On a recent visit to Ghana, I decided to meet up with the Founder of Ani Siyah. She is an entrepreneurial, vivacious and endearing woman. I wanted to know more about her as an individual and to share my discoveries with you.
Driving along a busy winding road on a humid day, I finally ended up at her work shop. Granted, I was already excited at the prospect of meeting up with an achiever. Little did I know that my heart would be stolen ;stolen by Caesar, a very gracious and warm poodle. Perhaps I may create a blog post on my encounter with Caesar later.
My interview with Ama Sika Asante is detailed below :-
What does Ani Siyah represent ?
Ani is the short form of my English name, Nancy. Siyah is derived from my mom’s maiden name Nsiah. I wanted to come up with a name that people could pronounce easily. By combining Ani and Nsiah, my brand name, Ani Siyah (pronounced Ani Sia’yah) was created.
Have you always been creative ?
For as long as I can remember, I always knew I wanted to create something of my own. Growing up, I would assemble materials together, pin them up and give them names. My interest in accessories and branding probably kicked off when I was in College.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating your designs ?
My inspiration is drawn from icons like Kimora Lee Simons, from nature and from my rich cultural heritage.
You recently added slippers to your line. Do you have any other surprises coming up? Any more additions we should be looking out for?
Yes, I recently added Slippers by Ani 2016 “Summer Collection” which features the Baaba Banda line. It was launched in March 2016. These slippers are locally made and handcrafted with the goal of providing bespoke cultured slippers. I believe in growth, expansion, mastery and in perfecting my craft. Since I mastered my craft where bag making is concerned, I have decided to branch into creating stylish women’s slippers. So far, I have been fortunate and blessed as my work has been featured at both local and international fashion shows.
Are your pieces handmade and if so, do you make them all by yourself?
I currently have two employees. Yet, I am very much involved in the production of my products. Each piece is handmade with lots of patience, attention to detail and care.
Do you source your materials locally or internationally?
My materials are sourced locally and internationally. The leather I use for my bags is imported from Italy.
Walk me through a typical work day. What is it like?
Work begins at 6:00am. We start by cleaning the machines, bringing out materials and then processing orders. We begin the bag creation process with pattern cutting, lining the chosen fabric with an adhesive and letting it dry before moving on to the next step. The next step involves cutting out pockets, tagging the various pieces before sewing them together. Making handbags and purses isn’t an easy task; the process takes a lot of time and work. Majority of people think we just buy “already made” bags and cover them with Ankara/African print fabrics. As you witnessed, it is a different ball game.
Your pieces tend to be a reflection of different cultures. Does your background played a crucial role in your design process?
Yes, my background plays a crucial role in my design process. I’m a Canadian born to Ghanaian parents. I grew up in Canada where I attended elementary school, high school and college.Eventually, I moved from Canada to the US. I lived in the US for a bit before moving to Ghana. The style in Canada and the US is different from the style in West-Africa. Having been exposed to these different influences, my work reflects different styles. I have a passion for what I do and I make sure that my clients are satisfied with their products. My loyal clients love my finishing and the quality of materials I use.
Who has had the strongest influence on you and why?
Before the birth of Ani Siyah, media mogul Nat Kwabena Anokye-Adisi known as Bola Ray advised and supported me on my entrepreneurial journey and to break through in the fashion industry. Stacy Amoateng prayed with me and kept on pushing me to reach for the stars. Mrs. Edwina Baaba Banda has been a pillar and an inspirational figure, she would often invite me to her house and literally screen each piece for quality finishing. Mrs. Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings has always advised me as well and always purchases a lot of Ani Siyah products whenever she travels outside Ghana. These two women, Mrs. Banda and Mrs. Rawlings have always been brutally honest where the brand is concerned.Their honesty has helped Ani Siyah become the household name it is today. For instance, when they place orders, they make payments and expect flawless products in return. Should any of their bags have a flaw, be it an uncut thread, they will reject the flawed product.I will then have to remake the bag till it meets their satisfaction. This experience has strengthened my skills and made me more attentive to details in the design process.
What do you want to be remembered for ?
I want to be remembered as an individual who created a brand that changed the face of accessories from Ghana.
Interview by Sher