Threads by Dreads founder, Christiana Afotey has spent the last 2 years building a global brand with a traditional Ghanaian culture at the forefront of business. With the rise in popularity of African inspired prints, Christina goes beyond the prints to offer a taste of home, charity and a relationship with global partners that new brand owners can learn from.
Tell readers more about you, your brand and what inspired you to create the business Threads by Dreads?
High energy, adventurous, intuitive, organic, these are some of the adjectives that I can use to describe myself and driving force behind the Threads by Dreads brand. Threads by Dreads (TBD) is an extension of what and how I feel. This brand entails more than just fashion design. Threads by Dreads is about showcasing the evolution of modern, African wear.
To be honest, I get my inspiration from a number of different sources; nature, people, places, life’s lessons and experiences. However, none of them compare to my mother, who is one of my biggest influences and inspirations. Although she has transcended, I still feel her encouraging me along my journey.
Although you live in the US, you return and work with individuals in Ghana, why did you decide Ghana would be the place to collaborate with?
The reason why I decided to work with Ghana is because, that is where my roots are planted. I have a big family and a huge responsibility to preserve my Ghanaian culture and heritage the best way I know how. So collaborating with my people (local vendors, textile manufacturers and etc) is an essential core of my mission.
What has been the biggest challenge you faced building a Global brand?
Honestly, my biggest challenge with building a global brand is my level patience. My patience can be easy going at times but then at times my patience is non existent. As an entrepreneur and designer, I’m constantly learning new things: what and how to do things better. As for branding, marketing, designing and the entire manufacturing process, am learning that in this industry, patience and timing is essentially key! There’s a perfect time on ‘how’, ‘what', 'when’ and ‘why’ to showcase collections throughout each season. Presentation is important!
What are three main tools you use to make the work relationship run smoothly?
1. Calendars / Day-Planners! Oh my goodness! Such an important tool to keep close, especially since I’ve become more experienced in this thing called life :) Just remember to write things down, plug it in your calendar and be prepared with adequate resources. Also, don't forget to make time for you!
2. Dry-Erase Board! ‘Write it down with the ink of your veins and watch things come to life!’ Don’t forget to set realistic & attainable goals. I write my ideas, upcoming projects/events after a good brainstorming session.
3. Grab hold on to and follow (no stalking:) a great blogger, writer, editor, any-& everything techie, graphic designer, etc…by all means use your network to increase & improve your net worth. You want to stay in-the-know with what is going on within and outside the fashion world.
How did you build a trusting relationship with your global partners?
Honestly, when it comes to working with new global partners you have to make calculated risks and just trust your intuition. Along my journey, I’ve learned that one way in which I can avoid mistakes and miscommunication, is to go directly to the source. I work with local textile manufacturers in Ghana. Communication is vital, so when in rural areas sometimes English is not understood or communicated well. Thankfully at a young age, my parents taught me to speak one of the native languages. In addition to the mutual benefit, during a partnership, being clear with expectations, plans and objectives is an actively important role that has to be played well on both ends.
How do you use your global brand to make a difference?
One of the ways in which I use my brand to make a difference is by using my talents to give back to those who have made contributions along this journey. I’m not just talking about monetary or materialistic contributions either. The contributions I am referring to include gifts that are intangible, preciously life-changing, tear-jerking, heart-hugging and impactful contributions.
The Threads by Dreads Foundation focuses on empowering exemplary scholars into pioneering leaders of tomorrow. The foundation’s first project is currently underway with the Mrs. Fedelia Adokailey Mensah Scholarship Award (established in memory of my mother). Our foundation is making the ability of attending college a reality for ten gifted high school candidates in Ghana. This award will serve as a conduit in cultivating and carrying on her nurturing legacy, aide in community re-investment and contribute to building a brighter future for young adults all over Ghana. Ten scholarships are available until December 31, 2016.
How do you keep up with the trends in both US and Africa and make sure they align?
Reading articles and how-to books, listening to radio/podcasts, and attending networking/fashion shows are great for establishing a foundation of knowing which direction to steer a brand. But during design mode, I usually unplug from most social outlets, meditate, reflect and express what I feel on paper. I’ve learned that this helps keep my work authentic and allow for the ideas to brew organically.
Learn more about Christiana Afotey at Threadsbydreads.com