When I met Abrima and Rosario about 15 years ago in New York, where I had recently moved, sustainability, social impact and Africa were certainly not part of the vocabulary of the high fashion industry Abrima and I worked for, and that Rosario more than frequently endorsed.

Both longtime friends with families originating from the African diaspora, advocates of girls and women’s rights, both very aware of their unique position in their respective industries, women of heart and of conviction, they always wanted to work together.

Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah
Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah

Following trips in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in the early 2010s, where they participated in enterprises that allowed women to lead sustainable lifestyles, using the savvy skills and resources they had accumulated throughout the years, and tapping into their singularity, they created Studio 189 in 2013.

The Spring-Summer 2016 Collection offers customised up-cycled pieces sourced in Accra’s flea markets, which give life to edgy yet sophisticated looks.

This Spring-Summer 2016 Collection develops one colour, indigo, and one concept, up-cycling. Rich, spiritually charged, still traditionally produced, cross continental and transcultural: indigo. Abrima and Rosario wanted a theme that connects us all, giving a sense of globalism to their collection, reflecting on the route of garments from producer to consumer to discarding to recycling to up-cycling, across and beyond the prints that define their young brand’s identity.

Spring-Summer 2016, their second collection, a big step ahead of their Spring-Summer 2015, speaks of casual luxury and worldly precious know-hows. It offers perfectly cut garments and accessories for men and women in rich fabrics beautifully woven and patterns traditionally dyed, or customised up-cycled pieces sourced in Accra’s flea markets, which combine to give life to edgy yet sophisticated looks.

Studio 189 produces one collection yearly, with in between collaborations with like-minded enterprises such as Tiffany Persons’s Shine on Sierra Leone, Anna-Clare Lukoma’s Lulu or Renata Mutis Black’s Empowered By You, that bring into being capsule collections while allowing for their business and creative model to spread and blossom.

Valuing all of the elements and actors in the production chain makes for a great model to be replicated throughout Africa, in accordance with the local skills and regional craftsmanships.

Abrima and Rosario create most of the patterns themselves. The collections are conceived and designed in the Accra-based studio where, following the company’s founding principle, students from local design schools intern or work, collaborating on the process from its inception to its final stages. All of the products are made in Ghana. The luscious fabrics, sourced in Tema or in Italy, are dyed in traditional workshops in Cape Coast. The garments are assembled in their Accra self-sustaining clothing factory, to which founding Studio 189 actively participated, that they are instrumental in managing in partnership with the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative, and that also produces collections for other designer brands based in Africa.

The high standard of craftsmanship, the attention to detail ensure a product of the highest quality, fitting the standards of luxury they had set as a goal to produce when they started the company. Valuing all of the elements and actors in the production chain, from inciting sustainable cultivation techniques in local farms where pigments are sourced to the often needed support available to the factory and workshops workers and their families, all make for a great model to be replicated throughout Africa, in accordance with the local skills and regional craftsmanships. A bridge to fill in the wide gap that still too often exists between the raw material and the finished product, with a lasting impact in Ghana where the collections are currently made, or in the West, their main market for the time being.

The work of these two remarkable innate givers is ever inspiring. I wish that Studio 189 will soon find the financial support they need to move on to the next step and expand their clientele, consequently increasing production and capacity building, growing more sustainable local communities, encouraging trans-Atlantic community skill-sharing, while educating customers globally along the way and opening up worlds of wonders.

Studio 189 is available on; at Studio 189 in Accra, Ghana; on which delivers worldwide; at Opening Ceremony in New York City and at Biffi in Milan, Italy.