De­signer in­spired by African her­itage

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY SH­ERYL NADLER,

Maya Amoah was im­mersed in a kalei­do­scope of colour at a mar­ket in Ghana in West Africa when in­spi­ra­tion struck.

On a months-long trip vis­it­ing her grand­mother, sur­rounded by racks of vi­brant pat­terned wax print batik, her brain started churn­ing out ideas for a new ven­ture.

Be­cause at 21, Amoah al­ready had one busi­ness un­der her belt: Ne­bu­lah Artwear, a galaxy-themed line of hand-painted T-shirts, crop tops, hood­ies and leg­gings she started while still a stu­dent at West­dale High School. And as she watched Ghana­ian ar­ti­sans spin fab­ric into fash­ion, she couldn’t help but be im­pressed by their work­man­ship.

The thing was, the styles they were cre­at­ing, pe­plum tops and long skirts, weren’t re­ally her thing. So she sourced some fab­ric, con­nected with a seam­stress who could in­ter­pret her vi­sion, and got to work de­sign­ing a line of con­tem­po­rary cloth­ing.

“The fab­ric it­self is con­sid­ered quite tra­di­tional,” Amoah says of the wax print batik fab­ric that show­cases the styles in her new busi­ness, Batik Boutik. “But the ac­tual de­sign is very mod­ern. So … my stuff is very eclec­tic in that it in­fuses African cul­tural — es­pe­cially Gha­nian cul­tural print, West African print — with a more mod­ern take.”

For Amoah, who leans to­ward a ca­sual look in most of her own at­tire, that means clean lines ab­sent of any frills, ruf­fles or poufs — ex­tras she feels dis­tract from the print it­self. She also fea­tures match­ing sep­a­rates, like the crop top and pen­cil skirt she pairs here with ten­nis shoes from Zara, a style she says is dis­tinctly Ghana­ian and that she sel­dom sees in Canada.

“Ide­ally I want to work on the two (cloth­ing brands) and be able to cross mar­ket them to­gether be­cause I do find that they share the same clien­tele,” she says. “I think it would be great to in­te­grate these two ideas that I have into one.”

Amoah also im­ports jew­elry and ac­ces­sories from Ghana, like the neck­lace she wears here with beads crafted from re­cy­cled glass, the Krobo bead bracelet she pairs with a batik ban­gle, and her mini leather purse with ele­phant mo­tif.

“I think it’s just very im­por­tant in gen­eral that the con­sumer, the cus­tomer, is ed­u­cated on ex­actly what they’re buy­ing and that there’s an eth­i­cal process be­hind it,” says Amoah, whose fo­cus is on cre­at­ing eth­i­cally re­spon­si­ble cloth­ing. “I think that’s very im­por­tant be­cause there’s no worry about ex­ploita­tion.” Most eye-catch­ing piece: I have this off-shoul­der top and these bell-bot­tom pants that are match­ing and it’s just a very vi­brant print. It’s a leafy pat­tern. I ac­tu­ally sell them, as well. It’s a leafy kind of palm tree pat­tern and ev­ery time I wear it, I get a ton of com­pli­ments. Quirki­est wardrobe item: A full denim jump­suit — a longsleeved top and then com­pletely at­tached and just long pants. Kind of like a Cana­dian tuxedo. I got that from Black Mar­ket Vin­tage store in Toronto. Wardrobe must-have: As much as I love bold de­signs — I’m all for colour, I need colour — it’s su­per im­por­tant that if you’re go­ing to have tons of colour in your wardrobe, you have to have some neu­trals … whether it’s just crazy pants and a nor­mal black hal­ter or some­thing like that. Best pur­chase: Any­thing that I can score a good deal on that I love is con­sid­ered my best pur­chase. An ex­am­ple would be this re­ally glit­tery, gold dress that’s got a re­ally cool pat­tern as part of the skirt part ... but it was long-sleeved and even a turtle­neck, and I got that for 80 cents when I was at a flea mar­ket in Berlin … it was a good deal and it’s some­thing I con­sis­tently wear. Re­grets buy­ing: Prob­a­bly one of my 10 jean jack­ets ... just be­cause I haven’t found enough op­por­tu­ni­ties to wear them all. Loves to shop at: At mar­kets. Mar­kets in Ghana, but when I was trav­el­ling … through­out Europe, I al­ways went to the mar­kets. I al­ways went to the flea mar­kets, cloth­ing mar­kets, any­where they’re sell­ing stuff where I’m able to bar­gain or just get a great deal, I’m there. Rid­ding her closet of: I’m kind of over camo jack­ets for now — cam­ou­flage, mil­i­tary kind of jack­ets ... I feel like I went through a grunge kind of phase so that’s when I got that. I don’t know if I’ll get rid of that.

I say that, but it’s still hang­ing in my closet, just in case. Splurges on: I don’t splurge of­ten, but when I do, it would prob­a­bly just be if there was a sale on at Value Vil­lage. I’d end up spend­ing a lot more than I would if things were at full price.

Beauty prod­uct she can’t live with­out:

Lip­stick. In terms of colour, a dark lip. A dark cherry.

SH­ERYL NADLER PHO­TOS, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

“I find that I’m em­brac­ing more and more this kind of Afro, she says of her cur­rent hair­style. “I’ve al­ways had nat­u­ral hair; I’ve never permed it or any­thing. But I did no­tice that I would al­ways have it up.”

Amoah pairs a batik ban­gle with a tra­di­tional Krobo bracelet.

“I don’t re­ally wear heels or any­thing,” she says of her ten­nis shoes from Zara. “Sneak­ers like this, I love them be­cause I feel like they can go with al­most any­thing.”

Amoah’s Ghana­ian neck­lace is made from re­cy­cled glass beads.

“I’m not a huge purse per­son, I don’t ever have a big tote,” she says. Her mini leather cross­over bag with ele­phant mo­tif is from Ghana.

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