the creative scene. His streetwear brand “Alchemy” is an experience that showcases eclectic, edgy yet classy, and urban gear, and has been worn by artists such as WizKid, King Promise, Joey B, and more. We sat down with Kwakye to learn about his inspiration, impact, and the transformative energy circulating the Accra alternative scene.
Fashion design was not Kwakye’s initial occupation of interest. He says: “I wanted to be in architecture, but I ended up loving fashion because my dad was a tailor.” Many of Kwakye’s friends are creatives in different areas. When his peers noticed he had a knack for fashion, they encouraged him to develop his craft. In 2015, he collaborated with five friends to create the international brand “LOB” or “Legends of Black.”
(Ghanaian artist King Promise wearing Alchemy for GQ South Africa)
After a few years of operation, his friends agreed to give Kwakye sole ownership. He then changed brand’s name to Alchemy, which was inspired by the science concept of Alchemy, which includes transforming base metal into something else. With Alchemy, Kwakye hopes to inspire audiences to be the person they envision themselves to be, and to utilize their feelings and instincts to transform the world.
Through his network, Kwakye has been able to connect to musical artists that helped to create exposure for his brand. “I always hung out with artists, whether it be in the studio, music videos, or other related places. My friend, 54k Goldie, was also a person who helped me to form connections.”
A pivotal moment in his career was meeting the AfroPop group “La Meme Gang”, a collective of Ghanaian artists, which includes Darkovibes, Nxwrth, Kiddblack, kwakuBS, and RJZ, who has performed at SXSW and other venues. Kwakye recalls this breakthrough and the partnerships that followed: “$pacely saw pants from my first collection, Heavy Metal, and he told me he wanted one for a shoot. He actually asked for the personal one I made. From there I got a chance to style most of them, and after that, I started working with RJZ.”
(Ghanaian artist Joey B wearing Alchemy)
Continuing, Kwakye said, “Joey B was also a major influence in bringing out the brand. He was the first musician to pay for my work, and has the most Alchemy merchandise out of all the artists in Ghana.” Kwakye was able to get Wizkid to wear his brand through Ghanaian artist King Promise. “When Wizkid came to Ghana, I asked King Promise to hook me up to WizKid. Before I knew it he was wearing my brand.” he said.
Kwakye’s success has not yet reached its full potential, but the heights he has been able to reach show the future is bright. He is pleasantly surprised at his progress, as Ghana traditionally thrived on homogeneity, including in the fashion industry. For Kwakye, diverting from the path of most Ghanaian designers was a risk that proved beneficial. He describes this experience: “I didn’t expect to come this far by now. I have just one collection, for a Ghanaian doing streetwear, we are doing good. When you go to Instagram and search Ghanaian designers, 70% of them work with African print, and they don’t really do streetwear like Alchemy. Most major brands are into African print.”
(Nigerian artist Wizkid wearing Alchemy)
As the hip-hop scene in Accra and other parts of Ghana continues to transform and grow, street fashion and other related styles of expression are gaining traction, and stigmas around it are dissolving. Kwakye reflects on the changing role of fashion in Ghana and how it serves Ghanaian communities: “Now, people are paying more attention to fashion, and streetwear is being accepted in Ghana. Fashion plays a big role in teaching the youth to be free with what to wear. It also keeps people busy and creates jobs. We employ Ghanaians every day to make, wear, and advertise the clothes, including seamstresses, models, fashion directors, film directors, and more.”
As Kwakye gears up to launch his website and next collection simultaneously, he continues utilizing the power of Instagram, Whatsapp, and interpersonal communication to further his brand. He says: “Currently, we sell everything through IG, Facebook, Whatsapp, or Pop-Up Shops.”
His advice for creatives in Ghana and beyond is: “Believe in yourself, stick to the plan, have a team, stay creative, try new things, explore, expand, and trust in God.”
When discussing his inspiration, Kwakye notes: “I get inspired from my environment, hanging out with my friends, events happening around me, playing games, advice, other people’s mistakes, music, and the memories of my late father.”
Kwakye says for the Ghanaian art scene to continue to grow and flourish, it is important for Ghanaians to place a higher value on local Ghanaian brands: “Ghanaians should support more Ghanaian brands. They should put their trust and faith in us because we need their support. They think fashion from the ‘outside’ is better. If more Ghanaians work with more Ghanaian creatives, models, graphic designers, etc., it will really help. Without them, we can’t go far.”
Connect with his brand on Instagram at @Alchemygram.
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Visit her storytelling brand at www.asieduasimprint.blog, and connect with her creative agency on Instagram: @chitheagency.
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