Ophelia Crossland is a celebrated Ghanaian fashion designer and Chief Executive of Ophelia Crossland Designs, a major go to brand in Ghana’s fashion industry.
She is wife of radio presenter extraordinaire Kofi Otchere Darko. Her fashion brand has been around for over a decade and she has designed for some influential personalities including former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings.
Ophelia recently started costuming for movie casts, with her debut job being Shirley Frimpong Manso’s Love Or Something Like That.
In this interview with NEWS-ONE’s Francis Addo, Ophelia spoke about her brand, Ghana’s fashion industry, her family and her marriage. She said she was born into fashion.
Let’s talk about Ophelia Crossland as a designer. How did it all start?
It started based on the fact that I grew up from a family that has both grandparents into fashion. One of my grandmothers actually won Miss Greater Accra in 1936 and she was a fashion designer subsequently. My maternal grandmother was also a fashion designer. My mother sells fabrics; she owns one of the leading outlets in Ghana. So my whole life has been just waking up and seeing fashion around me.
It became a passion. I used to make my own clothes growing up. Later in life, I decided to go school to embellish my craft. I enrolled at Vogue Style, Joyce Abebio School, for a year and became the best student for that year. After a year, I started making clothes. It wasn’t easy because some of the clients were big and I was afraid to sew for bigger sizes but after sometime I settled.
When did you go commercial?
That was in 2004 when I officially launched. So it is 12 years now.
12 years; you must have achieved a lot?
It has become the ‘go to’ brand. I mean there have been many prominent personalities, not just in Ghana, who would any day recommend Ophelia Crossland. I mean, we have prominent personalities in Ghana like the Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Justice, former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, Gifty Anti, Juliet Ibrahim and Joselyn Dumas are some of [the] clients I design for. All these prominent people realised that if you want to look outstanding on any given occasion, it needs to be an Ophelia Crossland.
How do you choose your clientele?
They come to me by word of mouth, we are also very active on social media and we get a lot of referrals from other people. We sell online and we work with retail outlets in the UK where they sell our products across Europe. We have other people who own other retail outlets in Angola and Ivory Coast, so we export to those countries.
What differentiates your designs from others?
We tailor-make clothes for different individuals based on their personality and figure. We were one of the first fashion houses in Ghana to have done the whole merging of African fabrics and contemporary styles. We were one of the companies that started doing that before it became popular for other fashion houses to join in. Our signature is entirely based on fit-in dresses. This is because we are pretty particular about fit-in and finishing. We don’t compromise on our quality. There is one thing we stand out for—our finishing. It is one of the reasons we export to some parts of Europe, Ivory Coast and Angola.
You have done some fashion shows.
Our first fashion show saw the outdooring of our kids’ line, Ohemaa Kids, in 2010. That saw the birth of Rhythms On The Runway, which has become an annual fashion show as part of Ghana’s independence anniversaries. This year, we will do it in July. It is going to be part of Ghana’s Republic Day Celebration.
What other clothe lines do you have?
There is the kids’ line for Ophelia Crossland. Ophelia does supervision and owns Ohemaa Kids as well and then it is also co-creative director at NINETEEN57.
What is the relationship between Ophelia Crossland & KOD’s NINETEEN57?
It is as a result of Ophelia Crossland that saw the birth of NINETEEN57 by KOD. Kofi is a creative person as well and when we got together as man and wife, I saw how colourful a person he is. He always stood out in terms of what he [wore] over the years even before I met him. And interestingly, I saw his art book and realised he had the capability of not just wearing all those interesting stuff but also going commercial with [them] so we met with the creative team. Kofi is very passionate about Ghana and the whole ‘brand Ghana’. So he chose NINETEEN57 which represents Ghana’s independence year.
The essence of NINETEEN57 is representing liberation for not just Ghanaians but people of all walks of life, black Africans for that matter. So we chose NINETEEN57. It has been about five years now since we established NINETEEN57 and it is really going places.
You and KOD, is it a case of fashion and love?
You could say so because we met when Kofi came to our shop to buy fabric and I had to make an outfit for him. We sat down together and decided on what to make and started our friendship. Today we are man and wife.
Ophelia Crossland and family
You got married when there were media reports of your break up.
We were taken aback when we heard that we were having problems in our relationship and over the custody of the children. We were living in the same house. We have been together as man and wife for the past seven years. We are a normal good Ghanaian family and have been planning our wedding for some time. Actually when we saw that publication, we were surprised but then again the publication said it was from a close family source. We still don’t know who that family source is. So for us as a family, we are gone pass it. We are still together as one and a happy unit. That’s all that matters.
