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From Ghana, with style

Ghanaian fashion designer Kofi Ansah, who passed away last week, leaves behind a legacy of timeless art on fabric. The designer put Ghana on the haute couture map and created clothes that exuded the joy and intrigue of his country on the catwalk

Ghanaian fashion was never the same after designer Kofi Ansah came to the scene in 1992. The designer, who is best known for putting Ghana on the catwalks of haute couture, passed away at an Accra hospital last week.

For Ansah, fashion was not about spinning fads, but about creating designs that tell a story about the wearer. In an interview, he famously said, ‘Without clothes, we cannot play our parts’.

Kofi Ansah’s many designs were inspired by the wild, vast landscape of Africa’s indigenous textiles and motifs. Pics/AFP
Kofi Ansah’s many designs were inspired by the wild, vast landscape of Africa’s indigenous textiles and motifs. Pics/AFP

Ansah was born in 1951 and claimed that he owed his creativity to his parents, who had impeccable taste. He tasted appreciation early on after graduating from the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1979, Ansah’s claim to fame was bagging a chance to dress Princess Anne in a beaded top.

Ghanaian designer Kofi Ansah takes a bow at the end of his show during the AltaRomAltaModa event in February 2009 in Rome
Ghanaian designer Kofi Ansah takes a bow at the end of his show during the AltaRomAltaModa event in February 2009 in Rome

In Ansah, UK’s catwalks found a refreshingly experimentative designer, and the designer soon became a force to be reckoned with. However, Ansah had more on his mind. In 1992, he decided to return to Ghana and his work there is known to be even more innovative. Ansah is rightly credited to have changed the face of the Ghanaian fashion.

He picked bold, indigenous textures and fabrics and his customer base was not limited to Ghana alone clients the world over were curious about his work and didn’t mind shelling out the money for truly unique cuts.

Ansah also loved deep, lush colours and, for a while, indigo was like his trademark. Irreverent and meticulous, Ansah claimed that no two shirts he ever made were the same. When Ghana celebrated 50 years of independence in 2007, Ansah designed the official anniversary cloth and when Ghana hosted the African Nations Cup football competition the following year, he designed the costumes for the performers at the opening and closing ceremonies.

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