On Thursday, Tina Knowles Lawson took Instagram by storm in a custom look by Aisha Ayensu, who heads the brand Christie Brown. Bey’s mom was introduced to the label during a recent visit to The Continent and tapped the young creative for her bespoke pinstripe suit. The talented designer creates statement pieces for the “modern woman who seeks a true taste of Africa.” Informed by her Ghanaian roots, the innovative creative infuses contemporary style with African aesthetics while focusing on the modern, chic and versatile woman.
Since winning the 2009 Emerging Designer of the Year Award at the inaugural Arise Africa Fashion Week in Johannesburg, South Africa, Christie Brown has become one of the top African brands, with Ayensu showcasing her unique designs around the globe. She has also been featured in global magazines including Harpers Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Vogue Brazil, Arise and Glamour Magazine to name a few.
In this exclusive interview, Ayensu talks with ESSENCE about her beginnings, how her brand stays consistent and her latest campaign. The designer’s passion is exhilarating and her smile is contagious. Read below to learn more about Ayensu’s label and check out her latest campaign below.
ESSENCE: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a designer and how did you get your unique start in the fashion industry?
AISHA AYENSU: I’ve always loved fashion. I got that from my grandmother, Christie Brown, who was a seamstress. What made me push that further and start a fashion brand had more to do with a burning desire in me to change the narrative about Africa that I’d gotten so sick of seeing and hearing on the global scene. I needed the world to experience the side of Africa I lived each day. I bit the bullet and decided to build a global fashion brand that spoke to the sentiments and tastes of the modern African woman–her spunk, her unapologetic love and appreciation of where she’s from.
ESSENCE: What do you think is unique about Ghanaian fashion?
AISHA AYENSU: Ghanaian fashion has a unique element of quirk that plays on an unusual mix of color, pattern and textures. We’re quick to pair bold stripes with contrasting patterns.
ESSENCE: How would you describe the Christie Brown woman? What is your brand philosophy?
AA: [The Christie Brown woman] is unapologetically her. She is in control and has a unique and authentic sense of style which stems from an innately deep rooted sense of self-confidence. My brand philosophy is about projecting Africa in the best light by giving women the ammunition to dream.
ESSENCE: What was your overall approach to your new collection, She Is King? What are the underlying emotions found in your latest collection?
AA: The Christie Brown woman has this “thing” about her that I can’t quite figure out. She is so innately confident and possesses this deep-rooted strength that you sense after coming into contact with her. In trying to figure it out, I came to the conclusion that it’s in her DNA and she is built to be a force in any field she finds herself in. That’s what inspired our fall collection, She Is King.
ESSENCE: If you had to use one word to describe your designs, what would it be?
ESSENCE: What inspires your designs? Do you seek out inspiration, or do ideas often come to you?
AA: I find that [ideas] come to me. I strongly believe that what I do is in line with and part of the larger purpose of God’s plan. My design process starts from a very spiritual place. Inspiration always comes to me in the most divinely orchestrated manner.
ESSENCE: Do you think consumers in Ghana are moving further away from fast fashion and towards higher quality clothing?
AA: There’s always going to be a good blend of the two for as long as we have different social brackets/ tiers. A time may come where the focus is [solely] on quality clothing, it’s just not now.
ESSENCE: What are some of the challenges you face as a creative in Ghana?
AA: Not having all the elements across the value and supply chain to make money (the kind that matters) off our creativity. Culturally, there’s a limit to how seriously the creative industry is taken here which makes it feel like a constant battle to get a seat at the tables that matter. But not to worry, we’re steadily creating our own tables.
ESSENCE: What advice do you give to women who are looking to enter into creative industries?
AA: DREAM! And while you’re bringing your dreams to reality and kicking butt at it, extend that ladder to your other sisters in any way you can.