Abrima Erwiah, the co-founder of fashion social enterprise Studio 189, has been named the new director of The New School’s Parsons School of Design’s newly formed Joseph and Gail Gromek Institute of Fashion Business. Erwiah begins her new role this month. Apart from launching the institute, she will be creating original programming, conducting research, providing leadership and strategic direction, and developing related initiatives connected to the institution, WWD reported.
“My goal is to create a center of learning excellence that goes beyond any border or traditional way of thinking and disrupts the fashion industry in every possible way,” Erwiah said in a statement. “We want to lead the charge in the evolution of the fashion industry and to help prepare the next generation of leaders in fashion business. We want to encourage the business of fashion design by operating as an innovation hub that cross pollinates across the industry and that creates hybrid programs across disciplines so we can work with the best of the best in tech, sustainability, business, design, law, media, manufacturing, retail and more.”
The institute was created by virtue of an $8.5 million endowment from Joseph Gromek, former president and chief executive officer of the Warnaco Group, and his wife Gail in September 2019, according to WWD. It was the largest individual gift to Parsons in the school’s 123-year history.
Erwiah, based between Ghana’s capital Accra and New York, joined Parsons in 2019. She teaches both graduate-level and undergraduate-level courses in systems design and collections. Erwiah, with actress and activist Rosario Dawson, founded Studio 189, an artisan-produced fashion lifestyle brand and social enterprise that recently won the prestigious CFDA Lexus Fashion Initiative for Sustainability.
The brand is made in Africa and produces African and African-inspired content and clothing. The brand operates a store in New York and Accra (Ghana), an e-commerce site, a manufacturing facility in Accra, and supports various community-led projects in Africa and in the USA.
As Face2Face Africa earlier reported, Studio 189 works with artisanal communities that specialize in various traditional craftsmanship techniques including natural plant-based dye indigo, hand-batik, kente weaving and more. Studio 189 focuses on empowerment, creating jobs and supporting education and skills training.
Erwiah believes that fashion can be an agent of social change and her mission is to do work that contributes to society, that has a sustainable impact, that is innovative and strategic.
Erwiah is a luxury goods industry executive with experience in sustainable development, global sales and marketing, production, operations, digital, general management and international development. She has worked in luxury goods, fashion, accessories, beauty as well as in the agriculture sector.
The Ghanaian/Ivorian-American designer has worked with corporations, NGOs and governments. She has worked as an advisor to the United Nations International Trade Center Ethical Fashion Initiative and has worked as the Global Associate Communications and Marketing Director as well as the Worldwide Social Media Director at Bottega Veneta (Kering Group).
Additionally, she has held various positions at luxury brands including Hermes/John Lobb, Cesare Paciotti and Bureau Betak. She has worked and traveled extensively internationally and has lived in New York City, Milan, Florence, Kampala and Accra. She is fluent in English, French; proficient in Italian and understands Spanish.
She was appointed marketing mentor for Afripads in Uganda through the Kering Foundation for Women’s Dignity & Rights. She supports various organizations including V-day, the Lower East Side Girls Club, Fashion Revolution USA, 14plus foundation, the High School of Fashion Industries committee, Shine on Sierra Leone, and so on. She has also recently joined Vanity Fair and One Young World’s list of people leading the charge towards achieving the UN’s 17 SDGs. She was featured in Nike’s campaign celebrating women entrepreneurs.
Erwiah is the recipient of various awards including the Martin Luther King Jr Social Justice award from Upenn, the MOCADA Social Justice award, the Design Miami Visionary award, the Filming On Italy Social Justice award, the Africa-America Institute Entrepreneur Impact Award, the International Women of Power Sankofa Award and more.
Two years ago, global Black media company Face2Face Africa honored Erwiah at the FACE List Awards gala during the 2019 Pan-African Weekend in New York City in July.
Ghana’s Erwiah is also a published author and has guest lectured at various universities and spoken at various conferences including Harvard, NYU, Upenn, RISD, Radford University, Google, CFDA, IMG, Estee Lauder, One Young World and more.