Friday, September 24, 2021

SPICE Talks with Sydney to Ghana-Based YEVU on Africans in Aussie & Shooting New Stuff in Jamestown

This week, Team SPICE caught up with one of our favourite new brands, YEVU, spending time with one its two Annas – creative director, Anna Robertson – to find out where those ridiculously cool prints are sourced, where each piece is produced and what the African presence in Australia is like.

With a new super-swish collection out (“YEVU 2.0”) and available to buy via the brand’s new site, feel free to browse the full lookbook here – after checking out what Ms Robertson had to say about shooting it in Accra, of course…

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SPICE: Hi Anna! How are you and how’s your week been?

Anna Robertson: Everything’s going well. Sydney is getting colder by the day, so it’s a little sad to say goodbye to Summer. The week has been busy working in the studio on the next range and planning for the next trip to Ghana in June. 

We’re super excited to introduce you and your brand to our readers. For those that don’t know, where were you born and raised, and where are you based now?

I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Over the last 18 months I’ve spent most of my time in Ghana, but still call Sydney home. But who knows what the future holds.

YEVU is a team SPICE favourite! When was it founded and how would you describe your role and your brand aesthetic?

YEVU was founded early 2013 during a year-long assignment in Ghana, where I was working in development. My role is director – I’m not a designer, nor do I have a design background (in fact I studied politics at university), so I am lucky to have a best friend who is a designer, Anna Westcott. She has been contributing to the YEVU aesthetic. I like to keep things simple and let the prints do the talking. Simple, youthful, sporty and androgynous come to mind when I think of the YEVU aesthetic. 

What’s your daily grind like in 3 words?

Studio, work, friends. 

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So YEVU is based between Ghana and Australia, but where do you design and manufacture your garments, and which country receives your designs the best?

YEVU is 100% made in Ghana and the fabrics are sourced from West Africa – mainly Ghana. We work with small groups of mainly female-led seamstresses and ensure that production is ethical. We are working toward making it more sustainable, too.

So far, we have had three pop up stores in Sydney, so its fair to say YEVU is best received in Australia. The online store launched a few weeks ago with the aim to open the market up internationally. 

What is the African community or presence like in Australia?

There’s a much bigger African presence in Melbourne than Sydney, but overall it’s still relatively small compared to Europe and the States. I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of Ghanaians and West Africans who are based in Sydney through the pop up store, a lot of whom were pursuing careers in the creative industries, which is cool to see. I think for a lot of people who came into the store and had grown up in Ghana, it was a bit of a trip down memory lane with all the traditional prints. 

YEVU is an up-and-coming brand, but what are the most recent landmark progresses or developments your label’s achieved?

It’s a very new brand, which has grown very organically since it was conceived last year. The test was really YEVU’s debut pop-up store in Sydney, and considering we sold out in a couple of days, I knew I was onto a good thing. 

What do you think needs to happen before you can say “I’ve made it” – and what does ‘making it’ mean to you?

I have some big plans, but I’m holding my cards a little close to my chest at the moment. 

Can you name-drop some of the people and publications you’ve worked with or been featured in so far?

Well the biggest collaborators are the seamstresses and tailors I work with in Ghana – too many names to list there. Then there’s an amazing team of people who we shoot with in Ghana, including photographer Desire Clarke. Here in Sydney I have been lucky to have worked with a lot of talented people and featured in publications including Oyster, Zen, The Fashion Journal, Broadsheet, The Thousands and Catalogue Magazine. I’ve gotten a lot of support, which I’m very grateful for. 

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You work in fashion but how into fashion are you – scale of 10?

Honestly, about a 6. Although the end product is hugely important, from design to quality to feel, it’s the process which is driving me. Working with small businesses in Ghana in a socially responsible way is key and it gives the brand integrity. People are interested in the story of YEVU and enjoy wearing something that is ethically produced and doesn’t cost a bucket-load of money. 

In your opinion, the epitome of style is…?

Individuality, playfulness and confidence. 

Who’d you love to see wearing YEVU, if contacts were limitless and time wasn’t a factor?

My dad in an up and down tracksuit. Oh the joy of seeing that… 

You’ve had a lot of success selling through pop-up stores, but when can we expect a permanent store or e-store? (Because we are dying to own us some YEVU!)

The e store is now up and we are shipping worldwide! We will have new stock available mid year, and we are running another pop-up store in August, but the location of which is a secret!  

Are there any brands or creatives in your field that have your attention atm? And are there any African brands, designers or professionals you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

There are a few brands that are doing cool things. Osei Duro is a brand producing in Ghana which I think is awesome; Desert Designs are an Australian brand which are doing interesting things with aboriginal art and textile design; and Trine Lindegaard are doing some refreshing things with African print. Future Threads Project showcases some great, socially responsible brands. I would love to collaborate with accessories label Edward Gilbert – they produce beautifully crafted leather goods.

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You’ve just launched your latest collection – what was the direction for the lookbook?

The last lookbook (“YEVU 2.0”) was shot in Ghana in December. We shot it in Accra’s historic Jamestown, where the ethnic Ga people live and have always sustained themselves through fishing. It was a full on day – we had an amazing team to work with.

I wanted to capture the vibrancy, chaos and joy of Jamestown in the shoot, whilst not becoming irreverent to the full on history of the area. We shot in Ussher Fort (which was built by the Dutch and handed over to the various colonies over the centuries) after much negotiation with community members, and the results were amazing. 

It’s May already but what will the rest of 2014 hold for you and YEVU?

An exciting new collection, new collaborations, sustainable production  – including the training and up-skilling of those we work with in Ghana – and a pop-up store in August in a city that will be disclosed in the not too distant future…

Sounds good! Lastly, what is the most pressing item on your to-do list?

Prep for the chaos and excitement of two months of production in Ghana. 

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You can shop YEVU here or get in touch with the team via Facebook here.
Image source: Yevuclothing.com.

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