DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: Sheelah Garbrah Gives The Kente Cloth A Stunning Makeover With Her Ohemaa Collection
Sheelah Garbrah is a Ghanaian fashion designer currently based in Ghana. Her fashion label, “Shebybena” is widely worn by celebrities within and outside the country. She has sewn for popular actresses like Yvonne Nelson and Joselyn Dumas.
Garbrah’s passion for cloth making began at a tender age. Confirming this in an interview, the 31-year old designer said,
“My passion for fashion started when I was in secondary school. I found myself always sketching clothes and designing. I loved to design my own clothes for seamstresses when my mum took us to have dresses made.”
Appearances at major fashion shows
Fashion events give designers the opportunity to showcase their collections to a wider audience. It is always the dream of a designer to be invited to major fashion events. Garbrah has featured in many fashion events within and outside Ghana. Her first fashion show appearance was on Glitz Africa Fashion Week in 2014. She was also part of the Durban Fashion Fair. Narrating her experience she said,
“The Durban Fashion Fair was extremely exciting because that was my first time taking part in a fashion show outside Ghana.”
The Kente-inspired Ohemaa collection
Her “Skittles” collection received numerous positive feedbacks. However, Garbrah has been spinning heads on social media since the release of her “Ohemaa” collection. The collection is a combination of spectacular designs carved from different Kente cloth designs. The Kente dress is a brightly colored silk and cotton fabric made up of various strips sewn together. The word Kente comes from’ kenten’ which means ‘basket’ in Akan dialect. The patterns on a Kente are symbolic. Of great interest is how Garbrah integrates these meanings into the Ohemaa collection.
The Ohemaa collection creatively combines kente with other fabrics to give a seamless finish. There are four different designs currently making rounds in the Ohemaa collection. Each of the designs is paired with a statement fascinator. The fascinator hat is made by Traditions Couture Millinery.
#1 – The Kyemfere Dress
Kyemfere loosely translates to ‘Potsherd’. This pattern is a symbol of experience, knowledge, service, time, antiquity, rarity, and heirloom. The pattern is also backed by the proverb,'The potsherd claims it has been around from time immemorial; what about the potter who molded it?' - African Proverb Click To Tweet
Sleeveless gowns are not particularly new but having a Kente touch makes the difference. Garbrah brilliantly combines the yellow and blue kyemfere pattern kente dress with Ankara. The kente dress forms the blouse and fuses with the yellow Ankara skirt.
The skirt flares down ending with fluffy blue embedding. The creative finish at the base of the gown is one of the reasons many argue Garbrah designed it with princesses in mind. At the waistline, there are two folds of kente dress sewn into blue silk to give the impression that the kente dress is rolling out of the silk.
As a topping, the dress is paired with a hat accessory from Traditions Couture Millinery. The blue flower and yellow feather fixed to a headband complete the outfit. In addition to the royal color, the veil draws attention like a bride-to-be.
#2 – The Sika Futoro Dress
The Sika Futoro literarily means gold dust. The gold dust was a medium of exchange among the Akan people before the coming of paper currency. This pattern replicates the gold dust. The cloth symbolizes royalty, wealth, spirituality, elegance, honorable achievement, and purity.
There are so many features of this gown that cannot be missed on a first glance beside the combination of orange and purple. The right shoulder has a strap while the left hangs loose. Rather than have a strap, a fold from the right extends diagonally to form a covering for part of the right hand.
The rest of the gown flows freely downward only interrupted by a front slit that extends to the thigh. The purple, silk flower on the right side of the waist is not just an attachment like you would see with some designers. The silk from the flower runs around the waist and forms part of the gown on the back.
Complementing the dress is a colorful fascinator. The headgear consists of an orange zucchetto with a blossoming purple rose at the top with making a bold fashion statement.
#3 – The Nanka Tire Dress
This pattern is translated as the Puff Adder’s head. It symbolizes being over-burdened with work or exploitation. The accompanying proverb is “I cannot even carry the python, yet you are asking me to use the puff adder’s head as the carrying pad”. Garbrah’s design will leave you looking like a bird rather than being exploited.
This is another perfect fusion of Ankara with kente. The sleeves are designed to look like the wings of a bird. An oval cut on the outside reveals the wearer’s shoulder. The slit running from the neck to below the breast is lined on both sides by red flowers while translucent silk covers the gap.
Two variations of the same patterned kente dress form the base of the gown. The first variation runs from the waist to below the calf while the second flare up to the toes. The deeper red color of the pattern of the flare complements red flowers on the chest.
The accompanying fascinator blends with the entire outfit in color and design. Flowers similar to the one used to adorn the chest sit on an orange headband which can be secured firmly to the head. The entire apparel is not only appealing but also teasing.
#4 – The Eban Dress
Garbrah carved this design from non-regular kente dress. However, it bears the characteristic eban adinkra symbol. Eban is a ‘fence’ which fence symbolically separates and secures the family from the outside. Eban is a symbol of love, safety, and security. Apart from the fabric, the design is enticing and would make you feel loved.
From the top, you will first notice how the left shoulder is allowed to hang loosely. The right-hand rests on the shoulder and has a curvature in form of a cone running from the front to the back. Like other designs in the Ohemaa collection, Garbrah combines two fabrics but the closeness of color can make it difficult to spot.
This design also has a front slit which extends to the thigh. However, unlike the two previous designs, this one has no flare. The gown runs straight from the hips to the toes. If you want to look elegant without calling too much attention with bright colors, this should be your pick.
To cap it off, this dress is paired with a beautiful fascinator hat consisting of a bouquet of blue roses. Two antenna-like filaments extend from the left side of the hat and curve to the right.
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