Annesophie Achera: Bringing African fashion to the forefront of the retail industry

Annesophie Achera is the founder and creative director of AAchera Designs, a chic African fashion brand born in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011.

She created the unique clothing line for women to feel bold, vibrant and confident and has since taken her brand across the region to Rwanda, Ghana and across the pond to the US and the UK.

Annesophie takes pride in her designs as they show her love for the African print and African culture unabashedly.

A fashion force to reckon with, Annesophie has had quite the journey and in this article, she shares her eagerness to do a lot more for the burgeoning fashion industry in Kenya.


On how my career in fashion began…

A few years back, I would make my own clothes to wear to family functions, and would always get positive responses about the clothes I designed.

People always wanted to know where I got this dress or that top and it became so frequent that I started getting a few orders here and there and with the constant push from my family, I decided to start my own line.

Being in the company of my cousin Liz Ogumbo, a well-known fashion designer based in South Africa and my mentor also got me very interested in the fashion industry.

Having worked with True Love magazine as a stylist also helped me learn my ways around styling people from all walks of life.

What inspired my fashion line – AACHERA…

I’m very passionate about fashion and style and I personally like dressing for occasions – every day is my runway.

That is what inspired me to create a line for both myself and for people out there who love fashion and want to look and feel confident in what they wear.

I currently have two fashion lines. One is a luxury line which mainly has stock for occasions – this was inspired by wanting and appreciating the finer things in life.

I recently rebranded the line and what inspired that was the need to have local fashion businesses in the retail space, I felt the need to fill that gap and bring African fashion to the forefront of the retail industry.

My thoughts on the fashion scene in Africa…

I think the fashion scene on the continent is doing quite well. I always say Africa is the new luxury at large as a brand in itself.

The industry is really thriving in West and Southern Africa and it is picking up quite fast in East Africa as well.

I have done business in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, and the US and England – so as a designer in Africa, you have quite a big market, especially in the diaspora because they tend to prefer locally made clothes to support their own.

The African Development Bank (AFDB) stated that fashion in Africa is sustainable mainly just by the virtue of creating employment opportunities for our own here, especially for a lot of women and creating a positive working environment.

How I think the fashion scene in Africa can improve…

One challenge I think we face a lot is the challenge of production, and this is something I am constantly working on and gradually overcoming.

It is a case of either growing your in-house production team or taking your designs to the factories and that is always a challenge if you are a small business.

I wish we could have more people taking in small – scale orders so that the businesses that are just starting out can still get the same quality of clothing.

My fashion do’s and don’ts…

Don’t – wear clothes that do not fit.

They give the impression that you’re either not too confident with yourself and it kind of reflects badly on you as a person.

What you wear says a lot about you without you having to say anything at all.

Do – have a good base/foundation to your dressing.

By this, I mean what you wear inside your clothes should also be as good as what you wear outside.

Wearing the right size bra, good clean underwear, provides a positive base for what you will wear on top of all that.

Your style should be a reflection of who you are. Lousy foundations = a lousy fit = lousy confidence.

Don’t – rush into trends

I prefer to make classic pieces that can be worn for a long period of time.

Trends tend to die out quick and you end up wasting money and time on pieces that won’t serve you a long time. Buy clothes that you intend to keep forever.

Quality over quantity any day.

Do – have a signature style.

Be known for something. You don’t need to be a fashion designer or a stylist to be known for that particular style.

How does one get to know their signature style? One should ask themselves various questions like who are you really?

What do you like to do? What do you stand for?

My top 3 fashion icons, locally and internationally…

  • Asiyami Gold
  • Elie Saab
  • Michelle Obama

What motivates me to create and develop new designs…

My motivation comes from different things. I look to different cultures, I try to learn and understand them to appreciate what they offer in terms of creativity.

When I travel I take time to engage with different people from different parts of the world and get to learn the history of the place and the people and understand why certain things are done in a certain way.

All this inspires my designs in one way or another. Some of my collections stem from a personal story that I’m relaying in my work.

AAchera is basically made to incorporate African cultures into the design and telling an African story through our textiles and collections. When it comes to designing, I look a lot to the seasons we experience.

I use different colors according to the season and pick small elements fro what is trending that I add on to the main classic piece that will be the end result.

