At House of Akachi, sustainability is a way of life. Founder Nneji Akunne’s passion and determination for sustainable development is as clear as it is for fashion. She sees fashion as a pathway toward sustainable development. It’s no wonder then that House of Akachi sets the tone for kind, considered, low-waste fashion. To achieve this, Nneji collaborates with artisans, uses deadstock and makes ethical sourcing decisions.
It is a brand rooted in impactful storytelling. The latest collection N’okpuru Mmiri (underwater) serves as a vehicle for a conversation on climate change and how it relates to the fashion industry. “At the time our runway show, 33 of 36 states in Nigeria were experiencing floods with limited to no aid being provided by the government,” says Nneji.
We asked Nneji a few questions.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio as a first-generation Nigerian. Born into a Nigerian family, my passion for Africa was instilled in me at a young age. In my youth, I was involved in after-school programs that taught me to think critically about the world. Through those programs, I developed business and marketing plans for an aspirational brand that focusses on fashion on the African continent. I created mood boards inspired by my Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazine subscriptions as inspiration for a career in fashion that I couldn’t define at that time.
Growing up at the onset of social media, I transitioned from creating physical mood boards to creating digital galleries.
As I explored the possibilities of a career in fashion, I worked with H&M in Hamburg, Germany on a sustainability retail project called “The Green Store”. While working on that project, I connected my passion for sustainability and the African continent with House of Akachi.
What does Akachi mean?
I come from the Igbo tribe in Eastern Nigeria. When researching names that could represent my brand, I looked for words that described power, strength, and protection in the Igbo language.
Akachi in the Igbo language means “Hand of God”. The house of Akachi is cultured, confident, and rooted in storytelling. As we create timeless contemporary designs to be cherished, preserved, and passed down, I felt it would be appropriate to name the brand Akachi to reflect that.
What drives your commitment to artisanal craftsmanship, especially in an African context?
There is so much beauty in Africa. By working directly with the artisans who produce clothing and accessories, I can help drive the narrative about craftsmanship on the continent.
Why did you choose to focus on deadstock?
At frist, I did not want to create brand-new fabrics specifically for my brand. There are tons of brands creating sample fabrics every day which become waste on landfills or they are sold to vendors. As a young brand, I source from these fabric vendors in Lagos to positively contribute to the economic empowerment of fellow entrepreneurs.
How do you minimise the impact of the leather?
Our leather products are sustainably sourced from indigenous artisan farmers in Northern Nigeria. The animals that are used to produce the leather meat are available at local markets. The leather is the byproduct of the edible food industry. Our goal is to make the manufacturing process as waste-free as possible by utilising all the skin and reserving scraps for future use.
Tell us about your new collection N’okpuru Mmiri.
Each Akachi collection is created around a narrative, either related to current events, a particular place, or a moment in time. N’okpuru Mmiri, means “underwater” and serves as a vehicle for a conversation about climate change and how it relates to the fashion industry. At the time of release of the runway show, 33 of 36 states across Nigeria were experiencing high flood waters with limited to no attention being provided by the government.
Early this year in April you exhibited ‘AKACHI transcending’. How is the project connected to the work you do at House of Akachi?
With everything that I release, my goal is to speak further about my passion for and the importance of sustainable development. As a fashion house that understands the negative impact that clothing manufacturing has on the environment, I chose to release “Transcending” to ignite the conversation about the impact of garment waste. As a made-to-order brand, I do not cut through a piece of fabric until an order has been placed as a way to ensure minimal waste. After cutting through the fabric, I save the scrap materials and upcycle them into art pieces, and textiles on canvas. Transcending continues AKACHI’s mission of being a sustainable brand by creating art pieces that can live in your closets and on your walls as well.
What are the overlooked details when it comes to sustainable fashion in Africa?
Fashion made on the African continent by designers is sustainable. Because we are presented with minimal resources, we learn to make do with what we have and still create immaculate pieces. Our sample runs are extremely limited because of this, which makes us take more time in the design process to ensure our final product lives up to the standards of our brands and customers.
If you could change anything about the Nigerian fashion industry, what would it be?
I’d like to see more education in the Nigerian fashion industry. I think we have been able to make do with the knowledge we have but I can see the potential for accredited institutions that taught not just how to sew but, more so, the business of fashion. How to create a sales plan, trend forecasting, technical design, product development, etc. I see the Nigerian fashion industry thriving as a whole when this type of knowledge is made available to them.