When young African American lady, Breanna Moore visited the West African country of Ghana, she immediately knew Africa was way more than everything she had heard about the continent, and her
perception about fashion drastically changed, as she had a new vision to see African inspired designs recognized globally.
As an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania, she had the opportunity to study abroad twice in Ghana. This was the first time that anyone in her family had the chance to return to their ancestral land, since being brought to the USA as slaves,
She was exposed to the vibrant and stunning Ankara fabrics and traditional Kente cloth and instantly fell in love with the fashion there, ‘’It has the potential to grow beyond the shores of West Africa and take root and blossom around the globe.’’
She passionately speaks here about driving change through fashion and the role of her business in the global Fashion Revolution.
What is your background and what influenced the Labré label?
I am a 2015 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with International Relations and African Studies majors. As an undergraduate, I studied abroad for one month at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and had the opportunity to teach Math to elementary and middle school students in Kumasi, Ghana in 2013. I also studied abroad at the University of Ghana in 2014.
My stay in Ghana exposed me to the vibrant Batik and Ankara fabrics, and Kente Cloth. I thought, “Wow, this should be everywhere!” I also thought it would be a great opportunity to provide jobs for artisans in Ghana and contribute to the economic growth there. So, ever since then I had the idea to start my fashion line, Labré. I raised over $10,000 in seed capital with the mission to increase economic growth in Ghana through job creation, provide Ghanaian artisans and their products with access and exposure to the international market, and primarily, employ women.
What aspects of your job do you love?
I love that I am able to work with amazing designers and artisans across the diaspora, strive to create economic opportunities for talented African and diaspora designers, and provide a platform that gives designers increased access and exposure to the international market. I also love that I am able to explore innovative ways to use fashion and technology to combat health related issues such as malaria and contribute to the economic development on the continent.
To what extent has the talk of a fashion revolution, (a shift to a more ethical way of fashion production where the workers are recognized and given a sustainable standard of living), influenced Labré?
Labré was created with this intent in mind to ethically produce fashion and recognize and sustain workers. Recently, I have been influenced by the KISUA model which offers established and emerging African designers the opportunity to collaborate with the brand on ready-to-wear capsule collections. KISUA funds and produces all collections so there is no financial burden placed on the designer and the KISUA Designer Fund gives a portion of every sale to the designer.
Definitely technology and electricity cuts during the spring and summer. If the electricity got cut off and the seamstresses/tailors had no generator or money to fuel the generator, the work day was cut in half. This made production time two times longer than what it normally is if electricity was on throughout the whole work day. Other challenges include language barriers, different systems of size and measurement, and a lack of efficient telecommunication. For example, if the electricity is down and the team does not have their phone charged, I cannot communicate with them via WhatsApp or Facebook. The biggest challenge is not being able to physically be on the ground.
What advice do you have for fashion brands that want to grow and expand either in their countries or globally?
I would say, do your research before you branch out. Also, know your market and the challenges that come with it.
How have you been able to cope with the stress in your profession?
Patience and knowing that if others can do it and be successful at it so can I. And most importantly, knowing that if it is God’s will, it will be done.
What lessons have you learnt in business?
To fully be the boss of my work and not let other people make decisions for me.
What is your source of inspiration
At the end of the Civil War, most southern African Americans who did not migrate to the North made a living through sharecropping which replaced plantation slavery. This is also known as tenant farming.
These systems required farmers to plant and grow crops for the owner of the land in exchange for a portion of the crop. Sometimes, it required farmers to use their labor as rent to reside on the owner’s land.
Sharecropping and tenant farming have persisted in my family to my grandmother’s generation. As a result of having to be self-reliant, my grandmother grew up knowing how to plant cotton. Through sewing, she also knew how to turn the raw material into cloth.
My passion and dedication to create Labré has culminated into the inter-generational exchange of technical skills. Not only that, it continues to build upon the legacy of self-empowerment, ingenuity, and tenacity.
How will you assess the power of Diasporic connections?
Learning to deal with the challenges that come with running a business overseas has made me appreciate the diligence of Ghanaian entrepreneurs. I have had to work with electric cuts, language barrier and a lack of efficient telecommunication. Add to that the fact that, I am not physically present.
The networks I have made have been helpful, particularly with entrepreneur Peter Paul Akanko, Chief Executive Officer of Kente Masters. Paul helps coordinate and implement Labré logistical operations on the ground such as shipping, inventory, and photoshoot.
In February 2016, the unemployment rate for Black American ages 16-24 was 14.5%. ‘’This is similar to the situation in Ghana. Young people aged 24 and under make up 57% of the Ghanaian population. According to the World Bank’s “The Landscape of Jobs in Ghana” report, 48% of Ghanaians between the ages of 15-24 do not have jobs. My friendship with Peter is a great example of what collaboration throughout the Diaspora and youth entrepreneurship can produce.
When you wear Labré, you are not just wearing beautiful clothes, you are showcasing your resistance. You are showing that you are critical of where you invest your money, from who and where you buy, and in what you wear.
The common narrative is the extraction of wealth and resources from Africa. Through Labré I am seeking to invest in the Ghanaian economy by providing supply for the rapidly growing demand for African inspired fashion.
As an African American, many of us desire to re-connect with our place of origin in meaningful ways. Through Labré, I am telling history through fashion.
Our men and women summer collections are both named after Ghanaian liberation leaders, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa and King Badu Bonsu II. These are people who we in America grow up with no knowledge of. Labré is committed to promoting heritage and traditional fabrics through modern design by producing a compelling fashion-forward aesthetic.
I plan to build Labré into a global Diasporic community connecting people through fashion, art, history, and culture. I am currently creating an online platform with Andre Glover of Indsic. The platform will allow Ghanaian artisans mass market and showcase their designs to a global audience and customer base.
This is a grassroots effort that will work with local artisans, from the Kente weaving villages of Andanwomase and Bowire to market women in Kejetia and Tamale. I did not realize I would be using my International Relations and African Studies degree to create Labré. If I could go back and give myself advice before starting my company it would be to, “trust God and do it now.”
What does the future hold for Labré and its desired impact on the creatives in Africa?
Through The Fashion Made in Africa initiative, Labré is launching LaBré Agency which will achieve the stocking of made in Africa apparel and accessories in U.S. fashion companies, department stores, and boutiques. We will provide U.S. fashion companies, department stores, and boutiques clients with the apparel and accessories of LaBré’s network of African fashion designers. The global fashion industry is $1.3 trillion with sub-Saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market valued at $31 billion.
In Africa, the entire textile/clothing market accounts for the second largest number of jobs in developing countries after agriculture. In the next five years, the industry could generate $15.5 billion in revenue. We desire to have “Fashion Made in Africa” become a global norm and harness the global fashion industry to create economic opportunities for talented African designers and generate global visibility of African inspired fashion designers. Historically, Africa has been known for its natural resources of gold, oil, and cocoa. Fashion is also a natural resource of the continent, a material wealth that has the potential to contribute exponentially to the economy through the cotton, textile, and garment industry and employ millions of people predominantly women and youth.