STUDIO ONE EIGHTY NINE (headquartered in Ghana, West Africa and USA) is a social enterprise that provides a platform to help promote and curate African and African-inspired content and brands through worldwide distribution and manufacturing of our private label artisan produced collection as well as through our support of other brands. We focus on empowerment, creating jobs and supporting education and skills training. The first collection launched on February 14th 2013 in honor of One Billion Rising. Created by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, the mission of Studio One Eighty Nine and the idea for the Fashion Rising Foundation took shape following a trip with V-Day in February 2011, through Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the opening of the City of Joy.
What was your mission to create Studio 189?
We believe fashion and creativity can be an agent of social change. We have seen so many people in developing countries able to lift themselves out of adverse situations and build sustainable livings for themselves and their families/communities through craft, artisanry, fashion, beauty, art, music… Our hope is to see fashion and creativity in Africa grow to be recognized as a multi-billion dollar industry as it is in the UK, the US etc. We strive to help turn raw materials into market ready goods, which results in greater economic opportunity for local communities.
How did you meet?
We met when we were much younger through a mutual best friend who introduced us growing up in New York. We are old school New Yorkers, born and raised and in love with the city and both stemming from multi-cultural backgrounds. Rosario Dawson is Puerto Rican Irish Cuban Native American. Abrima Sims-Erwiah is half-American (by way of Mississippi) and half-west African (by way of Ghana and Ivory Coast).
Are all the clothes and accessories made in Africa? and where specifically?
We produce everything in Africa. In fact, we set up a supply chain in Africa with the intention of going farm to consumer. We are based between Accra and New York City. Our studio is in Accra, our factory is based in accra in the industrial area, we have a store in Nolita NYC and another one in Osu, Accra. We work with many different artisans and techniques, more than 15 techniques and have impacted the lives of hundreds of people. We use organic cotton that is grown in Burkina faso, turned into yarn in Burkina faso, dyed and woven on a loom in Burkina faso. It is then transported on a bus to Accra where it is cut and sewn in our factory. We use traditional handwoven kente fabric from Kumasi, Ghana. We work with a def community in wa, in the norther part of Ghana and use a different from of handweave. We do traditional hand-batik in cape coast and in accra. In addition, we set up a batik center in Tsatoe in the Volta in the eastern region of Ghana where have a trained a group of local women to make batik fabrics and we work with them as well. We use recycled glass beads from the eastern region of Ghana. The beads are made using recycled materials like old Guinness an coca cola bottles. We use natural plant based dye indigo cotton from Mali, Burkina Faso and the North of Ghana. We grow the indigo plant (indigofera plant) in the central region of Ghana that is to be used for natural dyeing. We use mud-cloth made in Mali and Burkina Faso. We work with basket weavers that weave using dried grass and banana leaf in Bolgatanga in the northern part of Ghana. We work with goldsmith to make jewelry and trims for accessories/clothing. We work with cobblers to make shoes. We work with natural materials such as teak and bamboo with carpenters, architects and inerior designs to make interior items and fixtures for our shops.
The list goes on and on. We try to cover as much of the supply chain as possible. In addition, we were locally on projects such as building and maintaining the website, graphic design and so on.
How do you choose your collaborations?
We believe in the power of collaboration and in fact it as the root of what we do. We work very closely with artisans and our community. We work with people that share common values, and believe in the greater mission and are strive for quality, excellence, innovation as well as preserving local traditions. Many of our collaborators approach us to do a project and others we approach because we admire and love the work that they are doing and we believe that there will be a mutual benefit through the collaboration. For example, we collaborate with EDUN (Ali Newton & Bono’s brand under LVMH) to create fabrics for their resort 2018 collection using our Batik fabrics. We also collaborate with organizations such as New York University Stern School of Business to create a training center in Ghana and locally owned social enterprise to train the women in the village on how to make fabrics. We collaborate with organizations such as the United Nations International Trade Center to create a sustainable initiative called the Ethical Food Initiative to support local farmers. This is very important as farming is the backbone for most communities including those that work in fashion. We collaborate with young Ghanaian designers that we have met through the university such as Papa Oppong and Steve French.
Which pieces are your faves and why?
We love clothes that you can easily travel with and that are multifunctional… The kimono for example is an amazing piece in the collection. We have a beautiful one that is navy with green leaf prints. We have a gorgeous batik print Alicia skirt that is like couture and comes in various prints and colors.
Where do you find inspiration?
In nature, through travel, the arts, music, people… culture and traditional techniques.
Spending time with family.
Fave Xmas Song?
Winter Wonderland – Johnny Mathis
Eartha Kit – Santa Baby
Have yourself a merry little Christmas – the carpenters
Baby it’s cold outside – Margaret Whiting
Xmas shopping website?
What would you give as xmas gifts from Studio 189? (women, men and children)
Beach Towel: The beach towel is inspired by and is a modern interpretation of the handpainting printed on the traditional houses in the north of Ghana and in Burkina faso and inspired by mudcloth fabric. The towel is woven so the print appears on both sides. It’s extremely soft and it’s large.
$75 and a perfect gift.
Tote Bags: The tote bags are perfect carry alls, can be used for grocery shopping, or carrying around your personal belongings. You can roll it up and put it in your bag, so you have an extra bag and can avoid using plastic or any throw away materials. The fabric is made by women by hand using traditional handbatik technique in a village in the eastern region of Ghana. Proceeds from the sale of the bags benefit the women and bring them a source of income.
Felicia Abban photographs (thanks to our partnership with Ano Gallery in Ghana): Felicia Abban is Ghana’s first female photographer and was taking pictures in Ghana in the 1950’s. Her images are powerful and unlike the photographs of her contemporaries like Malick Sidibe, there is a strong female focus that comes across in these images.
Scarf: We have various scarves including a beautiful indigo scarf made of natural indigo coming from the indigofera plant. The scarf is perfect for men and for women and comes in various prints.
Wooden cutting board: Our cutting boards are made in Ghana in collaboration with Studio Badge. They are made from local wood and they are engraved with studio 189 patterns. They are a part of the home products we produce in support of the ethical food initiative a project in collaboration with the united nations international trade center alliance for action program supporting local farmers in Ghana.
Prices range from $50-100
Artisanal pillows: We have pillows that are perfect for the home and come in different prints and materials such as indigo, mudcloth and various hand-batik patterns.
Silk kimono: Beautiful silk kimonos can be worn open or closed, as a dress or as a robe, inside the home, for an evening event or casually during the day. Comes in vibrant colors that look like watercolor paintings as well as tropical leaf prints.
Indigo patchwork kimono: Patchwork breathes new life into fabric. It is made from natural indigo, and then the indigo cotton fabric is then meticulously cut and matched to create a patchwork like painting that is harmonious before it is sewn into a patchwork Kimono.
Empowered by Studio 189 panties: Panties that have been designed in Ghana working with our artisans and then produced in Sri Lanka using a special fabric technology. Proceeds from the sale of the panties go to providing micro-loans for women.
Tunic: Classic men’s button down shirt with a twist. It’s a mandarin collar knee length shirt based on our popular “andy” fit button down shirt. It’s perfect for women and men.
Made to Order Custom made item: For the person that has it all, a customized made to order item working with studio 189 and our artisans. Visit the country and come meet our team and develop your product or develop it virtually working with our product development speciailist.
Price to be determined based on request
Alicia Skirt: One of our most popular styles. Fits like couture. It’s made of 16 yards of fabric and comes in different prints and colors all batiked by hand and meant to give you a little bit of extra dramatic flare.