As a Minnesota native, how much of your identity ties back to home?
A good deal. Minnesota for me is all about my family. My Dad is one of seven siblings and my Mom is one of nine...add on significant others and kids and you have a village. The more families I meet, the more I like mine. They're not perfect, but they're incredible humans. It blows my mind what all my grandparents have built, and how much life they've given.
As for operating in the fashion world, I always have a Minnesotan on my shoulder commenting "oh that's too pricey." They're practical, thrifty people and brag about finding bargains. Buying anything full-price is shameful. It's grounding, but can be a bit inhibitive as an independent designer, because the process launches the price point above "budget shopping" unless I were to produce on a very large scale.
Where do you draw creative inspiration from?
Motion and exploration. I walk, bike, run, drive, fly. To quote Tom Robbins, I practice the art of perpetual motion. I'm an admitted dopamine addict- I need to be wowed and engaged. That doesn't mean I need an elaborate fireworks display at all times- it means admiring the label on a bottle, noticing how light is hitting a wall, catching the song playing in the background. Awareness and fascination of all things.
How do spend your free time, and what fulfills you?
Free time, ha! When I'm not working at one of several jobs I am working on projects- writing music for my band Cousin with my cousin Katie, writing weird ramblings in my window seat on the plane, styling photoshoots during lunch breaks, filming mockumentaries. Jill of All Trades, Master of None. It may all amount to nothing but it makes me feel alive and fulfilled.
I'm more introverted than most realize, and being in transit is my own time and space to work on said above projects and regenerate so that I can be present wherever I arrive next.
What are the pillars of good fashion?
I'm no expert. Lately I've been focusing on Less, But Better. By no means does that mean basic or neutral, it just means being more deliberate and crisper. Love every detail and if you don't love it, get rid of it.
How did AFIA come to be? Do the designs reflect your personal style? Who are you designing for?
I studied abroad in Ghana and my friends and I would go to the market, pick out a couple of yards of cotton wax printed in Ghana, take to a local seamstress...and boom, custom made dress. I fell in love with the fabric and with Ghana. AFIA is my way of honoring and sharing that. Projecting a marketing story is tough- I'm not the Great White Hope, and I won't participate in post-colonialism. Fair trade is a nice story, changing women's lives in Africa is a nice story, but it feels exploitative to project that to spread awareness about my brand.
After producing two collections that sold out and won awards and accolades, it was a tumultuous decision to not put out a full collection the following year. Especially in New York where we run full speed ahead, taking a step back seemed like losing buzz and momentum would mean an ultimate death of irrelevance for AFIA. But really...who cares? It's my baby and Ill do what I want with it in ways that make sense, on a timeline that makes sense.
The designs reflected my style during the time I designed them kind of. It's like a musician listening to a song they wrote 3 years ago - most cringe, feel a bit of a disconnect, and want you to listen to what they just wrote because they feel like they've evolved and honed their skills since then.
I'm designing for Carmen San Diego, naturally. And a female version of Jack Kerouac...is there one?