Ashanti Empress is an ethical African fashion brand based between Ghana and Bristol, UK. The brand was born from the idea of using fashion as a means to address issues of poverty, capacity building, youth unemployment and female empowerment in Ghana. We work directly with an amazing team of Ghanaian tailors, providing them with reliable, well paid work and training opportunities. Because we work on a small scale, we are able to directly connect the creators of Ashanti Empress clothing with the wearers of Ashanti Empress clothing! You can find out who makes our clothes here.
When you buy any item from Ashanti Empress you are actively supporting and positively impacting the Ghanaian people we work with.
You can find out more about how we source our fabrics and hear directly from some of our team in the video below.
We spend many hours in the winding alleyways of Kejetia market in Kumasi, searching for the boldest, brightest African prints that are synonymous with Ashanti Empress clothing. Usually fabric can only be bought in 12 yards pieces, meaning we have to really hunt to find larger quantities in our favourite prints. Although this can be hard it means that all of our designs are limited edition, with only a few made in each size and print.
Nearly all of the fabrics stalls in the market are owned and operated by women working in Ghana's informal sector. Over 8 years we have built up great working relationships with some of these women and they continue to keep an eye out for fresh new prints and old favourites of Ashanti Empress.
Although we source all of our prints in Ghana they are a mix of imported and locally produced textiles. We are often asked about the history of African print textiles which you can find out more about in our blog.
Our popular colour me crazy patchwork material is made from 100% recycled African fabrics. We rescue the leftover offcuts of fabric from our tailors and many others in the area and we repurpose it to create reams of beautiful patchwork fabric which is then sewn into new Ashanti Empress clothing. Yaw N'safoah is the man behind this epic recycling mission and each year he collects, sorts through and sews over 2000 metres of patchwork fabric for us to make our festival dungarees, jackets, African print shirts and more!
WE DON'T JUST MAKE COLOURFUL CLOTHES
Social responsibility is at the heart of Ashanti Empress and we work directly with 35 Ghanaian tailors, seamstresses and craftspeople, ensuring fair wages whilst supporting local industry by generating economic and creative opportunities. The clothing manufacturing industry in Ghana is largely informal, with tailors usually operating out of small roadside shops. This means that the work they receive is usually one or two items per customer, this can be irregular and has been hugely impacted by COVID-19 and now high inflation.
Our tailors all run their own tailoring shops and are commissioned to complete large bulk orders for Ashanti Empress. They estimate that 60-80% of their total business comes from Ashanti Empress contracts each year. The regular income generated from this can be relied upon and has empowered many to increase the capacity of their own businesses, buy new sewing machines and move from renting to owning their own work premises and homes.
STRUCTURE AND IMPACT
As a company we regularly meet as a team to discuss ways to improve our working structure and make sure that everyone is happy. These are just some of the policies that we have implemented to improve the working conditions of our team of tailors.
- Interest free loans - To help with big purchases like new machinery or to assist with bulk payments like rent which has to be paid 2 years upfront in Ghana!
- Fast mobile money payments - A lot of the tailors don't have bank accounts so we have relied on cash in the past. Mobile money is a popular money transfer service in Ghana and this is now how we securely pay our team.
- Invest in new machinery - We bought pattern cutting machines for all of our tailors which they can use to cut bulk patterns from. They are able to use these machines for all Ashanti Empress orders along with any other contracts they receive.
- Regular reviews of payment rates - All of our team work on a basis where they are paid per piece for the work they complete. They decide the rate that they are paid depending on the complexity of the item. These rates are continually revised and updated to match inflation to make sure that no-one misses out.
- Team excursion - To celebrate the completion of our new collection each year we get all the tailors, apprentice and their families together for a big day trip to Lake Bosomtwi.
Find out more about the Ashanti Team