Some words are perfect compliments, practically joined at the hip; always used in tandem as the mention of one always evokes thoughts of the other. Classic examples include Ghana and Gold, Tetteh Quarshie and Cocoa, Kwame Nkrumah and Independence, Waakye and … never mind.
Then, there is Joyce Ababio and Ghanaian Fashion. Her influence and longevity in the industry are no coincidences but the result of deliberate and patient hard work over the years. For Joyce, fashion is her first and foremost passion and no one epitomizes the pursuant of a passion project like Joyce did. Today, she is reaping the benefits of becoming the true matriarch of the industry in Ghana and beyond.
Joyce was born the baby of five children to Stephen W. Yeboah, a politician, who served as Regional Commissioner for the then Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and Western Regions under the Nkrumah regime and Esther Tuyee.
She was largely raised by her mother, as in her formative years her father was often engaged with the demands of his job.
She had her basic education at the Datus School in Bubuashie in Accra and gained admission into the Achimota School, a venture she describes as a ‘do-or-die’ affair, as the Achimota school was the symbol of academic excellence; a path she has treaded on ever since.
Not surprisingly, Joyce attributes her business acumen and ethic to her mother, whom she describes as a workaholic, and extraordinary business woman. She notes that her mother worked long hours as she was determined to ensure her children had the best of education, believing it was key to success.
Her mother combined parenting with owning a number of business ventures including, but not limited to, a dressmaking outfit, a bakery, a block-making factory and a transportation service. “From her, I learned to be fixed and focused in the pursuit of my goals and to work hard for them,” Joyce says fondly of her mother.
Picking up dressmaking lessons from her mother, she was able to hone her creative skills as she spent a lot of her moments alone.
She proceeded to the United States in 1980 for medical studies but a series of events culminated in her decision to trade the sciences for a career in high fashion. This resulted in her enrolling at the Texas Woman’s University – which has in its long list of illustrious alumnae NASA astronaut, Millie E. Hughes-Fulford and Editor-in-Chief of the Cosmopolitan magazine – for a degree in Fashion Design.
Vogue Style School
She returned to Ghana in 1992, after a successful stint in the U.S, where she had a thriving business and was already making waves on the local scene. Armed with a wealth of knowledge, she burned with the desire to impart said knowledge to a new generation of fashion designers in the country at a time when high fashion was almost non-existent. To this end, she set up the premiere fashion school, the Vogue Style School of Fashion and Design in 1995. From a humble beginning, the Vogue School was been responsible for grooming some of the finest fashion designers in the country.
Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design
The decision to take the education of creatives up a notch resulted in the establishment of the Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design (JACCD). The college currently focuses on training in fashion as well as graphic design, with entrepreneurship baked into every programme.
Offering a rationale for the emphasis on entrepreneurship, she says: “To sew is one thing but one needs to understand the business end of it. It is necessary that people come to see that talent can only take you so far, the ability to apply proper business principles will define many who will make it in the industry and those who, unfortunately, will sink.”
JACCD remains the gold-standard for creative schools in the country and has been the first in many regards. One key area in which it laid down the marker has been in the adoption of technology for the learning process with the college introducing an e-Learning portal in 2015. The College runs programmes Certificates and Diploma programmes from one month to two years. JACCD, the premier fashion college in Ghana and well known for producing many top fashion designers in Ghana and beyond.
Whilst this served JACCD well, the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shift to remote learning has once again highlighted the visionary that Joyce Ababio is and the splendid management team she has as the school was able to seamlessly transition to distant learning.
Another testament to the well-run management of the school has been its ability to thrive in the midst of the pandemic without sourcing for external funds
The unique combination of faculty experience and available facilities has garnered international interest. This is evidenced by the fact that more than 20percent of its 400-plus current student body is made up of person from across the West African sub-region, India, Germany, U.S and U.K. The college is poised to expand its capacity with the opening of its ultra-modern campus in Accra in 2021.
Black White and Accents
Black White and Accents is an all-inclusive fashion hub in Ghana where you can find exclusive clothes and accessories. Spearheaded by Joyce Ababio, this exclusive shop houses designs from top fashion brands. From clothes to shoes, bags, jewelry, accessories and more. BW&A is the one place where you can find everything fashion for every occasion from top designers in Ghana and beyond.
Madam Joyce Ababio is committed to the universality of fashion. To this end, she established Black White and Accents (BW&A); an all-inclusive fashion hub. At BW&A, classic as well as avant-garde fashion pieces – clothes and accessories – from indigenous and foreign designers have a home.
Scarcely any word can do justice to the all-encompassing reach of her influence on the fashion scene and she is perhaps best be described as the matriarch of Ghanaian Fashion.
She is undoubtedly the single most important influence on top-tier indigenous designers such Christie Brown, Ophelia Crossland, Samuel Owusu, Brigitte Merki Ibrahim, Pistis, Agyepomaa, Gladys Brew, Christina Parker, Sima Brew, Akotuah and many others
The Matriarch is responsible for revolutionizing the national cloth – Kente. She says that her love story with the royal fabric began in childhood as she was enchanted by the intricate designs and masterful artistry that went into the production of the fabric. She adds that this was further enhanced by its rare usage, as it was reserved for only the best occasions.
“In the past, mothers would lock it up in a trunk and have it is passed from generation to generation. We didn’t get to wear it unless it was some amazing occasion,” she remembers fondly.
Her love for Kente resulted in her incorporating it into all her designs. Realizing its boundless potential, she decided to explore the possibility of varying the color schemes and patterns of the fabric.
This gave rise to in the first Kente Fashion Show in 2003, which was well received by critics and the general public alike. The success of her innovative use of Kente ushered in the Kente Phase, and served as a precursor to the recent adoption of African fabric in high fashion. A proper examination of the trend shows that Joyce Ababio is in many ways a pioneer of the Wear Ghana initiative.
Awards and recognition
It is no surprise that she has a plethora of awards under her hat, these include: Best Formal Evening Wear Award at Miss World, 1995; Ebony Award for Bridal and Pageantry, 1999; Best Evening Wear, Miss Ghana, 2000 ; Contribution to fashion, education and mentoring at Ghana Fashion Awards, 2012 and 2015; Lifetime Achievement Award, 2013; 100 Most Outstanding Women 74th 2014 and 41st 2015; Initiator of Change, Lifetime in a Portrait Award, 2017; Ghana Women of The Year 2017; Hall of Fame, 2016; Ghana Fashion Awards, 2016; as well as Century International Quality ERA Award, 2016 and Women of Distinction, 2018.
Joyce Ababio is mother to an entire industry but more specifically, to Tracy and Charles.