For a Wardrobe Upgrade, Book a Trip to Ghana
TWO SUMMERS AGO, my husband and I traveled from our home in New York to Ghana, where my father was born, and where my brother now lives. My brother and his wife had recently had a baby boy, and we were excited to meet him. We were just as excited to upgrade our wardrobes.
My husband, Seth, is 6 feet 4 inches and I am 5 feet and a half. His left foot is significantly wider than his right. I have a narrow frame. It’s difficult to find clothes and shoes that fit. And, for lots of reasons—environmental and social—we are wary of fast fashion. But, in the U.S., many of the alternatives either don’t match our aesthetic or budget, or both.
Seth is a professional saxophonist. Music is integral to Ghanaian culture, and over several trips to visit my family in Accra, the capital, we had immersed ourselves in the eclectic music scene, befriending many local musicians who are all very stylish. Ghana is known for its vibrantly printed and colorful textiles, of which kente is the most widely known. Our Ghanaian friends wear shirts and dresses featuring traditional prints in modern styles.
One night, at an outdoor jazz club, I admired a woman’s caped jumpsuit. It wasn’t made from a traditional textile, but its bold exuberance felt distinctly Ghanaian to me. I asked where she got it and it was indeed made in Ghana. She texted me a link to the designer’s Instagram profile.
Some of the men wore Western-style suits that looked as well-tailored as the suits my small-statured father had custom-made when we lived in Italy. Seth needed suits for gigs. His old ones were worn, and he had never loved them to begin with. I suggested that he ask one of our friends, Bernard, where to buy suits in Ghana. Over a delicious jollof rice dinner at the home Bernard shared with his wife, Kate, a banker with a sewing side-hustle, she connected us to more local-designer Instagram profiles. Many sold themselves as eco-friendly and Pan-African—a philosophy rooted in solidarity across the continent and diaspora. Most Ghanaian designers, Kate said, work with clients on vision and ensure perfect fit. Seth was thrilled that this was also true of shoes. “Is it possible,” he asked, “that I might have a pair of dress shoes that are not trying to murder my left foot?” We researched cost. For the price of one or two items from a midprice designer brand back home, we could commission several bespoke outfits.