Saturday, 14 December 2013

West Africa Production - Phase One: Design with Martha

When we first decided to start the Madame Tây project we were pretty excited, but also pretty nervous. How were we, four passionate but far from professional fashion aficionados going to design and produce our own range of clothes? Luckily, we have had a bunch of talented and creative friends backing us through the entire process. In West Africa, this includes a team of people spanning the whole region!

Martha hard at work at her machine, with a pile of wax print waiting for her from her many, many customers!

Our design processed started in Tamale – the capital of the Northern Region of Ghana. I had been living here for a year prior to moving to Senegal, and in that time had developed a special friendship with Martha, the ‘best tailor in all of Ghana’ (according to Martha’s brother Henry, that is).

Martha with her two apprentices, Vida and Olivia

Martha was very supportive of the idea behind Madame Tây, and played a crucial role in the initial design stages. Together, we planned, drew and designed the pieces to be produced in Senegal. Without her keen eye for contemporary fashion, and her intimate knowledge of the intricacies of garment production and working with wax print, it would have been impossible to produce our made-in-West-Africa pieces. 

Initial Designs with Martha at her atelier

This was a super interesting process, as a lot of the ideas we initially had wouldn't work for a range of reasons. Working strictly with wax print can be limiting -- it is quite stiff and the detailed motifs means that it takes a pretty skilled eye to cut into the fabric properly to ensure the final design is correct. I learnt a whole lot about the production process of tailor-made clothes from Martha, and we are very grateful for all her support!

Inspiration Posters at Martha's atelier in Tamale, Ghana

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