African print has been finding its way into mainstream fashion for a long time, but it is always good to see a brand emerging from the continent that innovatively celebrates its diversity. Love Ankara is a fabulous retail, footwear and accessory brand, proudly made in Ghana but loved by the continent.
LoA chatted to the creative Emma Tandoh at the recent Lioness Lean In Breakfast event in Accra recently to find out more about this exciting new brand.
What does your company do?
Love Ankara is about re-defining what authentic African fabric stands for. Our brand is a retail, footwear and accessories brand that seeks to promote authentic African prints, empower women and preserve our local textile industries. Love Ankara shoes and accessories are worn by powerful, outspoken, daring empowered women the world over...Women who are not afraid to be authentic, to be true to who they are! LoveAnkara is our creative way of depicting our distinct cultures and personalities by showcasing our rich heritage through prints and footwear. In Africa, fabric and prints are more than just cloth; it’s at the core of who we are as Africans, expressive, creative, confident; a colourful and authentic empire that carries an inextinguishable spirit...a joie de vivre! This is what makes us quintessentially African and by telling our story, we hope you'll come to love our brand, wear authentic prints and soles and tell the rest of the world about it.
Love Ankara's flagship fashion product is #NativeByLoveAnkara. Natives are foldable, machine and hand-washable, ankara ballerinas made from premium leather and authentic limited edition African prints. The in-soles are soft and prioritize comfort. The shoes are hand-made in Ghana and available (both for order and PRE_ORDER) in sizes 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44. Delivery time for pre-orders is 14 days and for shoes already in stock 2 days (for Ghana) and 2 weeks, including shipping (for Africa, Australia, US, Europe and Asia). Love Ankara also retails men and women's slides, beaded bags with ankara, jewelry boxes and other fashionable African accessories for the urban market.
"Love Ankara shoes and accessories are worn by powerful, outspoken, daring empowered women the world over."
What inspired you to start your company?
My biggest inspiration to start this company was the desire to leave a legacy and to support the ailing textile industry on this continent.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
That's easy! Love Ankara makes the most comfortable pairs of soles in the world! Our foldable women's shoes are made from premium leather soles as well as authentic African prints. The in-soles are extremely soft and prioritize comfort and the fabrics are all authentic pieces and do not fade after several washes. The shoes are machine and hand washable and dry within 3 to 4 hours. Because they're foldable, they're great for tucking away into a clutch purse, mini shoulder bag or handbag and are also packaged in mini shoe boxes which are great for presenting as gifts.
"My biggest inspiration to start this company was the desire to leave a legacy and to support the ailing textile industry on this continent."
Tell us a little about your team
Our team is small, but growing. It's made up of great team of skillful artisans who bring our creative ideas to life, an operations manager who ensures our processes and operations run smoothly and efficiently, as well as sales and event assistants who are extremely passionate about our vision and do a great job in converting sales at our fairs and exhibitions.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Yes, I do come from an entrepreneurial background. My mother worked in a corporate environment but also ran multiple businesses in homeware, clothing and drinks supply when I was growing up in Ghana. It was quite inspiring to see her juggle a corporate career as well as all her entrepreneurial roles. For me, I always knew entrepreneurship was going to be a part of my journey, I just wasn't sure when. I've had stints in print media, business development and marketing roles, IT and spent the last 3 years working full time in the textile industry. Earlier this year, when I decided to leave and pursue full-time Love Ankara, I decided it was time to do a bit more to get Africans wearing authentic local prints again. This lead me to create an e-commerce site that gave access to Africans local prints like GTP and Woodin made in Ghana. In February, I decided to take it a step further by providing value-added product that still pushed this cause but gave it a bit more "sole"...That was the birth of our flagship foldable ballerina, "Natives". Our shoes provide employment to skillful artisans and also push the "made-In'Ghana" and "MadeInAfrica" agenda for sustainable growth of local brands on this continent. Our packaging is 100% eco-friendly and made from recycled paper and also goes to support the "green" initiative. It’s mission is to prove that quality, eco-friendly and sustainable products can come from Africa.
"Our foldable women's shoes are made from premium leather soles as well as authentic African prints."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Within the next 5 years, I'm hoping to have worked with many textile manufacturers in Africa to realize my vision of having a continent that embraces its own authentic fabrics. I'm also looking forward to collaborating with organizations in Africa and the rest of the world to provide quality made-in-Africa footwear for women working in hospitality, retail and many sectors of business. We are also hoping our vision gets a lot more attention so we can realize our dream of building the largest footwear manufacturing company in Ghana and in Africa and to have trained over 2000 skilled youth in Ghana and the rest of Africa. It will also be great to see a lot more youth and our generation embrace authentic prints and have a more booming textile industry in Africa as well.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Our customers are our trophies....Yes, we pride ourselves with making the most comfortable pair of soles in the world and our customers attest to it. My biggest fulfillment comes from seeing someone in a pair of our ballerinas or having someone visit us at one of our exhibitions wearing a pair of our flats. That trumps everything! Like we always say, "It's not just about the shoes; it's about the people who wear them"
"Our shoes provide employment to skillful artisans and also push the "made-In'Ghana" and "MadeInAfrica" agenda for sustainable growth of local brands on this continent."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Forget the odds and go for it. As crazy as it may seem, the future of our continent rests with us women; especially women entrepreneurs. You will make some mistakes, but heck, start, go ahead and begin that dream and keep at it every day. Play up your strengths and use them to your advantage and whatever you feel you're not good at, hire someone who is great at it and keep going. It's also a great idea to start small but to think global and say yes to all the opportunities that allow you to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Also, entrepreneurship is a journey and for us women, we often pride ourselves with being jugglers who perform the balancing act to almost near perfect, but entrepreneurship is challenging and will push you almost to the point of burnout so its important to also remember to pace yourself and schedule, as much as you can, and get much needed rest and relaxation.
Contact or follow Love Ankara
Why LoA loves it….
To meet Emma Tandoh is to meet a creative and entrepreneurial powerhouse. Her enthusiasm and passion for what she does draws customers to her unique product offering, and the story behind the Love Ankara brand keeps them coming back again and again. It is wonderful to see such an advocate of African textiles finding interesting and creative new ways to reinterpret the designs that are so evocative of the continent. Emma’s shoes and accessories are must-have items in anyone’s fashion collections. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa