Designer inspired by African heritage
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.
“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.