JEKKAH is a UK-based ethical brand which specializes in contemporary African-inspired street wear produced in The Gambia.
Back in 2013, we featured JEKKAH as one of our ‘Brands to watch’. Since then, the label has grown tremendously. We spoke to company director Petros Solomou to learn more about the brand and find out where we can expect to see JEKKAH in years to come.
How did the idea for JEKKAH came about?
The idea for JEKKAH came about because my school friend and business partner is Gambian and his family business has been in retail of african wax prints fabrics in The Gambia for years. He used to bring back pyjama trousers made from the colourful fabrics and they were hugely popular. So the idea grew from there.
What does JEKKAH mean?
JEKKAH is a Wolof word which is a language spoken in parts of West Africa mainly The Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania. If you say to someone you are JEKKAH it means you are elegant or well dressed.
Can you tell us about your background and how it has impacted your current role. Do you play any part in the design process?
My background has been in a different area from fashion but I have always been interested in design. My role is to operate the brand in the UK and Creative Director for the brand. The designing process of the pieces is a combined effort between myself, my business partner and the tailors we work with the The Gambia. Their high level of skill and involvement in the design process help us come out with exceptional quality and innovative methods of using the fabrics. This is always a challenge because although they are high quality 100% cotton, they do not stretch like synthetic fabrics so the shape is incredibly important.
Does being UK-based have any impact on your design creativity?
I would say so yes. We pride ourselves on bringing something different to the arena of African fashion. We take our inspiration from the prints and fabrics but infuse them with cutting edge street wear designs which we can see on the streets of London daily. We are told by our customers that it is quite refreshing to see our interpretation of the fabrics in upbeat contemporary designs.
Can you tell us a bit about the partnership that you have with Erase Foundation?
We are friends first and foremost with the organisers and people who run Erase Foundation, so it was a natural organisation to collaborate with. We donate 5% of all our online revenue to Erase which goes towards their amazing endeavours in West Africa.
What makes JEKKAH different to other ethical brands?
We are different because we are motivated to make a difference to the people of The Gambia with our brand but hopefully not in a patronising way. We work with talented tailors who are proud of their work and are happy with what they do. It is of course a developing economy and we can help to provide more jobs and assistance to them however, we do not want to overload our customers with sob stories about their difficult lives. Sometimes things can be difficult for them yes, but we work with them due to their talent not because we are a charity.
The ethical fashion market has grown immensely, but is still a niche market compared to many of the big retailers on the street. Where do you see the future of ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion is incredibly important to the fashion industry because it is something which the major retailers cannot copy. When you hear ASOS or Top Shop are developing a line of African print infused clothing – you know that they are not going about it in the same hands in a way that a brand like ours could. They can of course collaborate with a brand like ours, which we would not rule out in the future, but it helps stand us apart.
Currently you only ship within Europe. Are there any hopes to ship to the rest of the world?
We ship globally. Shipping rates are free in Europe and we have kept the shipping rates to anywhere else in the world as low as possible. Currently just £2.50 for shipping outside EU.
You are currently working with a lot of new and established artists including MNEK and Paloma Faith. Where can we expect to see JEKKAH in 5 years?
We love our collaboration with music artists and we plan to do more so in the future. We align ourselves with the music festival culture due to the nature of our shapes and designs which are perfect for chilling out in at a festival.
In 5 years I would like to see the brand as a staple globally for African Prints globally. We are not pretentious and we pride ourselves on quality separates which are contemporary but not too trend focussed. For example our shirts are just great shirts, they will not go out of fashion in 5 years or 20.
How can our readers learn more about JEKKAH?
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