One of the pioneers in the fashion and creative industry, Ms Joyce Ababio, has for 18 years worked tirelessly to raise the standards of practitioners and change the stereotype that most of the people who train in that industry are academic failures and school dropouts.
With an eye for excellence and a main focus to enrich the fashion industry especially after she had trained and worked in the United States of America for 13 years, Ms Ababio returned to Ghana and established the Vogue Style School of Fashion and Design in 1995.
Her desire to impart her rich knowledge and experience to the younger generation contributed significantly to this school idea, which aims at giving young people a good background in fashion and design.
The school, which started with only five students, has produced over 1000 students with their own labels.
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They include designers such as Aisha Obuobi, Christie Brown, Ophelia Crossland, Christina Parker, Gladys Brew, among others.
After almost two decades of running a diploma awarding institution, Ms Ababio has put a dream that she has nurtured into practicality by establishing the Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design (JACCD).
The JACCD is a new design and independent private institution with programmes in Fashion Design, Graphic Design and Entrepreneurship.
When The Mirror engaged Ms Ababio in a chat on Monday, to find out why the sudden transformation from Vogue Style to JACCD, she explained that “we need to enhance creativity in the schools.
It is very important for our country. It’s my hope to be at some point and some level with design. I added entrepreneurship because after school the designer becomes business people in our own area.”
Ms Ababio said she had engaged her daughter, Tracy Nana Yaa Ababio, a product of the Miami University in Ohio, USA, to partner her in this venture to get the project started in September.
Venturing into fashion/education
Asked how she got into fashion designing, Ms Ababio said she developed interest in sewing at a tender age long before she entered Achimota School.
“My mother was a seamstress and I could sew too. I also did needlework at Achimota.”
According to her, after Achimota, she gained admission to the St Cloud State University in Minnesota in the US to study Medical Technology, even though her wish was to study fashion designing.
She, therefore, left St Cloud after a short stint for Texas Women’s University, where she completed a degree programme in fashion designing.
On completion of her course, she stayed and worked in the US until 1992, when she returned home. She said while in the US, she did well and lived comfortably and although she was not keen on returning to Ghana, she had to accept her husband’s request that they did so.
“I am a disciplined, principled, and determined woman. I always set goals for myself and make sure I achieve them. This explains why I have been able to manage her time successfully and played my role as a wife, a mother, a teacher and a shop owner.”
Ms Ababio has won several awards which include the Ghana Fashion Awards 2012, for contributing to fashion, education and mentoring; Best Formal Awards 1995, the Ebony Award 1999 (Bridal and Pageantry).
She has also designed costumes for beauty pageants such as Matilda Alomatu, Miss Ghana 1994; Manuela Medie, Miss Ghana 1995; Shiela Azontaba, Miss Ghana 1996; Marian Sugri Bugri, Miss Ghana 1999, and Efua Hawkson, Miss Ghana 2000.
Ms Ababio reserves her weekends strictly for her family. She reads books when she finds some time and goes to the gym when she feels like doing so.
She was born to Madam Esther Tuyee, a retired dressmaker/businesswoman, and the late Mr S. W. Yeboah, a former Regional Commissioner for the Western Region in the First Republic.
She is the last of five children of her parents. She attended Datus Preparatory School at Bubiashie, Accra and Achimota School, before leaving for the US in 1980.
She is a Christian, who believes in God but does not believe in being in church every weekend. “My vision in the next few years is to own different shops in different parts of Africa, Europe and the US, expand my production line and invest in men’s clothes.”
She has two children, Tracy Nana Yaa and Charles Nana Osei Ababio, currently pursuing a programme in Business and Finance at the Ohio Dominican University in the USA.
Ms Ababio wants young women to be assertive and be able to determine what they want to achieve in life.
“They must learn to set goals for themselves and work towards achieving such goals,” she added.
Her works as a designer
Perhaps Joyce’s biggest hit on the world fashion scene that must have surprised even herself was when an evening outfit she made for Miss Ghana ‘95, Manuela Medie, won the best Evening Gown Award at Miss World.
According to Ms Ababio, her efforts have been fruitful so far because most of her clients see her as the embodiment of Kente.
She is, however, quick to point out that she did not invent Kente. She greatly appreciates the high esteem the fabric enjoys and believes a lot could be done to make it more acceptable to a broader section of society.
According to Ms Ababio, this passion for Kente motivated her to open the “Joyce Ababio Kente” shop 10 years ago.
Ms Ababio said her main focus at the time was to produce more of her designs for the shop and for export, as well as make clothes for her large clientele, including men.
According Ms Ababio, the school, which has almost secured its accreditation from the National Accreditation Board, has the Fashion Design Department, which has two options for students interested in studying fashion: a two-year associate’s degree programme and four-year bachelor’s degree programme
In the Graphic Design Department, she explained that it has two options for students interested in studying fashion: a two-year associate’s degree programme and a four-year bachelor’s degree programme with the following two speciality concentrations: Branding and Entertainment Design.
According to Ms Ababio, the Entrepreneurship Department has two options for students interested in studying fashion: a two-year associate’s degree programme and a four-year bachelor’s degree programme.
By Vance Azu / The Mirror / Ghana