I’m Beulah I do the social media and to meetings for ideas for more Fawohodie products. I’m Meemee and I help to run Fawohodie and help with doing the meetings and ideas
Beulah – Fawahodie is an ethical streetwear brand inspired by the symbolism of Ghana and Africa in general our main focus is to help and support women and educational opportunities for women in Ghana.
Meemee – The actual name Fawohodie comes from the ancient adinkra symbols in Ghana and it means independence, and it was added to that list of ancient adinkra symbols in 1957.
Can we have a quick overview of you, like where you’re from, your background and if you’ve study any creative subjects?
Beulah – I’m Beulah, I was born in London and moved to Bristol when I was about 10 and my parents are originally from Ghana. Creative wise, I have my own natural hair blog, so I blog about Afro hair and how to look after it and then I also I work with Fawohodie this t-shirt company.
Meemee – I’m Meemee, I have always lived in Bristol, I was born in Bristol. Creatively, I just work for Fawohodie-
Beulah – And you make sick beats.
Meemee – in that case I just try loads of things out. I didn’t go to university because I kind of flopped my A levels but I decided that wasn’t going to let that stop me doing things and I just started up Fawohodie.
So what are your roles within the company?
Beulah – So I do mainly the social media stuff, Facebook, Instagram. I help contribute in terms of coming up with ideas for the brand, going to meeting and going to event. We do polaroid campaigns and stuff s I get involved in that.
The brand has ethical foundations; do you know what lead the company to go down that route?
Meemee – Yeah, so basically myself and Nadine we set up Fawohodie, and it came out of a charity called the ‘Bristol Project’ and so Nadine had been working on freedom projects ad decided that if we wanted to create this sustainable change we have to have a sustainable source of income and rely on funding in order to fund other. So, from that we came up with the idea for Fawohodie, and that was back in 2015, which was so long ago now. Nadine was going to Ghana and so she got me involved and she was going to Ghana for the next 2 weeks. So, we quickly got together a few bits and bobs to make and she got those samples out to Ghana with her and we had about 52 pieces made within 10 days in Ghana, and then we brought it back and had a launch at ‘That Thing’, which is on Stokes Croft, and from there we realised actually that there is a real market for ethical clothing that is streetwear. So, for people in Bristol, and for ourselves we felt that in order to have a brand that really, the brand is all about independence so you can’t really have a brand that is saying “we represent independence” and then exploits others so it’s really important to have a brand that reflects itself.
Who designs them, out of interest? Or is it a collaborative effort?
Meemee – Yeah, it’s kind of a collaborative thing.
Beulah – We have mood boards and stuff and so everyone shows their inspirations, and brands that we like, so yeah, we get inspiration from that.
Meemee – Being from Bristol and the kind of lifestyle we lead we were like that’s yourself, like you’re not going to design a brand that is not for yourself, and the ethical point of it was really important. A lot of streetwear is a lot about reflecting the lifestyle, and we wanted the philosophy of independence to shine through the brand.
Do you think this kind of business has been built around Bristol, could you pick up the business and move it somewhere else or has Bristol helped make it?
Beulah – So we want to actually do some stuff in London and we go to London quite a lot. We find a lot of inspiration from London as well as Bristol, we do love being here in Bristol and have taken a lot from it but we would like to also expand to London at some point too.
Because we met Courtney and obviously, you hired him from Bristol, do you like to hire a lot of local creatives or do you like to reach out to people?
Beulah – Yeah most of the people we’ve worked with have been local, like we’ve got a cipher team, so a group of musicians that we use for events and stuff and they’re all from Bristol. And fir some of our photoshoots the models we’ve used are from Bristol.
What does the community of Bristol do for you? What does it do for the brand?
Meemee – Leading on from the fact that Bristol is quite small, its small enough that everyone kind of knows someone that knows something that you need to know, if that makes sense, but then its big enough to have a lot going on. And I think that’s what really good, ‘That Thing’ they are a streetwear brand and they kind of pushed us a little bit, so I think within that as well its good because there is a community of creatives in Bristol, there’s a lot more room for sharing and it’s not as segregated, like this person is a graphic designer or this person does X or Z.
Yeah, we’ve discovered that a lot from doing this project because people are like “oh yeah I just interviewed this guy who is a barber but he also makes signs”
Beulah – yeah people have to do more than one thing or it doesn’t make sense in Bristol. But yeah, I think Bristol has helped us, even getting this exposure here that was from Courtney who is also from Bristol, everyone’s connected.
What makes your brand different from the rest?
Beulah – So like one of the main things about our brand, as well as it being it portrays independence, is that we try and fund education and employment opportunities for women in Ghana, so I think that is something that definitely sets us apart from other streetwear brands.
Meemee- I think as well, that kind of idea that wanting it from the brand, so we kind of worked backwards. When you wear a brand, you wear it to feel a certain type of way like yes this reflects a lifestyle and we kind of felt like instead of just having people wear a big brand and the actions around the name not mean anything we kind of said we want the brand to mean something so that you can say “yeah that is Fawohodie” and it represent a whole philosophy around being true to yourself and being independent but also helping others. Because yeah you can’t really be independent without helping everyone else.
On the subject of your strategy, that you work backwards, what’s an average day in the job like?
Beulah – I feel like it’s different all the time. We have weekly meetings on a Wednesday night, so that’s when we’ll regroup and discuss whatever has happened in the week and whatever events we have coming up and stuff like that, and that’s like a typical Wednesday. Other days of the week it just depends what we’re doing, like last week, I think it was last Thursday, myself and Nadine went to a gig on behalf of Fawohodie and ended up in the polaroid campaign and speaking with artists afterwards and stuff. We went to Notting hill carnival and did a campaign there, it just depends on where we are and what we’re doing and every day is different.
