In her recent article for the BBC Africa, Mrs. Elizabeth Ohene, in her characteristic colorful and enjoyable prose, discussed the origins of the kente cloth, its aesthetic appeal in Ghanaian culture and society, and the significance our famous traditional cloth is garnering on the global scene.
She hinted at a point that I think touches the theme of this article. “In Ghana”, she wrote, “the designs are mostly traditional but there are young, daring artists that are experimenting with new and unconventional looks and colors”.
This is where Chale Clothing, a company founded by two young Ghanaian brothers, Kudjo and Mawunyo, enters the arena. Their bestselling Chalé Socks, both literally and figuratively speaking, have already left footprints around the globe.
The emerging successes of companies like Chale Clothing are indicative of the ingenuity of today’s young Ghanaians who are starting companies founded upon very innovative ideas and are redefining the face of entrepreneurship in the country.
Confident in the originality of their ideas, they are unafraid to patent these ideas and send them abroad, selling products and services in some of the world’s competitive markets.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is an untiring advocate and admirer of private enterprise and entrepreneurship, must be proud of the achievements of these youngsters who are shining a favorable light on the flag of Ghana globally.
I believe these companies could benefit from more government push and support.
Drawing inspiration from the ingenious traditional kente weavers from their hometown, Agotime-Kpetoe, in the Volta Region, Kudjo and Mawunyo, create designs and patterns on their colorful socks and sweaters that at once showcase the artistic richness of Ghanaian philosophical symbols and the creativity of these two young designers.
Combine the elegance of their products with the meaning of the symbols on them, and you can pick the perfect gift for your spouse, friends, or colleagues, or dress up to suit an occasion, be it a traditional naming ceremony or an important job interview.
Two of their socks are affectionately named after the two Ghanaian towns that gave us the kente cloth, Agotime in the Volta Region and Bonwire in the Ashanti Region.
What they have done with these designs is to infuse sartorial elegance with historical and cultural meaning.
The company’s recently launched OneChalé project, the social purpose component of their enterprise, is a buy-one-give-one campaign, with the ambitious goal of giving out 1,000,000 customized pairs of shoes to children in need across the country.
It is not unusual that artists and designers like the creative minds at Chale Clothing are the ones leading the charge on the entrepreneurship front in the country.
On a bus ride from school one afternoon in London, where I was studying at the London School of Economics (LSE), I picked up a copy of the Metro newspaper which is freely distributed across the city.
In it, I read an article that revealed the fact that, a survey had shown that graduates from the Royal College of Arts have founded more startups than business and economics graduates from Oxford, Cambridge and LSE combined! The aim of the article was to bring the British government’s attention to the importance of supporting and funding arts education by showing, empirically, how arts graduates are impacting the British economy.
Finally, I believe what companies like Chale Clothing need most is patronage from the Ghanaian populace. Buying goods and services from Ghanaian startups and companies is the single most important factor that will ensure their profitability and survival. As we learn in economics, for any company, its market size is either its Achilles Heel or trump card.
Noble Kofi Nazzah, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He writes about entrepreneurship and culture in Ghana.