Image: A kayayei - a Ghanaian term for a female porter - carries a bale of second hand clothing, Credit: Nana Kwadwo Agyei Addo, Accra Studios
Can you start by sharing a bit of background to The OR Foundation – what led you to Ghana, and what are the organisations’ main aims today?
After I graduated, I moved to NYC and decided that instead of working in the fashion industry I would work for the industry. I called myself a ‘consultant’, offering up my services to anyone that was claiming to make the fashion industry better - and one of these companies was a fair-trade fashion label that was co-founded by my (now) partner, Branson, and a Ghanaian artist named RAAM. This was my entry point into Ghana.
Today, Branson and I work with young people in order to liberate them from a dominant consumer-based relationship with fashion. We have taught thousands of teenagers in the USA, Ghana and South Africa. I have seen the many benefits of bringing fashion into K-12 curriculum and in particular into middle schools with students ages 11 to 13. It not only reaches youth at a time when they are just beginning to express their identity through fashion, but it also presents fashion as a subject worthy of intellectual inquiry.
Too many people view fashion as superficial, which it can be, yet this view is largely informed by the patriarchy, or the fact that fashion is gendered female in consumption, production and design. Until people take fashion seriously, we won’t be able to have the nuanced, or human, conversations that we so desperately need to have.