The Rise of the 54 Kingdoms
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Very often, in our quest to be trendy we lose some of the traditional essence that makes us African. These were elements that Nana Poku, who has over the years expressed his love and passion for Ghana through screen printing and embroidered images on t-shirts, decided to bring to bear when he started his clothing line. He teamed up with another Ghanaian, Kwaku A. Awuah, a young fashion entrepreneur to unleash 54 Kingdoms into the mainstream. With the duo’s burning passion to connect African and Caribbean cultures, they brought onboard Brey Golding, a Jamaican-American designer with several years of experience in the fashion business.
Today, 54 Kingdoms is a promising clothing company that aims to address the problem of cultural disassociation, using fashion as a means to create cultural inclusion. The team believes that as individuals migrate away from their native place of birth, reconnecting and identifying with people of similar heritage, culture, and ethnic background becomes significant. Therefore, 54 Kingdoms aspires to target this need of re-association and linkage within the African, African-American and West Indian communities via its motto, ‘identity through fashion’. Jamati.com met the team to find out more about the 54 Kingdom brand as well as to get some fashion tips for the young African man and lady.
Jamati: Why the name 54 Kingdoms?
The name 54 Kingdoms developed in two parts. The number “54”, which symbolizes the total number of countries in Africa and the word “Kingdoms,” signifies that each and every African country is a part of a larger kingdom spanning overseas to include our brothers and sisters abroad.
Jamati: How do you describe your collections?
The heart of 54 Kingdoms lies within the graphics located on each clothing pieces. Each design will have significance and appeal to different individuals based on their cultural heritage and ethnic background. Some designs will incorporate items such as national leaders/figures, monuments, proverbs, symbols, writings and even shine light upon political issues. 54 Kingdoms’ mission is to bring the ideology of ethnicity, culture and fashion integration to a higher level. Therefore, when 54 Kingdoms is mentioned, we want our customers to think trendy, bold, quality and identity.
Jamati: What range of clothing do you have?
Well, our current collection consists of tops & t-shirts, but we are working on spanning from the everyday casual wear to office and evening attires for both male and females. Items will include but not limited to tops, blouses & skirts, sweaters, blazers/jackets, pants, jeans, clothing accessories and many more.
Jamati: What is the inspiration behind the clothing line?
The inspiration of the 54 Kingdoms clothing line is a combination of modern day trends of fashion in collaboration with traditional and national iconic symbols/motifs. We believe every country in the African Diaspora has a story to tell and 54 Kingdoms wants to share that story with the world. 54 Kingdoms’ inspiration is to provide our consumers the opportunity to take pride and honor in their African, Caribbean and African-American culture as well as how they present themselves through a movement, which promotes an individuals’ strive for identity through fashion. Over the years, musical artists have tried to bring Africa together through their unique lyrics and now it’s up to 54 Kingdoms to continue the same mission via fashion. We are a group of diverse individuals with a common goal to create designs that remind people of whom they are and where they come from.
Jamati: What makes your clothing African? The styles are quite Western.
Well I guess most people would not view our clothing as the traditional African attires due to the fact that we are not sewing kente, kaba, etc. We can tell you one thing though; people will definitely know Africa is in the building when you wear 54 Kingdom attire. What makes our clothing African are the graphic elements we place on the clothing (i.e. African symbols, iconic African leaders, etc).
Jamati: What materials do you use?
Our customer satisfaction plays a key role in deciding what materials to use for our products. We only want the best for our consumers and therefore we use high-quality materials including: silk, linen, denim, leather, wool, polyester and high cotton count fabrics.
Jamati: What are the future plans for the line?
One of the biggest aspirations 54 Kingdoms really looks forward to fulfilling is the establishment of the ‘Art Kingdom Foundation’. This foundation aims to give back to children from less opportune countries to demonstrate their creative talents through a yearly design competition. The winner of the contest will have their design produced as part of 54 Kingdoms’ collection with a certain percentages of the product proceeds going back to the winner, the winner’s community, and the remaining to the Art Kingdoms Foundation.
Jamati: What is the latest fashion for African men from your perspective?
The latest trend in fashion for African men in America seems to be relaxed tops and pants mostly consisting of linen material. But considering that the 2010 World Cup is around the corner in South Africa (a major achievement for Africa by the way); the latest trend will be representing your national or favorite football team. A classic jersey in a neutral color if available; fitted denim pants or linen shorts, a light blazer or bomber jacket and no-lace shoes (e.g. loafers). This is the time to combine a little class with your love for the game, remember the world is watching.
Jamati: And for the African woman?
Most African women make us proud with their distinct styles and taste for fashion. In general, women’s attire internationally has been shifting from flashy and flamboyant to a blend of bold, causal but yet professional styles. The latest trend in fashion for African women is picking certain formal accessories to add a bit of elegance to your attire. For example you have a plain white baby-doll tee and skinny jeans of any color. Enhance your look by breaking out those heels, adding an evening jacket or shawl and the jewelry you only wear on special occasions.
Jamati: what are the must-have accessories to go with these?
A must have accessory for African man today are a pair of nice glasses with bold solid frames to complement the shape of your face (also adds a sense of intellectuality – that’s always nice). Many people forget glasses do not need to be prescription based; one can get one with non-prescription lenses. Another must-have fashion accessory for young African men is a “strong and solid” watch. Believe it or not but a watch can tell the world how you view yourself (so be careful what you choose). An accessory that a beautiful African woman cannot go without today should be a matching set of cuffs and rings that complement each other. Usually it’s the smallest additions to your outfit that makes the biggest difference in making you stand out from the crowd (sometimes a nice matching purse or bag). Also, for the young women it is investing in a pair of stylish yet reliable black pumps. For a woman, this accessory is the most versatile thing you may own being able to dress it up or down.