Black people invented luxury, let’s be honest.
And as an industry estimated to be worth 297 billion by 2026, it’s no surprise that Black entrepreneurs are continuing to make their mark on the luxury market, proving once and for all we’re here to stay. Continuing that trend is Archyn Orijin, Founder and Executive Creative Director of the eponymous brand that sells handbags and accessories.
At the intersection of culture, travel, and design, ORIJIN CULTURE is creating signature pieces that carry the culture — and the continent — everywhere they go.
And already, his Africa purses are everywhere, after going viral for their powerful design representing the diaspora and the global influence of Black culture.
But Archyn didn’t start the business for the money. Rather, it honors his personal and ancestral background. He was inspired to design the bag after having a dream of a woman wearing Africa on her back while walking boldly through a sea of people who parted as she passed through. From this dream, Archyn began a five-year iterative process working with a skilled team of artisans.
The result? A stunning piece of wearable art made from premium materials for optimal durability and versatility.
For ESSENCE, Archyn discusses the inspiration behind Orijin Culture, how activism has fueled his creativity, and why we should all keep the continent close to our hearts.
How did you get started in accessory design?
You know how they say “no matter what you do, what God has gifted you comes back full circle? Or like my Caribbean friends would say ”Who Jah bless no man curse”? I think my story is a testament to that because one would assume that I went to an art or fashion school to pursue accessory design, but I did not. I am a natural artist who, although won art competitions while growing up in Ghana, came to the US to study computer information systems. Crazy, right? I’m sure many, especially Africans, can relate to the pressure from parents to become doctors and engineers. Back when I was growing up, art was not something you would mention to them because they just couldn’t see what potential was there.
My career path was to be a computer programmer. But even in the IT space, I gravitated toward design. After teaching myself web design, I eventually got a job as a web designer & developer in Philly until I moved back to Ghana. That’s where I found joy working with artisans, and I officially made the shift into designing accessories. As my confidence and passion grew, a friend of mine and I decided to partner up and create wooden sunglasses. Then I ventured off to create watches – interestingly enough, my first major media feature was from ESSENCE Print Magazine featuring our watches. I’ll always treasure that moment and have that copy as a keepsake.
The Africa shaped bag is loved by social media. Can you tell me a bit of the inspiration behind it?
It came from a dream I had! It’s a beautiful story that I love to share. Many that have been with us in the Orijin Culture community for a long time know that our journey began as a magazine, which I was privileged to launch in W.E.B. Dubois’ home in Ghana. This outlet was intended to connect all African descendants together. While running the magazine for 10 years, I noticed that many in the Diaspora wanted to connect deeper with Africa but felt a sense of distance for various reasons. That void bothered me a lot because I knew that the more we connected on various levels, the closer we’d become. I believe that more love and unity will eventually eliminate the stereotypes we’ve had amongst each other. As the magazine content was not enough, I searched for other ways to connect. The Africa shaped bag began manifesting in my dreams. One day, I dreamt of a woman walking down this long aisle with Africa on her back and a crowd of people admired her respectfully as she passed through. From this dream, I was inspired to begin a five-year iterative process working with a dedicated team of artisans in Ghana. Together, we perfected the bag’s shape, which has been sculpted into the beautiful image of the African continent.
What stories do you hope to share through Orijin Culture?
The stories I hope to share through Orijin Culture are embedded into our brand name as an acronym — O.R.I.J.I.N.C.U.L.T.U.R.E stands for Our Root Is Just Inseparable, Nonetheless, Cultivating Unity & Love; Through Understanding, Reconnecting Empowers.
The stories I hope to share are the rich beauty of our cultures and the true stories of our pride that do not get told often. The beauty of it all is that I’m not the storyteller, but rather our customers tell their own stories when they carry Orijin Culture. Their pride exuded when they wear their Africa bags, cuffs or scarves unapologetically make statements of worth and empowerment well beyond fashion. It’s the story of us loving us. The never ending story of us reconnecting whether African, African American, Caribbean and all descendants across the global Diaspora, we are seeing us as one people in this world.
It’s the story of roots and heritage, knowing that no matter what “his story” inflicted upon us—separating us from our motherland—our story of resilience and reconnection is the now recognizable beacon of our power and worth. Our story, our history is rewritten by us to inspire many in this world. That’s the story we’d like to tell, no matter who wears our product-–you are part of a great story being told with pride.
How has your activism fuelled your creativity?
If you see what we have gone through as a people by just reflecting on the injustices inflicted upon George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many of our people, you see in those moments how he fought to turn our pain into power. Not only did we unite to protest, but we have also been purposeful and intentional about what brands we support, which says a lot about how our consciousness has furthered our building of Black economics and generational wealth.
As I have a strong passion for connecting all African descendants together and bringing Africa to you no matter where you are, I believe I am driven by a purpose beyond me — a purpose for us to be able to say we are Africans not because we were born in Africa but because Africa is born in us. And the beauty is us carrying Africa with us in style and with pride, feeling at home even though we may be far from home. That sense of belonging is what wakes me up everyday.
Do you think consumers are more conscious about the brands they support?
Definitely, especially in these times and this beautiful generation of young ones rising. It’s all about the story and purpose behind the product, inclusive missions, and authentic representation. It’s about being a part of something bigger than the brand.
Your business has grown a lot in the past year. How have you managed to scale up so quickly?
I think aside from the quality we give, I think this growth has resulted from us being authentic and embracing all who respect our mission to carry the culture. People of different cultures and backgrounds have supported our brand and continue to do so worldwide. They buy first because they love the uniqueness of our products, and when they get to know more they continue to support because they love what we are about. It almost feels like our customers become disciples of our brand, and word of mouth has scaled us massively. You are bound to be stopped when wearing our products that opens dialogue for cultural connection, which is the intent behind all of our products.
What’s next for the Orijin Culture brand?
I am passionate about Africa – I love her shape and everything she is. Some say I’m obsessed with Africa. The truth is I am. I invented the Africa shaped bag, I’ve invented the Africa Shaped Scarf, and next up will be another invention intentionally made to connect all African descendants. It’s slated to launch in October.