When are we seeing your next collection?
We are working on our next collection before our next fashion show. It will be outdoored at our next fashion show in July. We want to keep the information about it for now. It is something special for all those women and children in July 2015. We are also planning a runway event in Abuja, Nigeria, in the third quarter of 2015 with a Nigerian company. It is under construction now.
What is the most expensive design you’ve ever made?
My products are very affordable. It also depends on what my clients want. If you want something over the top, we will get it done for you but then obviously that comes at a cost because if you want something that needs to be hand-bided, it takes a lot of hours to get it done; so then obviously it will be more expensive than just a normal outfit that we sew.
Where do you get your ideas and styles?
I get inspiration from the environment. Sometimes too clients themselves come with their styles and I contribute my ideas.
What do you think about fashion in Ghana?
It is growing big now and previously I think there were people who were doing other people’s designs and say they are fashion designers. But I think that has changed now. The thing is you have to be creative all the time and maintain your clientele. Originality is one of the missing elements of fashion in the industry. Once someone comes up with a concept, everyone is following it… you have to be on your feet and always be thinking about the next step; how to always move ahead of your competitors and people who want to pirate your stuff.
Does the industry inspire confidence?
People are gradually accepting made in Ghana products and clothes. Beyond just ‘Friday wear’, quite a number of people want to wear it every day. The only problem we have is the fact that importing fabrics and logistics is quite expensive. So competing against brands from China or Asia, some of our products are more expensive than those ones, which is a challenge for us because we want to encourage Ghanaians to wear a lot more made in Ghana clothes.
This means that it should be affordable to buy. But then based on logistics, the fact that our sector of the industry has no support from government for instance, they are expensive and we can’t help it because we have to pay people. You have to pay people to get it done. We sometimes have to look elsewhere beyond Ghana for even human resource to get them done.
Beyond attention on wearing Ghanaian clothes, what other indicators show the fashion industry is growing?
There are quite a number of people who, hitherto, [when] out of university will want to work in corporate Ghana but there are people who are done with university these days and they even want to go to fashion school to learn to sew. That is something you never saw before. And for any sector and economy you see people moving… then it tells you that there are potentials for it to really grow and we believe that the government ought to look at that. This is because the fashion industry is employing quite a number of younger people and young artisans in this country.
What support do you expect from government?
Essentially government should look at reducing importation taxes on some of the fabrics. Most of the raw materials we use for these fabrics are not made in Ghana so it means we have to import them. We call them African fabrics but most of the raw materials are imported and if we want to get people to support fashion industry, get people to wear our made in Ghana clothes beyond just Friday and wear them every day, then we have to make sure that we are not spending all our money in importing raw materials and making very little in terms of profit.
What’s your opinion on people who look down on the fashion industry?
I think it is a thing of the past. There are people who have been married with children and working in corporate organisations but still go to Joyce Abebio School for instance to learn to sew because they realise there is a lot more potential in that area. Using myself, Ophelia Crossland, as an example, we provide employment to quite a number of people. I have workers who also take care of their families.
What is your advice to parents who don’t want their wards to go into fashion?
The industry is big now and people are making more money from it. So please encourage your child if that is what he or she wants to do. It is always good to be self-employed.
What other loopholes have you noticed in the industry?
There is no umbrella body for the fashion industry like the musicians have. It is easier to discuss problems in the industry if we had a union but everyone is working in isolation. Once we can’t work together as a group, getting things done—even getting support from government—is difficult because is it just Ophelia Crossland who is out there to get support from government because she knows people in there? It should not be like that. Once there is an umbrella body that has all the fashion designers being part of it, it is easier to get things done and move the fashion industry in the right direction like we see in other countries.
Africa is where everybody is looking at. I mean there are major and renowned brands out there in the world who are using African fabrics and we are not even taking credit for our own works and designs. Those people are taking the credit. If you go to the United States of America, almost all the universities, at graduation, [have] elements of Kente in their graduation gowns. But then no one is giving credit to Ghana, where the Kente comes from.
Any final words?
We are grateful to Ghanaians for accepting Ophelia Crossland as a brand. We believe that being a brand that is out there—we export to other parts of the continent and other parts of the world—it means that we are actually showcasing what Ghana is doing and in terms of tourism and also selling brand Ghana, we are playing a role there because if we are substandard… then it means that is the kind of impression we are giving people out there. So we are very passionate about doing it right to make sure that brand Ghana is seen in a good light out there.
By Francis Addo (Twitter: @fdee50 Email: [email protected] )
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