From what began roughly three years ago as a college assignment, CEO Nana Poku expanded the idea and created something much grander than just a project for course credit.
“Everything has to mean something”, Poku said as he described the graphics on 54’s clothing. Examples of the line’s main designs include the “gye nyame”, an omnipresent Ghanaian symbol which expresses the appreciation of God, and the “sankofa”, which symbolizes the importance of carrying past good fortunes into the present. “We at 54 Kingdoms stress identity through fashion and constantly recite the line, ‘wear what you mean and mean what you wear’.”
With the current wavering stability of the economy, 54 Kingdoms opted not to launch with expensive high fashion designs. “Right now 54 Kingdoms is very casual and affordable”, said Poku, reflecting back on his college years.
54 Kingdoms is distinct from other lines due to the motive behind its existence. While others may emphasize on sales, 54 Kingdoms is most concerned about culture and unification. President of 54 Kingdoms, Kwaku Awuah, is passionate about this idea.
“We say ‘kingdom’ because it represents other surrounding territories. As long as you believe in the identity, you are a part of the kingdom whether you are from Asia, the United States, or born in Africa; the West Indies and the Caribbean are represented in our line as well,” said Awuah.
They say their aim is to improve all aspects of life, not just to one’s wardrobe. With a concern about freedom of choice in education, Awuah explained that art is not the preferred subject for Africans to study. “A lot of African parents encourage their children to pursue careers in the medical field, business, or in law. Plans are in the works to launch an Art Kingdom Foundation which inspires young people to express themselves artistically”. The program will produce products based on winning designs, and the proceeds will go in part to the winner, the foundation, and of course, back to Africa.
With much media coverage of Africa focused on the negative, 54 Kingdoms is actively trying to alter the way Africa is being portrayed. Tragedies such as the genocide in Rwanda are given extensive attention from the press, and with this some Africans agree that their continent is depicted in only a bad light, if at all. For example, “unless the president is visiting Ghana, it is not in the news,” said Poku.
“At school we were all about t-shirts,” he said. But now, the company is advancing to become an eclectic blend of clothing, shoes, and accessories -- all created with passion and intelligence.
The founders hope the global impact of this up-and-coming clothing line will be powerful as well as trendy.