It started with a compliment. While in college, founder – Emmanuel Tawia King – would make shoes as a hobby. By simply wearing his designs, he’d receive compliments and inquiries on where they could purchase a pair as well. However, it wasn’t until he was vacationing in Jamaica that he decided to share the sole love and open a mini business. In 2013, he started the Ghanaian-American shoe brand, Tawia Designs and it’s turned out to be more than just pretty footwear.Embracing his roots
Emmanuel credits his inspiration, to produce commercially, to his aspiration to indorse African inspired footwear. And he didn’t have to look too far to get his starting jump. He’s from the Fante community in Ghana, which lives around the Cape Coast region and are the second largest members of the Akan group. Regardless of all the development and acclimatisation in the country, this community has managed to hold on to their culture and traditions to date.
Thus, the choice in fabrics, ranging from Dashiki cloth, African Print cloth, to Leso cloth, reflects this heritage. He brought it even closer to home whilst naming the brand. ‘Tawia’ means “one born after twins” in Fante, which correctly describes the founder’s ranking in the sibling chain. And for the SS17 collection, he used the art and boldness or the Fante people as his muse. This latest collection from Tawia comes in a variety of designs and colour, not to mention different textures from premium suede to Moroccan leather.
Handmade with a cultural touch
Tawia Designs may be based in Chicago but it makes its products on the African continent. Handcrafted in Morocco, Kenya and Ghana, Tawia Designs works with workshops that use traditional techniques, passed down through generations, to develop his collections. You’ll also see the African influence when it comes to the naming of the collections and the individual designs as well. This way, he’s able to fulfil his mission of incorporating ethnic craftsmanship and cultural background into his aesthetic design.
Speaking of a merger between both worlds, one of his most striking creations to date was his ‘African print’ Nike custom sneakers. The brand took the Authentic Nike Roshe Run footwear and put just enough detail to it to give it a fresh, original vibe. That includes lacing the Nike branded logo with print and adding a little more material to the white outsole in the front and side. But it’s not just sneakers Tawia offers. Under this brand, you will find a range of footwear from sandals and boots, to lace-ups and some quirky open toe designs. Their unifying factor; comfort, which is a fundamental element to each pair’s design.
Like many other designers inspired by Africa, that we’ve featured so far in this sole series, Tawia Designs tries to play a role in development. In addition to the creation of sustainable jobs in the shoemaking craft, it sources 100% of its textiles from various local textile shops around Africa. The brand takes great pride in knowing where their materials come from, be it natural leather from Morocco or textiles from Kenya and Ghana.
We all know that materials are only have the ethical battle. How you use it makes all the difference. Tawia designs has adopted a ‘Slow Fashion’ model that not only ensures the artisans are paid well, but also safeguards that the environment isn’t gravely affected in the process. For example, they use the vegetable dying process for their leather, which is known to be less harmful than the chemical dyes often used. They also place emphasis on their shoes being an investment. That is, made to quality standards that will see their customers wearing the shoes for a long period of time.
This Ghanaian-American brand is still a little green collection wise – with only SS16 “Bijagós” collection and SS17 Fante collection. However, it has managed to put out a product that is designed to embrace any occasion. Tawia designs draws inspiration from the various communities on the continent and hopes that, in turn, it can help to educate others about these communities through their collections.