“Bakonfa” makes exclusive fashion lines - With veritable African print

BY: Sebastian Syme

The desire to inherit her mother’s skill in fashion designing led her to take a course in the discipline. Barbara Konadu Effahnow makes traditional attires trendy again.

She draws inspiration from her mother’s rich fashion heritage. After school, Barbara spent few years working for an organisation within her discipline, until she developed a strong passion to work on her own.

She considers her designs as highly innovative and exclusive, made up of purely African/ Ghanaian print to make garments and accessories for gentlemen, ladies and kids for all occasions.
Barbara told the GRAPHIC BUISNESS at her showroom in Adabraka official town in Accra that at “Bakonfa” each piece of garment is inspired by simplicity and originality. She added that the reality to fuse the younger generation into her mother’s enterprise, Extra Fashion, started 30 years ago had been so fast.

“I really wanted to do something for myself and to grow the business because my mother was aging. I thought it wise to come in with the new ideas I have acquired and I think it has really helped to improve our work,” she explained.

Bakonfa, she said, sought to raise the standard to a modern level without throwing away the experience of Extra Fashion. Now she has accessories such as bags, slippers and jewelry as part of her clothing line. The clothing lines also come in strictly African designs with no foreign attachment.

Barbara has grown the business significantly, moving its workshop from Dansoman Estates to its new showroom in Adabraka. Besides, the enterprise offers interior and exterior décor services for all occasions. 

Motivation of Bakonfa designs
In her belief that fashion is dynamic, Ms Effah creates new designs out of existing ones to make them current.
“Currently, we are still in African print season but we add a lot to it. We do not sew it raw as it is but blend African print and linen. Formerly, we did a lot of linen but now we are blending other textiles particularly African print,” she explained. 
She really thinks through her designs to come out with the best as the fashion industry is currently huge. She takes her time to combine colours and prepare art work just to be exclusive and compete favourably.
“Bakonfa” prides itself with producing unique designs, as they are a union of traditional and professional backgrounds. It can easily be identified by its outstanding finishing.

GEPA
Barbara through her business has been associated with the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) for the past four years and commends them for their immense support.
During fairs the GEPA helps her to secure stands for entrepreneurs as well as freight their goods to fair destination. 
The export school gives her much insight into her business as it provides a platform for her explore in her chosen industry.
Yet she said the GEPA could do more by ensuring that they attend fairs timely, while management staff should also be up and doing. Though she has knowledge of Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF) she is yet to access their credit facility. In her opinion, the process to access such facilities is quite cumbersome and so she has resorted to work with her own source.

Bakonfa at trade fairs
She takes time to conduct thorough research about fairs before she decides to participate. Bakonfa has markets in Europe but is also making inroads in Africa as the region is now appreciating what it has. Her designs and accessories sell more in Nigeria and other French speaking African countries. 
Indeed some of her clients travel to Ghana personally to take their delivery. She disclosed that people appreciate and love Ghanaian products outside the shores of Ghana because of the unique fabrics and designs they use.
Though she believes fairs are for contacts yet she expects to make some sales to recoup her expenses.
Ms Effah appealed to the government to consider subsidising accommodation for entrepreneurs as that was often expensive.

Some achievements
Bakonfa fashion line has gained recognition in several forms and different fields of the fashion world and also the services they offer to people are also recognised.
Barbara recalled an exhibition by a fashion cluster organsition recently where Bakonfa’s products were chosen as best among the lot, happening at a time when the company was having challenges with staffing.
The company currently employs eight permanent staff but has trained a lot of people.
She continues to undertake career development programmes to upgrade her skills, including Information and Communications Technology (ICT).  

Challenges
Her major difficulty is getting staff with the requisite skills to work with. Sometimes they are forced to recruit people from neighbouring countries at higher costs.
She appealed to government to consider skill training as a way of creating jobs for the younger generation.
“I know there is the Local Enterprises and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP) but it should be enhanced and the youth should be encouraged to look at skill acquisition so graduates will not only look up to be employed by government,” she said.
Getting quality fabrics to work with is also a challenge facing the fashion industry, coupled with increase in prices of fashion materials.

Hobbies, advice to the youth 
She reads and a lot of fashion magazines for ideas, likes to watch movies and surf the internet for markets for her products.
She encouraged aspiring fashion designers to believe in themselves, have passion and be prepared for challenges.
“My advice to the female youth especially is that a man becomes a bonus to a woman who is economically empowered. When you have something to do it gives you some kind of confidence so they should not always rely on the men and they will not be found wanting,” she said. 
In future she hopes to get skilled people to work with and also expand its outlets but minimise its participation in trade fairs. This is to enable her to satisfy our people not only in Ghana but across borders.

Educational background
Barbara studied for a Diploma in fashion designing and textiles at the Kumasi Polytechnic after completing a senior high education at Aburi Girls Senior High School in the Eastern region. After school, she did national service with Presidential Special Initiative on Garment and later worked at Woodin Company, a reputable African-designed fabrics outlet for about three years as a production manager.
She is 30 years and hails from Kwahu in the Eastern region.

Story by Ama Amankwah Baafi/Graphic Business

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