AFIA: Where West Meets West

AFIA: Where West Meets West

It all started in 2006.

Oakland-born, Minnesota-raised, San Francisco-educated, New York City-primed Meghan Sebold, founder and principle designer of AFIA, was an economics and international relations major who had ventured off to Ghana to study the textiles industry.

Meghan fell in love with the vibrant prints and colorful patterns of authentic Ghanaian textiles. She would spend hours wandering the hustling and bustling markets in Accra, searching for a few yards of the perfect textiles. She would then take her purchase, along with a sketch of a design to a seamstress. Through this process, she saw the business potential of bridging Western-style design trends with authentic West African textiles - from there, AFIA was born.

AFIA is a social enterprise built on altruistic foundations of transparency, mutual respect, and collaboration. According to Meghan, “the colors, patterns, and motifs used in West African textiles are a visual representation of history, proverbs, moral values, and social codes. The garments are sewn by artisans, women’s cooperatives, and a women-run facility in Ghana [who are] paid a fair wage for their craft.” AFIA is set on creating business opportunities to help bolster the struggling Ghanaian textile industry and provide skilled seamstresses with quality.

What makes AFIA’s designs even more unique–aside from fusing the fashion of two very different cultures–is the fact that AFIA’s collections feature forever limited-edition prints of authentic materials. The prints are made with cotton-wax printed in Ghana with a short lifespan in the marketplace. Once the supply of a certain design runs out, that’s it, it’s gone. The result is truly unique pieces with real impact.

But building a socially-responsible business hasn’t come without its critics. In an interview Lady and the Blog, Meghan exclaimed that “you can’t please everyone under the ‘sustainable umbrella.’” AFIA is about fair wages, “creating economic opportunities to improve quality of life, the human impact, supporting and developing the textile economy of Ghana.” The business doesn’t use certified organic fabrics because that isn’t what is made in the Ghanaian textile industry. For Meghan addressing poverty is at the heart of her mission, and in some instances that means sacrificing the ideal environmental impact of her pieces. But it’s a mission that is helping skilled seamstresses send their kids to school, pay for health care, and ultimately, live a better life.

In a nutshell, the business is doing what it can to have a positive impact. And it’s an impact that Meghan and her team should clearly be proud of.

October 1, 2012