Fashion has always been a thing in Accra. The street stalls, fabric shops, hotel fashion shows and rapid increase in malls, are a testament to that. Even online, social media, blogs and websites in Ghana and across the globe churn out new fabric designs daily. An expanding number of new Ghanaian designers are creating a buzz, building brands and moving sizable units of merchandise all while eyeing the international catwalks.
Alex Ofori Wondergem is part of this budding community. While teaming up with an Accra-based seamstress to make wax print trousers, he came to the realization that he could create designs for wear. A year later he and two friends launched Clove Clothing, a label specializing in apparel, jewelry pieces, and caps. Based on a concept of “Sharing the Welath (STW),” the designers envision one day manufacturing Clove Clothing products fully from Ghana. The company sells out each year at CHALE WOTE and they are not only popular in Accra, but Montreal and London, where they’re also based.
We recently caught up Alex while on a trip back home to Ghana to discuss Clove Clothing’s journey thus far.
ADA: Tell us all about Clove Clothing.
ALEX: Clove Clothing is a West African inspired fashion brand that bridges Ghanaian culture and aesthetics alongside western fashion. We are a gang of four running the company: myself, Danae Kouzof, Will Niava and Yannick Wondergem. The idea of Clove began in the summer of 2012 and by early 2013 we were in business. The first product to hit the market was our wax print trousers. From there, we’ve expanded our range to cover 5-panel strapbacks, snapbacks and Adinkra wooden chains. We are currently based in London, Montreal and Accra.
ADA: How did you get involved in design?
ALEX: During my first semester at college in London in 2011, I wanted some baggy, colorful, comfortable trousers to wear in my dorm. Upon returning to Ghana for the holidays, I bought some wax print and got some made with the help of a seamstress. That moment triggered my enthusiasm for design. I realized that if you want something enough, you can make it.
ADA: Do you do anything else apart from design?
ALEX: I’m studying at the University of the Arts London, Film & Television. I’ll be graduating by the summer, so until then it’s undergrad work.
ADA: How does visual culture feed into your work?
ALEX: Film has been my passion for the past two years. For Clove, we use film to express our experience as a brand to our audience. We often shoot behind-the-scenes photo shoots to give people a look into who we are and what we’re about.
ADA: How has your work evolved since Clove Clothing began?
ALEX: Since the inception, we’ve grown more confident in the voice we’re offering to the world. With positive feedback from our peers, we’re pushing ourselves to create a wider variety of products. We’ve evolved from college students starting a brand from our bedrooms, to collaborating with artists and establishments to create richer experiences.
ADA: How specifically does Clove Clothing bridge Ghanaian culture and western fashion?
ALEX: We try to find a way to incorporate the vibrant patterns and traditional symbols found in Ghana into modern, youthful apparel. This way, we can proudly demonstrate our culture while maintaining an urban style.
ADA: As a designer, do you think that artists have a responsibility to the public?
ALEX: I believe that the role of contemporary fashion designers are to serve as the voice of a culture. Shared cultural identities can be expressed vicariously through fashion, allowing us to communicate with our peers.
ADA: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on this journey?
ALEX: Be brave. Don’t be shy to try something different or to stand out a little.
ADA: What’s up next for Clove Clothing?
ALEX: We’ve got some dope new products in the works for the ladies. We’re always dreaming up new things for the future, so stay tuned.