BY: KABRENA ROBINSON
In a society where Eurocentric fashion styles and brands have predominated the mainstream, one fashion designer has taken on the task of adding her unique touch of Afrocentrism to the mix with her line of handcrafted skirts.
Dawn James-Okonkwo is the owner of Imhotep International Abstract Print Skirts, an independent clothing line where she designs a line of “ultra-luxury” vibrant print skirts for women and girls using bold coloured western fabrics and African print designs from her studio at home.
James who currently operates out of the United Kingdom draws much inspiration for her designs from her Nigerian background where she hails from the Igbo tribe in the town of Igbo-Ukwu. Her designs are inspired primarily by the ancient ninth-century Igbo-Ukwu art culture of Nigeria and also ancient Egyptian culture.
“The main inspiration behind starting an Afrocentric skirt line was to design clothing for women that are unique and different,” she said. “I was inspired by the bold colours of African art and I wanted to be different and use bolder colours, for my designs. I just wanted to design clothing that was different than what was in the high street shops.”
The town of Igbo-Ukwu where James is from is notable for three archaeological sites, where excavations have found bronze artefacts from a highly sophisticated bronze metal-working culture dating back to as early as the tenth century, centuries before other known bronzes of the region. Five of these bronze artefacts from the original excavation are now in the British museum’s collection where she visits regularly to develop ideas for her sketches. With this vast cultural influence, James draws, prints, and sews every one of her pieces on her own.
She manages to incorporate African print fabric, with silk, cotton and wool fabrics and also designs her own textile print fabrics to craft a wide variety of skirts from long skirts to pencil skirts, A-line mini skirts, evening and wedding skirts. She hopes to expand her clothing line to other items such as jewellery, cushions, bedding, curtains, bags and menswear all inspired by African Art.
James is also aiming towards broadening her brand on an international level to make her pieces accessible for all women. However, with her clothing line being an independent project operated solely by her from home, her first stepping stone is acquiring the necessary capital needed to produce her designs. In doing this, she has set up a campaign online to raise funds for her business.
“With the £25,000 raised from this campaign, I will be able to purchase better machinery, employ assistants, create a website, and most of all, reach a wider audience,” she explains.
“Clothing is powerful. A great outfit can improve mood, build confidence, and most of all, express individuality. It was my desire to help women everywhere look and feel their best and that’s what led me to create Imhotep International.”
James adds that she hopes to extend her brand beyond the United Kingdom to other countries across Europe and even Africa where most of her inspiration lies. She also hopes to develop a prominent market in the Canada and U.S.
James says that she has received requests from women across various countries inquiring about an official website to access her products and also for orders. However, she finds that with her shortage of resources she is unable to meet the demand which is why she has taken to online platforms to raise funds.
“It was my ultimate goal to provide women anywhere in the world with great skirts that fit them perfectly, allow them to express their individuality, and make a statement, whether for work, holidays, or a night on the town,” she expressed.
“If I can hit my goal I will be able to produce the skirts in affordable quantities and purchase the fabrics and materials required for production and assembly.”
You can support Imhotep International Abstract Print Skirt by donating to their fundraising campaign online at Indiegogo.