The Batakari, mainly called the fugu, is the national cloth and a traditional Ghanaian smock that is worn by the people of the northern regions of Ghana. It is now popular across Ghana, southern Burkina Faso, and the Diaspora.
It is now going international as three Ghanaian women were recently featured in Vogue, for their company, Exit 14, that uses the cloth in its designs.
Nana Brew-Hammond is the founder of Exit 14, a line of made-in-Ghana coats and jackets that was recently featured in Vogue. Alongside her mother and sister, Nana is building a global brand with coats, jackets, and scarves, and soon to be travel accessories, bags, and hats that will allow customers to “take a piece of Ghana with them wherever they go.”
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Nana’s grandmother who is a seamstress owned Ghana’s first and only female-run advertising agency. Her mother, Delphine, grew up helping with measurements, sewing, and cutting fabrics. Nana’s sister, Essie Hammond, was also born in Ghana, but the family moved to LeFrak City in Queens, New York, when Nana was young.
Their mother made sure the girls traveled back to her home country many times over the years, always stopping to buy custom-tailored garments made with the finest, most vibrant and colorful Ghanaian textiles.
“Getting bespoke clothing made is common there. I was always interested in fashion as a kid, but when I went to Ghana at 12-years-old and had some outfits made for me, it changed the way I looked at clothing.”
Nana told Vogue that Exit 14 comes from a story that is close to her heart:
Driving their brother to school one day in New York, they were looking for a shop that was supposed to be located off of Exit 14. They drove for an hour after they had passed a sign for Exit 13, then decided to turn around, went back the way they had come, and learned that they had missed their original exit by mere minutes. To Nana, Exit 14 is a symbol for moving ahead even when the end point seems unattainable. “I didn’t go to school to become a designer and I never thought I would be a designer in the professional sense,” she says. “As I got older, my interest in the artisanship in Ghana grew, particularly the genius that goes into making traditional African textiles and embroidery, the history embedded in our prints, and the pageantry—all of it just seduced me.” Many of the garments that the Hammond sisters own and treasure from Ghana are meant only to be worn in the warmer spring and summer months. Because they both deal full-time with the unpredictable, ever-changing climate of the East Coast, they decided they would make coats from batakaria, a cotton fabric from the northern regions of Ghana. Ranging in price from $75 to $600, their newest styles include a patchwork scarf, blazer, and cape coat.