My advice to those wanting to start their own fashion line…

  • Don’t give yourself an excuse not to start. Just go for it and start. Know your strengths.
  • I knew my strength is in styling so I used that to get my start in the fashion world.
  • Don’t procrastinate – be consistent.
  • When necessary take breaks and you don’t have to explain why, because as creatives we tend to get into a rut or a creative block from time to time so taking a break to get your juices flowing again is not a bad thing.
  • Know your why. If you always remember why you started, no matter what happens or comes in your way you’ll always keep it pushing and keep going because you know your why.

What’s next for the future of AAchera Designs…

We just rebranded in 2017, we had been on a break since 2014.

It’s been a great two years so far of growth and constant learning and I think moving forward, we want to be very consistent and soon have an AAchera Retail outlet.

I want to be able to create clothes for women in all sizes in a retail space. I want the company to grow both locally and globally and continue creating awareness of the versatility of African Fashion.

I want to particularly have a prime presence in East, South and Western Africa with outlets being put up in various cities on the continent.

My biggest lesson in life and business…

Always have written agreements for proof/reference. Be it with suppliers of textiles, employees, any form of business interaction for clarity and all reference in the future, in case things go south. 

Do not make assumptions, communicate clearly.

I’m glad to have learned this early in my business life even before re-branding, and it has saved me a lot.

This has worked well because you end up minimizing your losses and everything is clearly written out for future reference.

It may have cost me earlier in my journey, especially being a young designer in the industry then, but moving forward it has been an effective and important lesson learned.

My mantra in life…

To see a change, you need to become a living, breathing asset to everyone you know and a true advocate to everything you believe in.

It can get stressful, hard, but these are things that are getting you ahead so keep at it – be consistent, practice patience and keep learning.

One thing I recently learned is to do business with people who inspire you.

FACEBOOK LIVE WITH THANDO’S: TRANSFORMING THE WORLD WITH AFRICAN FASHION (APR 25)

African innovators are capturing the world’s attention through their unique designs –particularly in the fashion industry!

Examples include African designers like Mimi Plange, whose works have caught the eyes of Michelle Obama and Rihanna or Kisua, a luxury African brand that Queen Bey is a fan of!  

Amazing shoe brands like Thando’s, are revolutionizing the fashion scene with Africa’s first fashionable, comfortable and foldable ballerina flat that can fit inside a small handbag, office drawer or the glove compartment of a car!

Talk about convenience with style!

That being said, if you are looking to break into the fashion industry or want to harness your passion for fashion – this is one is for you!

Join us on Wednesday, April 25th, for a Facebook Live with Jibolu Ayodele – co-founder, Thando’s, and Chioma Okonkwo – Winner of 2017 Thando’s Design competition, as they share with us all a fashion innovator needs to know about changing the fashion scene through innovative designs.  

Change the fashion scene through innovative #AfricanFashion, with @ThandosShoes on, April 25th! More info at: http://bit.ly/Thandos Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • The art of designing for social impact
  • How crowdsourcing/collaborative consumption can work for Fashionpreneurs
  • Disrupting Africa’s fashion landscape
  • What you need to know about manufacturing in Africa

Webinar Details:

Date: Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Time: 12PM Lagos // 1PM Johannesburg // 2PM Nairobi

Location: Register below to get access to this opportunity

Watch here:

She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Jibolu Adeyole, co-founder of @ThandosShoes and Chioma Okonkwo, winner of 2017 Thando’s design competition sharing insights on Transforming the world with African fashion. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!

Posted by She Leads Africa on Wednesday, April 25, 2018

About our experts:

Jibolu “J.G.” Ayodele is the co-founder of Thando’s, a Lagos and NY based fashion company that provides a platform for African artists to design for a global audience. 

Before co-founding Thando’s, Jibolu led the business development efforts of Viacom International Media Networks in Nigeria, where he co-created partnerships with brands such as Hewlett Packard and Lufthansa. He has also worked with Deloitte, Bank of America and GE Capital.

Mr. Ayodele holds an MBA in Finance, Entertainment, Media, and Technology from NYU – Stern School of Business. He received a Masters in Accounting from NC State University, and a Bachelors in Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Jibolu is married to his co-founder, Taffi Ayodele.

