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Afua Sam Returns to the Runway for Silence No More

The Red Affair Celebrates Bold, Beautiful Women

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Afua Sam

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

“I’m bold and beautiful and my fashion speaks to what’s inside of me,” says Afua Sam in describing her approach to clothing design. While the Ghanaian fashion designer can cite a few famous designers like Alexander McQueen and Valentino that “speak” to her, she is largely self-taught, and never studied fashion formally. “I often create stuff straight from my head, from shapes and silhouettes that I like or colors that I like. I create what I want to wear that I don’t see anywhere... Fashion comes naturally to me by way of creativity.”

She grew up in a family where there was never enough, so she and her brothers were always making baskets or other crafts by hand to make money, and she did needlework for fun. But her father was a musician and her mother sang in church, “So, maybe my creativity is inborn because my dad was a very creative person,” she adds. Certainly, the bright, tropical colors, African prints and natural fabrics she loves are native to Ghana, a western African country on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea.

Fashion gave her an opportunity to come to the U.S. two decades ago, and she is now recognized as a fashion pioneer in both London, where C Hub Magazine named her one of the 100 most creative people, and in her home in the D.C. DMV, where she was added to the D.C. Fashion Week Hall of Fame in 2019. Her climb to fame came not, however, with any one “big break,” but through designing for a long series of charitable causes, like the Silence No More Movement / P7 4th Annual Fashion Show scheduled September 23rd from 6-9 p.m. at Carahsoft in Reston. This year’s SNMM Red Affair P7 Fashion pairs Lisa Jones, Carahsoft, Backflow Technology, ARM Consulting, P7, and Fifty Leven with non-profits that help abused women escape domestic abuse.

Why “The Red Affair,” we asked Afua? “Because red is beautiful, and every woman looks stunning in it. Not only is it beautiful, it also to me symbolizes the struggles of women. You know, being a woman is not easy.”

She explains, “Silence No More is very personal to me. I haven’t spoken much about it but when Lisa told me about the event, I was drawn to it immediately because of my personal experience. I will just say that if I had not had the strength and the courage to move away from an abusive relationship, nobody would have seen my talent today. So, I hope that me being part of this event will encourage other people to know that they have something in them that can bless other people, that can enrich other people’s lives, that can encourage other women, that can break the cycle of women being in abusive situations.”

She adds, "I know it's not easy to just leave, because I've been there, and I know how hard it is. But I will say to every woman out there that is around anybody who is abusive – walk away. Find the courage. There's something in you that God gave you that needs to be seen. Don't stay. Don't be silenced."

Her own personal Afua Foundation concentrates on empowering women and young people. She currently mentors two high school students who want to pursue careers in fashion, and annually engages in “Operation Prom,” where she creates a prom dress for a deserving high school student with good grades. “I’ve worked hard and had opportunities I never could have imagined. I hope to influence young people [to believe that] even if they suffer difficulty, that they can do it too, and even bigger things than I’m doing.” She adds, “You know when God gives you a gift, He didn't give it to you for you to keep it to yourself.”

See something you can’t live without? Afua designs seasonally for fashion shows and often sells her designs right off the runway, but she also can reproduce a design in another size to fit a client, or do something entirely custom, as she has for many celebrities and influencers, as well as for “ordinary people like myself.” Studio D’Maxi Designs (https://studiodmaxsi.com/) represents Afua’s high concept, “one-off” designs, while “The A Concept by Afua Sam” (https://theaconceptbyafuasam.com/) is the more casual, ready-to-wear boutique where colorful African prints predominate, and clothing and accessories can be purchased online.

Tickets for The Red Affair are $75. Besides the opportunity to revel in what Red can do for your wardrobe, attendees will enjoy a delightful evening of fashion, music, food and drink and the chance to support women looking to live their best lives without fear. See https://www.eventbrite.com/e/snmm-p7-red-affair-fashion-show-tickets-699248941407.

  • Afua Sam