DUBAI — East meets West when Dubai-based womenswear designer Efua Mensah-Brown takes to Skype and virtually joins 12 other designers in the Phoenix Fashion Week boot camp program, where she will have a chance to win the title “Designer of the Year” and $10,000 in goods and services.
During the program, emerging designers will spend four months learning business basics and honing their fashion skills to help build their brand. Efua was selected from a nationwide search says Phoenix Fashion Week Executive Director Brian Hill. “Her collection is relevant, well made, and very marketable” he adds when explaining what sets her apart from many emerging designers. Efua, pronounced Ef-wa, has been designing since she was five-years-old. Born in Ghana, Efua lived in the UK, South Africa, UAE and the US. She was inspired to become a designer after seeing her stylish aunt in a “beautiful red dress and shoes,” she explains. When most girls her age were playing with Barbies and Easy-Bake ovens, Efua was knitting, crocheting, and hand-sewing her own outfits.
It wasn’t until 2011 after she graduated with an MBA from the University of Chicago that Efua’s love for fashion and childhood dream was put into fruition, leading her to create her first collection “Like the Desert Missed the Rain” under the label Proverbs by Efua, a contemporary line of dresses in dark and bright hues with color-blocked themes made from fine silks and cottons. But, that wasn’t her first name choice. She originally wanted to call the brand “To Fish” in homage to the proverb, “Give a man some bread and he’ll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a life time.” After brainstorming with family and friends, she settled on the current name because, “It encompassed all great proverbs that relate to giving hope and making a difference,” she says.
In January 2013 Efua launched Proverbs by Efua. She tells how the line parallels events in her life and describes the collection as “lots of dark colors mixed with pops of color.” The dark colors represent the past and the bright colors, the hope for the future. For a personal touch, she named each piece after a friend. In line with her philosophy of making a difference, Efua introduced her new line during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a cause that she is passionate about. She contributes 20% of profits to The A21 Campaign, whose goal is to end human trafficking.
With her designs Efua wants women to not only feel that they’ve invested in a quality item of clothing, but also made an impact in another’s life. When asked who she would like to design a piece for, she mentioned actress Angeline Jolie. “When I think of present day Angelina Jolie, I think classic, sophisticated, high-end, inspiring, authentic, impactful and that’s what we’re about at Proverbs By Efua,” she says.
As a designer living abroad, Efua has met many challenges from managing inventory and time zone differences, to making trips back to the US, which is her primary market. But despite any obstacles, she remains focused and positive. “I believe in what I’m doing so these just further ignite my passion to continue,” she says. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. With great success, comes great challenge and I’m blessed to be able to have the ability to be challenged daily.” Efua is excited to take on her next challenge; being part of Phoenix Fashion Week. She believes the program will help her gain the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the industry. “I feel like Phoenix Fashion Week is the perfect platform for emerging designers to legitimize their brands and also gain tools to stay in business for seasons to come,” she says.
3 style tips from Efua:
> Don’t wear a dress only because it’s cute and everyone else is wearing it; choose something that flatters your body type even if it’s not trendy. Trends are not for everyone.
> Sometimes keeping things simple and chic goes a very long way.
> Pick your shoes wisely; they can make or break your outfit.
The Chic Spy
(Images courtesy of Proverbs by Efua)