Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah’s Studio 189 brand is the antithesis of fast fashion. The duo’s third official collection featured laborious African artisanal techniques such as hand-batiking, indigo dyeing and basket and kente weaving — the latter of which can produce only one yard of fabric in six weeks.
The vast, eclectic lineup, much of it unisex, was inspired by water, the color indigo, and the West African Adinkra symbol “sankofa,” which translates to the idea of looking back in order to look forward. Presented in partnership with the Lower Eastside Girls Club, it featured jumpsuits, patchwork denim jackets, hooded ponchos, wide-leg trousers, caftans and halter dresses in geometric patterns and abstract prints. There were also hand-dyed textiles made using a bògòlanfini mud technique from Mali. Rendered in Italian silks, cotton poplins, piques and jerseys, the looks had a relaxed, androgynous feel. The results paid off in a collection brimming with rich, colorful fabrics in which a personal touch was palpable.
The duo define their brand as a social enterprise headquartered in Ghana that champions African and African-inspired content through an artisan-produced collection; it partners with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative. Dawson stressed how integral partnerships are to the brand’s ethos. “If we embrace doing collaborations, then we can make something beautiful,” she said. “The collection’s got a harmony to it. It speaks to other people — and it doesn’t speak charity. It speaks beauty, excellence, craftsmanship and luxury, and the things that you associate with something made in Italy. That’s what we’re ultimately after.”