Chioma Okonkwo, is a graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with a passion for illustration and animation. She recently participated in Thando’s inaugural print design competition, where she won with her unique design – The Akonmi Print.

She used this design to interpret how heavy rains result in flooding that displaces hundreds of thousands of people. Chioma was inspired to illustrate after her internship at an imaging company in Port-Harcourt.

When she is not working at her 9 to 5 call centre job or illustrating, Chioma is busy experiencing new places, cultures and foods. 

Trecia Makhubele: It is ordinary South Africans that will create jobs in SA

Bohochic was born from a desperate need for financial stability Click To Tweet

Born in rural Mpumalanga in a small town called Bushbuckridge, Trecia Makhubele, co-founder of Bohochic, is a graduate from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls. In 2016, she went on to achieve her undergraduate degree in Politics and international studies.

Trecia is currently a Penultimate year law student at Rhodes University where she tutors law first-yearear students and works as a law library assistant. Trecia is passionate about entrepreneurship and believes that it is ordinary South Africans that will be able to create jobs in SA.

SLA contributor Jeanette Nkwana interviewed this young South African entrepreneur, this is how it went.


How did Bohochic and your partnership with the co-founder come about?

Bohochic, like most black owned businesses in SA, was born from a desperate need for financial stability. Rue, my friend and co-founder, and I found it difficult to go to residence trips to buy appropriate clothing for court visits and textbooks because our parents were just not able to provide us with everything that we needed.

Instead of accepting our financial situation, we each started our own businesses, mine being Spiritus Mundi designs and Rue’s being Rude-soul chains, making jewellery. However,separately we were not making enough money to sustain ourselves. We then looked at trends and realised there was a growing fascination for crochet clothing. Having had basic crochet skills, we read blog posts and watched YouTube videos and soon we had a couple of designs. Once we were confident enough with the idea, we abandoned our businesses and used their respective profits to start Bohochic.

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What are some of the challenges of working with a partner and how do you personally deal with them?

For some reason, we both work really well together and have never had any major fights to date. I think it’s all about finding someone you have a good chemistry with. Both Rue and I luckily found that in each other.

'Good chemistry is important in a partnership - Trecia Makhubele' Click To Tweet

Another reason we hardly face any challenges in this partnership is the consistent brutal honesty between us. If for example, someone makes something ugly, the other is not afraid to speak up. The receiving party does not take it personally either. It simply becomes a laughing matter! This is perhaps due to the fact that we are also friends and thus know each other well.

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You value your academic career, how do you deal with the pressures coming from school and entrepreneurship?

We made a pact that no matter how big Bohochic gets, we would not let it take up more space in our lives than our academics. At the beginning our timetables allowed us to split our times to ensure our academic lives did not suffer. Of late, the business has become too big as we are now doing post-graduate studies which requires more of our time.

This has. undoubtedly, put a lot of pressure on both of us. We have decided to start a skills development programme in Grahamstown which allows us to teach a number of people how to crochet so that they can eventually come on board as our employees and do the actual crocheting. This will lessen our burden of making each order and help families like our own by way of job creation.

Bohochic is more than a brand dedicated to making money, we want to uplift our communities Click To Tweet

You are also a YouTuber, how has this helped with the success of Bohochic?

Bohochic is more than just a brand dedicated to making money. It is about showing young people like ourselves that social media can be used to uplift ourselves and communities.

Through our tutorials and videos, we hope to get people thinking. We want to show them that there are awesome business ideas that do not require large sums of money to execute. We have been able to fulfill this mandate through our YouTube channel as most of our viewers are students like ourselves.

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What is the most fulfilling thing about what you do?

The financial independence.

Nothing is more fulfilling than being able to buy a bus ticket to school or that ridiculously expensive textbook without having to put pressure on our families.

What do you think your customers value most about Bohochic?

The creativity that goes into the products we make. We do not just make crochet tops, we take the time to research and see what people are into and translate that into each crochet item.

Bohochic looking to expand from crochet tops and chokers to Bohochic Kids and Home. Click To Tweet

What can we look forward to from Bohochic this year?

Growth, lots of it. We have dedicated so much time to improving our craft. This year we will see the finalization and launch of Bohochic Kids and Bohochic Home.


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