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.