What’s he environment like in general in the business? Is there a good dynamic? How many are there of you in total?
Meemee – There’s four of us. Basically, all of us work full time so Fawohodie is like a side part. So initially it was me and Nadine and we were in the office, I used to work throughout the week on Fawohodie and then things changed. So, Nadine is like the founder of Fawohodie, then I came in and then we were like “we can’t do this alone, we can’t do this alone” we were working on it for so long and needed that extra team member to push it, so we managed to get Beulah and Ellie. So, Ellie she studies fashion at UWE-
Beulah – So she designs look books and stuff like that.
So how do you all know each other? How did you find each other?
So, I knew Nadine, this is again the whole Bristol thing, I had done a lot of volunteering things around Bristol at ‘The Station’ which is like a youth centre in the centre of Bristol at CYN. So, from there they told her about me. We were then looking for someone and were like “oh we need a website designer” and that’s when we got Romaine involved, so Romaine is a website designer and yeah, another person who does a lot of things. So that was through like just seeing him around, like oh yeah, we’ll get Romaine involved. And when we went to hat to Romaine Beulah was there and we were like “Romaine we need you on the team” and then later on Romaine was like “I know this really cool person called Beulah, she should get involved”. We put an ad out at UWE and that’s how we got Ellie. And then Courtney we then got him involved because we were like yes, we just need to get this guy involved. So yeah again it’s like that small network I guess.
Do you guys have any personal favourite brands? Or the company in general?
Beulah – We love Carhartt. What’s that one with the weird name you guys are always on about?
Meemee – Daily Paper
Beulah – No but Daily Paper is good
Meemee – Maharishi
Beulah – That’s it
Meemee – Yeah like if I tell you a bit about the design of Fawohodie and stuff. So, there’s kind of 2 halves to it.
Beulah – So Fawohodie is an adinkra symbol, so in Ghana they have a lot of little symbols and then an adinkra symbol means different terms and stuff like that, so Fawohodie means independence, so that’s why we went for that because we wanted our brand to be all about independence.
Meemee – So Fawohodie was added to that list of ancient adinkra symbols in 1957 when Ghana gained independence. So, then that’s whys the brand is routed in Ghana because that’s where the name came from. So then in Ghana there’s the traditional cloth called kente printed, boutique dyed and printed onto cotton material and we were like that is going to be the foundation for the brand, it’s this printed cotton. We were like how do we translate that printed style to street style. So, we were going for a more clean and robust cut and we felt that matched the brand because if you’re going to be an independent person your kind of have to be ready for any situation and also the clothing that you wear has to be durable because 1 because it’s just much better to have a good quality piece of clothing that will last forever and also that feeling that you’re like, not like a warrior but it’s quite military contained like you can take on anything. So, the material is reflecting the independence and the cut reflects that you are ready for anything.
Is it just t-shirts at the moment? Where do you see it going?
Beulah – so we’ve got the two t-shirt designs which are out at the moment but we are working on a line that is being created in Ghana, so we are going to gout there, meet the women we have been helping and stuff and then bring it all over. And we want to launch the collection next year so 2018.
Meemee – Yeah, we kind of linked up with an ethical fashion house in Ghana where they like hand boutique the prints and then they’re going to be made into, we’re looking at shirts maybe dungarees and trousers and stuff like that.
Just to think if someone purchased them you’d be wearing something that the stuff that’s gone into it is all good stuff.
Meemee – That’s what you find with a lot of stuff, you want to bu something that ethical but you’re like “it’s not really my style” so you have to compromise your ethics or your style, so that’s where Fawohodie fits in.
And price, you wouldn’t mid spending a bit more knowing that the money has gone to a good place.
What would your dream collaboration be?
Meemee – Oswald Boateng
Beulah – Yeah, he just does epic suits.
Meemee – So Oswald Boateng is of Ghanaian descent and he is the youngest tailor on Savile Row, so literally went in and like shook up everything and was like yeah, I’m going to make these crazy suits.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Beulah – Yeah, I think by then we would’ve done a bit of a launch in London so we would have a presence in Bristol and London and maybe even somewhere else. Hopefully we’ll have more than one collection.
Meemee – I think as well within that being able to have a really stable stream so we can say that these collections are funding this particular project, I think that’s like the end goal for 5 years’ time, we want to have a stable cycle of collections that we can really like say that we’re investing into the country where the inspiration comes from.
Do you ever see it being made into a physical store?
Beulah – I mean a physical store would be cool, at the moment we are just focusing online, but if the demand comes then why not?
By Megan Webb and Megan Preece
“Fawohodie is an ethical streetwear brand that promotes independence through the use of symbolisms and authentic narratives inspired by the continent of Africa.”
The company was founded here in Bristol and seeks to support, education and promote opportunities for women in Ghana. The clothing is sustainably manufactured in Ghana by fair trade workers using organic clothing. The designs itself features the famous fawohodie Adinkra symbol witch stands for freedom and emancipation. This was added to that list of ancient Adinkra symbols in 1957. The company embraces it’s community as it promotes at local events and has even used the voice of the public in their latest polaroid campaign. They also employ models and creatives from within Bristol to help advertise their brand.
We were lucky enough to talk to employees Meemee (who helps to run Fawohodie, assists in meetings and produces ideas for the company) and Beulah (works on marketing and social for Fawohodie products).