I met Justice Achampong at the Youth Entrepreneurship Fair on October 1, 2015.
But we almost didn’t meet.
A week before the event, my boss asked me if I wanted to attend a youth entrepreneurial fair that would take place after work hours. I really wasn’t overly psyched about attending because I know how exhausted I feel after a loooong day of work. (Yep I’m old!!) So I basically avoided the question for a few days.
It was only after one of my co-workers casually came up to me and whispered, “You might find your next interview there” that I decided to not be so uptight – keep an open mind and just go!
I felt enlightened as I sat in the audience listening to the young panel speakers discuss the highs and lows of starting their business. I was moved by the entire panel, but it was the words that came from Ananse Clothing founder, Justice Achampong, that had me totally mesmerized. It could’ve been his voice, or how freely spoke about his passion, but he completely impressed me. My curious nosy nature got the better of me and I needed to know more.
By the end of the night, I couldn’t contain myself and ran up to him and thanked him for sharing his story, and asked him if he could talk about his up-an-coming brand on my blog. Luckily for me, he said yes!
I actually went to the interview with a handful of questions. Justice is a great speaker, so I thought if I gave him a few questions, we would just run with it.
I found out 2 main things during our 2 hour interview: 1. Justice has mad love for his African culture and history, and intends on representing it to the fullest with his brand. 2. He’s super nice (pssst…he actually let a complete stranger use his cellphone for over 20 mins while I conducted our interview!).
Although he’s launching his line in Spring 2016, I really wanted to get to know him and write about his company. So guess what? You’re the first to find out about the next hottest influencer to come out of #the6.
Keep reading to find out why Justice started the clothing line.
Hometown: Born in Quebec, spent his formative years in Ghana and returned to Canada at the age of 10
Astrological Sign: Cancer
Years designing: 5
Fave Designer: Maxhosa by Laduma
Did you always dream of becoming a designer?
I actually started in video then transferred to photography.
While I was doing that, I realized that I wanted to go back to school and add to my multimedia skillset, so I took graphic design at Humber College to round myself off. But none of it was really purposeful. It was just skills I had. When I came across a strong connection to my culture, I was like, “I’m a graphic designer and I’m a photographer, how can I use my skills to create something?”
I was looking for designs that were a part of my culture that reflected who I was. It’s hard to find Afrocentric clothing for men in a contemporary way, but I have skills, so I can solve the problem. So I did, and I started the brand.
Describe your clothing line?
Ananse is a contemporary African men’s clothing brand that bridges western designs with African cultural textiles to suit men who have African roots but like western styles. Ananse uses symbolic patterns and colours to communicate empowering messages that are inherent in African cultures such as the Ashanti, a tribe where much of the designs are inspired. The company’s tagline is “wear your story.” Ananse’s goal is to clothe its target market with cultural pride.
What does Ananse mean?
Ananse stands for storytelling. It came from the Ashanti people. They have a folklore character called Ananse…it’s a spider that takes on different roles and characters to tell different stories. It’s become a symbol of storytelling in our culture. We’ve told stories for centuries – on both sides of the Atlantic. Because of the slave trade, the stories went along with our people…our ancestors. They were able to take the stories and they kept it as a form of holding on to who they were.
Why did you choose the name?
I took on the name because of the resilience. It’s that part of us that has survived through our struggle. It shows our resilience to keep something of us. Ananse connects us still. If you go to Jamaica or Trinidad (or the rest of the Caribbean) they still have Ananse stories. It’s still intact.
I also took the name because of a story my mom shared with me. I asked my mom where Kente cloth came from and she said it came from people who were observing the spider weaving its web. Ananse was the perfect name! That story made me start the business. It gave me my name.
What is the mission behind your brand?
I got into this business, not because of fashion. If it was only for fashion I wouldn’t have done it because that’s not what pulls me. There’s all these brands who have figured it out. Everyone is wearing clothes. I started this because of the philosophy and the message.
I didn’t get into clothing because I wanted to be a clothing designer. I got into clothing because I wanted to instil a sense of pride in young men with African roots and I just happened to have design skills which enabled me to do that. I wanted to restore pride in people who’s image has been so destroyed in western media.
Deep, eh? This interview was equal parts fun and educational. So glad that Justice and I were able to sit and chat about his ambition and passion. Thanks sooo much for the enlightening afternoon, Justice!
To find out more about Justice and the upcoming launch of his clothing line, please visit the following link:
*Bonus: Listen to Justice’s answer on why he decided to create African designs.