Growing up in a country where you stand out from the lot can be very daunting for any child.
When survival instincts kick in, anyone especially children would like to assimilate to their new environment in order to fit in.
That was the case of Paakow Essandoh, founder of MIZIZI International, a clothing brand for Africans in the diaspora.
Essandoh never really identified with Ghanaian heritage growing up in Brooklyn, New York. It was not until he moved to Dallas that he met George Kariuki, who is of Kenyan descent.
Essandoh and Kariuki hit it off from the get-go and they both realised their differences can be used to their advantage. Kariuki’s personal style is at the heart of MIZIZI which means “roots” in Swahili. Most of his outfits had a touch of Kenyan fabrics stitched to it.
MIZIZI was initially meant to cater for everything style, hats, socks, pants, shirts and socks. After several disappointments and juggling schoolwork, being a Pharmacy Tech in Dallas and sleeping on a friend’s couch, at which point Essandoh was almost homeless, MIZIZI was born through a divine intervention.
The clothing brand officially launched on August 30, 2015 and since then it has been a means by which families connect to their roots through streetwear.
MIZIZI started with producing African sports apparel. At the time of the launch, baseball jerseys were the current trend, so he launched an African Baseball Jersey.
When Essandoh built his own website, “all the Ghana baseball jerseys were sold out in the first 13 minutes, all of Naija jerseys within the first hour, all of the Ethiopia jerseys by the 3rd hour, and then the remaining jerseys sold overnight,” Forbes reports. To Essandoh, MIZIZI is a “multi-faceted tool used to serve the diaspora and anyone that wears them.”
Four years down the line, Essandoh has transformed his brand to a household name among Africans in the diaspora.
His brand is now an international movement that reminds Africans in the Diaspora to ‘#StayRooted’ and it’s also “a worldwide celebration of individual identity and the roots.”
The brand’s latest move to get involved with its roots is supporting Sudan’s first women’s football team, ‘Al Di’faa’.
On why he chose to support the Sudanese women’s football team, Essandoh says, “I can’t imagine it was easy for them to even get to this point and I know they still face hardships to this day. If anyone deserves the extra love, it’s them.”
Although the jerseys made for the team are not available in Sudan yet, 10% of all its proceeds go to support the players.
On capitalisation of brands on other cultures as most people assume clothing brands that operate from the Diaspora do, Essandoh maintains that, the aim of MIZIZI is to stay connected to one’s roots.
What this means to him and his brand is, they take into consideration by taking time to learn about the culture of the country each campaign represents.
What MIZIZI does is to incorporate unique aspects of the culture of the country it represents. It is not a one culture fits all production.
Each country’s outfit has unique cultural elements that the people who belong to that heritage can identify with.
Ultimately, Essandoh’s goal with MIZIZI is “to make sure everyone stays dope, stays blessed, and #StayRooted!”