Creating African inspired design solutions that are relevant for today’s sophisticated marketplace, and for clients who want to put a uniquely evocative stamp on their personal and work interiors, is what drives entrepreneur and founder of AMWA Designs, Chrissa Amuah. Her work reflects her design ethos and passion for celebrating her own African heritage, but with a contemporary flair that is her own.
LoA met with the incredibly creative founder of AMWA Designs at the Lioness Lean In London event this week to find out more.
What does your company do?
AMWA Designs creates handmade textiles and print designs for the home, commercial spaces and fashion. Its designs are built on the principle that our homes, private spaces and beings should be enveloped with beautiful furnishings and textiles that evoke powerful and positive thoughts within us. The Adinkra symbols and proverbs of Ghana form the inspiration. The symbols serve a decorative function, but also convey traditional wisdoms and adages.
AMWA Designs' product range includes; cushions, lampshades, coffee tables, wallpaper and fabric. AMWA Designs also works to bespoke briefs.
“Nothing shows your commitment better than you being willing to invest in your dream.”
What inspired you to start your company?
AMWA Designs was born of an intention to combine beautiful design with meaningful design. Much of what we are surrounded by is based just on trends; for me there is something slightly vacuous in that.
My family is predominantly from Ghana, (we also have a dash of Togo and Benin)... A few years before I re-navigated my path into design, I was visiting Ghana and other African countries in a corporate role. Each time I would visit, I could see socio-economic progress being made, but everything was based on a Western template. It saddened me that Africa's progress is not authentically based on the beauty of Africa's own and original narratives. I saw Adinkra as a beautiful way to reinterpret what 'our' progress could look like.
There is an Adinkra symbol called 'Sankofa'. Its proverb says, 'Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which translates as, "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.'
AMWA Designs is an ode to the powerful implications of Adinkra, which feed our personal, symbolic and environmental well being.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
AMWA Designs speaks to a contemporary generation whose lifestyle is forward thinking. The meanings of Adinkra are timeless and transcend all cultures. AMWA Designs sees them as motivation for 21st century living. “If our beings are nurtured in environments filled with wisdoms that promote positivity, upon exiting our homes and stepping out into the world every day – by the power of symbolic osmosis – we all share the opportunity to walk each step with intended harmony”.
Alongside AMWA Designs' product range, we also work to bespoke briefs and are able to customise designs and pieces according to the customers' needs.
AMWA Designs invites you to bring new meaning to your personal and living spaces.
“AMWA Designs was born of an intention to combine beautiful design with meaningful design.”
Tell us a little about your team
Chrissa Amuah is the Founder & Creative Director of AMWA Designs, an Adinkra inspired luxury homeware and interiors brand. She is an MA graduate from the world-renowned Chelsea College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London. Chrissa describes living with a sense of duality. Although born and raised in London, her heritage stems from Ghana, Togo and Benin; but it is from Ghana that she draws most of her design led inspiration. Following an international debut at Milan Design Week 2015, Chrissa has gained global recognition with press features in Elle Décor Italia, Departures magazine and the FT’s How To Spend It, to name a few. She has since gone on to establish AFRICA BY DESIGN; a concept of love intended to showcase and celebrate the best of Africa’s design talent.
AFRICA BY DESIGN works to create international commercial opportunities for its featured designers. Since its launch, AFRICA BY DESIGN has exhibited in four cities across four continents.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I did a degree in Broadcast Journalism, from the University of Leeds; the dream wasn't necessarily to become a news reporter, but to hopefully take away excellent communication skills that could translate into other areas.
I worked in creative spaces for a number of years (Barbican, design / advertising agencies, architecture practice) and then this soon developed into working in more corporate / client engagement roles (Cass Business School, London School of Architecture, African Science Academy).
In the initial instance, I found myself working in creative spaces, but not being the creative. My roles then progressed into business development and income generation capacities. In hindsight cultivating essential skills for being an entrepreneur.
It took me a while to realise my method of creative output, but once I did, I wanted to equip myself with as much technical knowledge as possible so I decided to do a Masters in Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art & Design, part of the University of the Arts London.
After graduating with a distinction, in 2014, a tutor encouraged me to showcase at Milan Design Week. From doing so, I gained major international press and my first retail order for La Rinascente Milan, a high end department store.
Since then I have worked hard to develop my brand and practice.
“Alongside AMWA Designs' product range, we also work to bespoke briefs and are able to customise designs and pieces according to the customers' needs.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We are really excited to be a part of the newly renovated 'Kulan Kitchen' for Hogan Lovells. We are currently in talks with a couple of hotel projects - in both Europe and Africa, it would be a dream to see them come to fruition.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
No two days are the same.
Seeing the hard work pay off and being brought to life through projects such as 'Kulan Kitchen' at Hogan Lovells
Being able to demonstrate how Adinkra can be elegantly and powerfully interpreted in contemporary spaces
Collaborating with other designers whose works also inspire me
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Learn your craft
Understand the numbers
Be ready to be in it for the long haul; they say building a company from scratch takes 3-5 years. It may take longer. Dig deep and breathe deeply. In the most challenging instances, it's sometimes a case of continuing to put one foot in front of the other
Look for mentors not necessarily working in your space, but who have skills and expertise that you and your business can also learn from
Be your own biggest investor and champion; the financial reward doesn't always come right away. Nothing shows your commitment better than you being willing to invest in your dream (this may mean working a 9-5 job alongside, whilst you build your business.
Contact or follow AMWA Designs
Why LoA loves it….
Meeting Chrissa Amuah is to be inspired. She injects such passion and energy into the incredibly beautiful creative work she produces, and her interior designs, furnishings and textiles evoke the essence of Adinkra. As a result, the homes and corporate spaces that harness her design expertise become havens of peace, tranquility and inspiration. This is definitely a creative entrepreneur we are tipping to go big in 2019! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa