People now pay for their clothes or accessories depending on the amount of time spent in making them and the kind of material used in making them.
Increasingly, women – especially Africans – want to be identified by their appearance. Now African women have started wearing their natural ‘kinky’ hairs rather than the relaxed straight or permed ones.
In recent times however, the new introduction to a woman’s fashion sense are beads. Yes, beads.
Beads are a trademark of the African. In many communities in Ghana for instance, this ornament is the first thing a newborn baby wears and one of the last adornments used to bury the dead.
A bead is a small decorative object usually pierced for threading or stringing. Natural materials such as bone, coral, horn, ivory, animal shell, seeds and pearls could be used. Synthetic materials including glass, plastic and alloys are also used.
In most cultures in Ghana, it is a quintessential property bequeathed from one generation to the other, explaining the several traditional significances of beads that underpin the very indigenous identity of the African.
They are believed to give protection to babies against evil spirits, give good (coca-cola bottle) shape to girls and to help mothers to monitor babies’ growth in weight and size.
But the modern woman has taken the use of beads one step further.
Now beads are used to decorate bags, purses, slippers, broaches, embellishment on clothes and many other things. Instead of leather bags, women now prefer a handmade beaded handbag or purse which lasts longer and compliments any outfit regardless of the occasion.
Handmade beaded bags
Creative Director of AKILA, Ruth-Maria Assandoh says this new trend is growing because things are changing; people are getting more in tune with locally made products and are beginning to appreciate that things made in Ghana can be just as good as imported products.
She added that “Ghanaians are beginning to understand what it means to appreciate our culture and they are getting to know that not every handmade product is inferior”.
The bags and other accessories AKILA makes are largely customized and are exclusively made to satisfy the specifications of her customers.
Most of the accessories in Akila’s shop are locally made but there are some, few of the beads that are imported for specific purposes.
AKILA’s clients are professional or corporate women who for their status, want to have things that define their class and suit their personality. However, not only professional women are lovers of beads and beaded accessories.
Ruth says anyone can walk in and have something that suits them. From students to the woman who simply wants to feel African, AKILA has beads for them all.
Men are not left out in the bead craze. AKILA makes beaded wristbands for men, and for those who want to be identified by what they wear, their names are inscribed on them.
Like Ruth said “we are not selective at all, it is just about what you want and that’s what we do for you. So everyone is catered for”.
A beaded bag takes close to 15 working days to make, this is because the products are exclusively handmade and for each product the right specification needs to be followed to ensure that the customers’ needs are met.
For every product, the beads used are counted at every stage to ensure that the right specification is being followed and the preference of the customer is met.
It looks like this new trend can only get better because compared to two years ago, Ruth says things are improving and more people are beginning to patronize things made from beads and in a broader sense made in Ghana.
Bead bracelets Beaded broaches
Speaking about some of her challenges, she said, although the country has numerous resources to support major and small-scale business operations, some operators in the industry had to import raw materials from Nigeria, Niger and other countries to boost their operations.
Cost of production, she said, is unreasonably high, making pricing a huge challenge.
“With high import duties, yet the need to remain in production, I would want to manufacture my own beads using commercial ovens”.
That, she said, would also create room for employment for the local people and enable her export to the international market.
She advises that don’t ditch all your leather bags but “beads are forever because even the most expensive leather bags will peel off”, so if you want something that stays for a long time, your best bet is a beaded bag, purse, slippers or necklace.