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Francis Selorm Seshie
Francis Selorm Seshie

See also:
More photos of Kente Design
Sub saharan fashion show

Kente Traditional Dance Company


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Kente Design - model: Victoria

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Communicating through African fashion

Mini portrait of Danish-based Ghanaian designer Francis Selorm Seshie. Click to enlarge the images.

The Nørrebro area of Copenhagen is a vibrant, cultural melting pot in good and bad. Every big city in Europe has a place like this. This is where young people of different nationalities meet in smart cafés, and where families do their shopping or simply come to chat with friends and by passers. The place is complete with the social problems and conflicts that come along when a large number of people live closely together. But a mixed-cultural neighbourhood like these is also a cradle of initiatives and fresh ideas.

Kente Design - model: VictoriaKente Design - model: VictoriaIn the middle of it all, there is a workshop for a unique talent in fashion design. This is where the Ghanaian born, Francis Selorm Seshie, has had his base for the last 12 years. In common with African shops, “Kente Design” also functions as meeting place. There is always an atmosphere, with people around eating, chatting or getting a quick haircut. High-life tunes come out of the old tape recorder next to the computer and sewing machines. All a bit unfamiliar for Danish customers when they first open the door, but everyone is very welcome.

Francis has his very own visions of how to make the best of two worlds work together. Africa meets with the West in his designs, but also in the many other projects launched from here. Francis Seshie is not only manufacturing and selling ready-to-wear African dresses of high quality: “One of my primary aims in establishing this business was to promote African culture, and to uplift the general image of Africa in the West. This is not only about selling clothes. I have a story to tell. I may speak in symbols and hidden messages through the Kente design, but I trust there is an audience for it and hope to open their eyes.”

Kente Design - model: VictoriaThe ideas of working with fabrics and the desire of becoming a designer grew in Francis when he went to school in Accra. He started out by supplying specially made baseball caps for students at schools and universities. Many of his early clients came from Nigeria, Benin and Senegal. They were fascinated with what could be done with the materials, and soon asked for party clothes as well. His early designs were using Keta – wax print, but he has later chosen to focus entirely on the Kente clothes, which are unique for Ghana. A deep love and respect for the Ghanaian roots and traditions has always been a main source of inspiration. Francis Seshie has success in finding new ideas for modern fashion by looking back to what history and tradition has to offer. A quick look around, on the hangers in the shop reveals everything from casual street wear, bags and t-shirts to daring miniskirts, boots and long evening dresses.

Francis Seshie is happy working in Denmark, where he has arranged several large fashion shows during the past years. In 2003 he was rewarded as the immigrant artist of the year, but the market here is too small, he complains. The Danes are amazed with the colourful attires, but maybe still a bit too shy, when it comes to wearing them. Luckily the Internet has made it easier to be in touch with the international market and Kente Design now has customers in London, Paris and the states.

Kente Design - model: VictoriaKENTE

The original Kente material is handmade, woven in silk or cotton, expensive and exclusive. But Kente is not just clothes –it is a completely unique part of Ghanaian history and culture. The Asante and Ewe tribes of Ghana originally used the clothes for religious and ceremonial occasions. Contrary to western fashion there is often a deeper meaning hidden away in African designs, whether in terms of clothing or hairstyles. Colours, patterns and designs have ancient roots and meanings, which Francis is still using deliberately, when making new creations. They are alternative sources of history, as they can communicate a direct message or represent moral values, beliefs, ethics and principles. The styles have names like “family ties”, “wise old lady” or “unity is strength”. There is an enormous wealth of meaning, stories and traditions hidden away inside the patterns. Unfortunately, with the more widespread acceptance of Kente, the original messages are slowly fading away. Only a few people know how to read the language of the beautiful Kente colours.

Originally the Kente was reserved for royalty. Later on people didn’t care much about it, because it was either too expensive, or regarded as “old fashioned”. But fashion changes. African-Americans have adopted Kente as a link to their African origin and now because of that the West African youth have begun picking up on Kente once again.

Kente Design - model: VictoriaCROSS CULTURE

The more philanthropic ideas of Francis Seshie shines through in the organisation he also tries to start from the workshop. Cross Culture International is aimed to be an organisation working for better integration and cultural understanding on a local level in Denmark, but also with international ambitions. It is this group of people meeting in Francis’ shop, who are working to establish an African Culture Centre in Copenhagen. The centre should facilitate help to Africans living in Denmark with information about the educational system and employment market, sports, art and culture. Francis Seshie explains: “We wish to promote a positive picture of Africans, who choose Denmark as their home. We want to inform people of trade possibilities, and show off ideas from another culture. We wish to take an active part in improving our society. Our African youth have to be better integrated, but part of this process is also remembering our own background and informing the Europeans about it. Fashion is also a way of communicating culture”.

© Text and photos: Jacob Crawfurd, March 2004.
All designs by Francis Seshie Selorm. Model: Victoria.
A German translation of this article was published in Africa Positive, no. 13, 2004.
The english version was published in Coloured Pictures, issue 02-06, 2004.

View more photos of Kente Design

Visit: www.kentedesign.dk for more information on designs and projects by Francis Selorm Seshie.


Fahmy Almajid and Francis Selorm Seshie Cross culture:

Middle East and Africa meet in Denmark

In 2003 the National Association of Danish Refugee Friends gave their annual award to the journalist Fahmy Almajid. Almajid is born in Syria, but has been living and working in Denmark for more than 30 years and he is a well known contributor to the debate on integration issues (see www.fahmy.dk). The award was designed by artist/textile designer Francis Selorm Seshie, who was presented by the association as artist of the year.

 

 

 

 

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