Photography by Tom Morgan INDIGENOUSLOCALS / July 2015

HIGH LIFE TAILORED, GHANA’S KENTE CLOTH REVISITED

Photography by Tom Morgan
Text by Dora Moutot

Do you know what people wear in Ghana?

The traditional fabric of Ghana is known as Kente (no, not all of Africa wears wax prints!). It is made from cotton and silk, and if we’re telling you about Kente, that’s because we’re crazy for its geometric patterns interwoven as bold colourful panels! Celebrating the same spirit as The OTHER, the young fashion brand High Life Tailored is having fun modernising this traditional fabric.

 

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Let’s start by mapping things out. Ghana is a country of West Africa, bordering the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo.

 

 

 

 

 

Kente cloth was developed a long time ago – in the 12th century – by the Ashanti and Ewe indigenous peoples. A real symbol of power, the Kente cloth is originally closely linked to royalty, and to this day, it continues to be the royals’ official dress for ceremonies and public appearances.

 

Kyaman chiefs and notables, Anna village, Ivory Coast, 1972, by Eliot Elisofon

Kyaman chiefs and notables, Anna village, Ivory Coast, 1972, by Eliot Elisofon

 

This complex cloth requires huge amounts of work on a handmade loom.

 

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Nowadays, Kente is favoured by all classes of society. From Ghana to the Ivory Coast, the Kente cloth is worn by Mr and Mrs “Everyone”, and it is often draped around the body.

 

Ghana

 

In contrast to the Western world, we rarely see so much colour on our streets!

But rest assured, every problem has a solution. While this traditional cloth can be a bit complicated to wear in the city, a well cut, contemporary suit makes it much easier to wear. Such is the vision of the young brand, HIGH LIFE TAILORED.

 

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High Life Tailored’s website offers 19 acid-coloured fabrics, available to wear as a jacket, a waistcoat, or trousers. The suit is made-to-measure. After sending in your measurements, the suit is then cut and sewn by a team of Ghanaian tailors in Accra. Over 15 hours of work are needed to create this bespoke suit.

 

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The two tailors are called Israel and Gloria – you can find out more about them through their website, High Life Tailored. Here at The OTHER, we love the transparency of their approach. According to High Life Tailored, the tailors’ salaries are ten times that of an average Ghanaian’s.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_HighLifeTailored_Ghana_Kente8 The Other_Home of Subcultures_HighLifeTailored_Ghana_Kente9.jpg

 

It was in Ghana’s capital of Accra, while shooting a documentary, that young British filmmaker (and founder of the project) Tom fell in love with Kente cloth. Excited by the vibrant and pop qualities of the fabric, Tom quickly decided to have several suits made up for himself, which he then began to wear on the streets of London. People’s reactions were so positive that Tom decided to create a business out of it, allowing everyone to have a small piece of Ghana in their wardrobe.

And so High Life Tailored was born. The name didn’t shoot out of nowhere: as a member of the London-based DJ collective “Brand New Wayo ”, self-described as “Globalcentric”, Tom loves to mix music and fashion. “High Life” is a Ghanian genre of music that emerged in the Seventies. But beyond the music, “High Life” is also a lifestyle, a way of thinking and an aspiration.

 

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Tom’s approach: to present Ghanaian culture to a new audience. “The hope is that people will want to learn more about it and celebrate the culture”, says Tom. Fed up with the monotony of grey suits, Tom decided to create and offer a style that is all at once classy, joyful and different.

 

For The OTHER’s readers, High Life Tailored is offering 20 % discount on your first order by using the code OTHER20.

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If you’re still not convinced by the classiness of Kente cloth, then maybe these photos of Michael Jackson, Nelson Mandela, or Bill Clinton will finally entice you!

 

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The Other_Home of Subcultures_BillClinton_Ghana_KenteThe Other_Home of Subcultures_NelsonMandela_Ghana_Kente

 

PS: Hey, pssss, there isn’t just Kente in Ghana! The OTHER is also dreaming about Adinkra fabric with its incredible patterns…

 

Adinkra

 

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