Wallstreet analyst Agyeman Senkyire has always been known as the stylish man in the room receiving compliments daily for his uncanny knack for matching his suits and funk suits. After one of such encounters, Agyeman, whose name means one who saves a nation, and has a royal heritage in his land of birth, Ghana, decided to turn the many compliments into a cultural conversation when he launched Adinkra Republic.
“All I always said was thank you when I was complimented on my socks and most of the time, people will ask what are those stuff on the socks, and I will not have much to say,” the accessories designer recalls.
In 2018, Adinkra Republic was launched as a luxury menswear brand that produces socks and other accessories inspired by the heritage-rich Adinkra symbols to start the cultural movement.
“One day, after I was complimented, I was reminded that I needed more than just a thank you. I wanted a conversation starter, something that inspires people to wear and boost confidence,” he tells Face2Face Africa.
Traditional Adinkra cloths which are decorated with symbols and aphorism were first invented in 1817 by Akan artisans from West Africa for royalty and spiritual leaders wore them during funerals and very special events. These symbols were used to express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante.
They mostly have rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play an important role in the Asante culture. The use of proverbs is considered a mark of wisdom.
Agyeman, who was a participant in a ‘Shop Local’ event at New York Fashion Week, says his maternal grandmother educated him on the meaning of 200+ symbols which inspired his socks line.
“She told me that these symbols were royal and that they have deep wisdom and great inspiration behind the meanings, in other words, they all have their own story,” explains Agyeman.
Adinkra Republic boasts of a socks line consisting of 77 designs, men’s accessories and a new bag collection which is decorated with symbols for both corporate men and the man of style.
“From formal office wear, to quirky casual wear, a gentleman can get a suitable array of adinkra design socks that combines quality, colour and taste as you walk as a true royal,” a statement on their website reads.
Black Education & Innovation
According to the Brookings reports on race and education in America, Black people have unequal access to education and opportunities as compared to other minorities. The situation is further worsened due to factors including years of slavery, systemic racism and lack of proper documentation on ancestry.
“The road has never been easy as a Black people America, there are several challenges that you have to deal with every day so we are using fashion as a powerful tool to educate our people,” Agyeman explains.
For Black History Month, the brand continues to intensify education and advocacy through its “Black Changemakers Series” where Black icons are highlighted and followers receive Adinkra socks for guessing their names correctly. “Many people know Sankofa and GyeNyame, but outside of those 2 most people including Ghanaians are not familiar with the rest.
“This is a way to preserve something so special that our forefathers have left for us. I am just doing my part to preserve it for our children and our children’s children,” he added.
A New Wave of Black Cultural Ambassadors
Black culture for so many years has been denied in the boardroom as heads of corporations continue to pay lip service to the concept of inclusion and diversity. However, Adinkra and other Black labels are part of a new generation of businesses that are innovating and bringing Black culture to the boardroom.
So far, they have been successful and he plans to use every design in his possession to advocate for inclusion and diversity. In the future, he wants more brands to take up Black culture seriously and he believes fashion does the trick really right.
“For so many years, we couldn’t wear our culture to the boardroom and some important space, today you can. Every design is a conversation started through that we teach people.”