Design and Dialogue

Studio 189 was founded in 2013 by Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson after a trip to Congo. While there they visited the City of Joy, a leadership community for female survivors of sexual violence. This, says Erwiah, “was the beginning of this journey, and it’s about turning pain into power and turning ourselves towards our joy.”

Heritage is the theme explored in the latest collection. One of the ways it is expressed is through the use of Kente, the national cloth of Ghana, that is associated with royalty and has tradition and symbols literally woven into it. This season’s direct references to African clothing and textile traditions make clear that this brand doesn’t cater to Western taste. “It’s about standing in your power,” says Erwiah, who adds that she’s noticed a change among consumers (and buyers), who are becoming less afraid of prints and patterns. These days, she says, people want “more human things, but also more joyful things, more colorful things,” and points to a long skirt with rainbow-colored tiers in the current collection as an example.

One of Studio 189’s missions is to be a bridge between the United States and Africa. On Inauguration day that span extended all the way to the White House: #RosarioDawson and Senator #CoryBooker attended the ceremony wearing matching Studio 189 masks. Laird Borrelli-Persson for Vogue