High-fashion swimsuits should be readily accessible to all women, and a young fashionista and her serial entrepreneur brother have set out to make that happen with Kente designs with a message.
Ashanti Swimwear began after 27-year-old Dexter Opare encouraged his 23-year-old sister Yasmeen Opare, both born in London and raised in Ghana and the English capital, to take her desire to wear unique kente swimsuits on vacation and turn it into a company. Yasmeen loved to visit family in Ghana and lived there for six years, and that inspired the company’s launch.
A Family Affair
She said her family-run business venture came about organically and was “not intentional at all.”
“My brother Dexter and I have worked on many other business projects together since we were very young,” she said in an email. “He encouraged me to pursue this idea and brought his expertise so organically we became partners. We have a very honest and open relationship, which helps us to avoid conflict and challenges.”
Once the line moved into the prototype stage, the siblings knew their cousin Anita Atuobi was a no-brainer to develop the designs.
“She is an incredible pattern cutter and designer, so collaborating with our cousin was very easy,” Yasmeen said.
Ready, Set, … Setback
The business launched in 2016, and in March the duo launched a Kickstarter campaign to try and grow the business. They’d hoped to raise $62,000 but fell short, and that served as a learning opportunity.
“Our failure on Kickstarter taught us that our target audience are not familiar with using crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter and prefer to support us with a purchase on a customer-friendly website,” the Opares said.
They switched gears to running a successful pre-order campaign on the Ashanti Swimwear website, where customers can exclusively purchase the Africa-inspired swim looks, through Monday, April 17, and said previous customers have migrated over to support the effort.
“In just four months of launching our brand to the social media community, we have received so much love and support,” the siblings said. “It has been great to see people from different cultures and backgrounds support and appreciate African prints and value African fashion. Each day brings us many reasons to be thankful, and we are filled with so much gratitude. We are very excited for what the future holds for our brand.”
Creating a Meaningful Clothing Line
When deciding on what fabrics to choose for the bikini and one-piece suits, the creator zeroed in on durable and high-quality materials that could hold up against the beautiful Ghana-inspired designs. They settled on polyester and spandex, which offered four-way stretch and are suitable for water sports.
“I first created this line for myself, as I love traveling and water sports is an absolute must for me on every trip,” Yasmeen said. “So it was important to have the balance of high-performance fabrics that would not compromise the quality of the African prints.”
Such prints include the Apremo-Canon pattern, which covers the best-selling one-piece suit called Yaa. It is a silky-feeling piece that is part of the Kente Queen Collection that Yasmeen designed in her bedroom. Apremo-Canon is a Kente design symbolic of resisting foreign domination, something Ghanaians had to fight for beginning with English colonizers in the 15th century.
Another Yasmeen-designed line, Ntoma/Ankara Collection, also holds significance. Its Efia swimsuit has patterns inspired by the Ghanaian Entoma, or cloth, print and includes colors like gold, which represents wealth and royalty, and green, which is associated with health and growth.
Sizes for each swimsuit range from small to extra-large, with prices ranging from $123 to $198. Worldwide shipping is available from Los Angeles. Since there have been many requests to make the swimsuits available to men and children, Dexter explained a line for guys is in the works, with a kids one being a possibility. The company is also looking to expand sizing options since many women have different bust and hip or waist measurements.
“I’m very passionate and intentional about creating a platform to help women in the diaspora and in Africa to dominate in the online e-commerce space so they can be location-independent and offer the same support to their own communities,” Yasmeen said of the web store.
The brand is open to the option of pop-up shops in the future, as well as stores across the world if they can spot a demand.