Date
20 September 2021
Reading Time
7 minute read
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Fashion graduate Franco-Appiah Baah showcases the power of clothing to present personality

Studying fashion in secret from his family, Franco-Appiah’s graduate collection fuses his heritage with gender fluidity.

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Date
20 September 2021
Reading Time
7 minute read

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Franco-Appiah Baah’s mum only recently found out that her son had been studying fashion – when she read about one of his shows in the newspaper. Franco-Appiah always knew he wanted to study fashion, or at least something in the creative world, “but since my family wanted me to follow another path I sneaked away” at first studying graphic design. Moving to Liverpool to study a BTEC in fashion (still with his mother none the wiser) a tutor was “always talking about UAL,” Franco recalls having graduated from London College of Fashion, and “how it was one of the best universities in the world, how hard it is to get in, and how one of their best students had made it in,” he says. “That honestly gave me the determination to try and make it happen.”

While growing up, Franco-Appiah’s love for fashion began; “It all started in Italy,” he says. But the inspiration behind his most recent collection came out of the experience of moving to Ghana at the age of two. There he stayed with close family until the age of ten. In the following interview, he speaks of days running in and out of his grandparents’ closets playing dress up with his cousins. Through these formative experiences, he learnt about the freedom of fashion where personas can be created purely from imagination and crucially without judgement. In this way, Franco-Appiah’s practice combines heritage and gender fluidity, primarily culminating in his graduate collection, Still a Man in My Mother’s Closet.

Now living in London post graduation, this young designer full of promise showcases how clothing can not only inform but free the personality of those who wear his clothes.

GalleryFranco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

It’s Nice That: Your recent collection is described as being inspired by childhood memories of growing up in Ghana, playing in the closets of your mother and grandmother with family. Can you tell us a little more about specific memories you have from this time?

Franco-Appiah Baah: Playing in my aunt’s (a second mum to me) and my grandparent’s wardrobe are the most vivid memories I have from my childhood. I remember going in the closet with some of my cousins, dressing up from head to toe and acting like our relatives when they were in church or parties. At that time we did not think about gender, we were just having fun, dressing up and not caring about what was going on.

This is a feeling that sits deep down in my heart, especially when I was alone. I thought how cool it would be if people could dress how they wanted without judging them, that’s when I decided I wanted to be in the fashion industry.

INT: Why did these memories become the base for building a collection? Why did they stand out?

FAB: The fact I really enjoyed dressing up and having fun with my cousins, without thinking what we were doing was wrong or inappropriate, is the same feeling I would love to bring to fashion. For it to be a place where you don’t need to think if you’re wearing a “women’s” top, for example. I feel a freedom of expression, especially in “cis men’s” fashion which is not that advanced I feel. And, there are so many men who would like to be open, but they don’t know we’re to start.

Above

Franco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

GalleryFranco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

“With this collection I want to take you back into my imagination during those days in Ghana where I did not know what gender was. I want to give you the essence of what my Ghana was, where I was happy with very simple things but today they are considered very rich and valuable in the world of fashion.”

Franco-Appiah Baah

INT: The title of your collection, Still a Man in My Mother’s Closet, is also such a beautiful sentiment. Can you explain how this title came about and why it feels like it encapsulates the work you’ve created?

FAB: The title developed from a talk I had with my mum. She and others question my gender by the way I dress because I like experimenting with different types of clothing, while still being conservative since I come from a very strong religious background and there are some clothes men are not recommended to wear. During our conversation I told her that I am still a man, no matter what I wear or do, and then I explained how I used to try on her clothes etc. It helped me to get to know myself more, and that's how I got the title for my collection.

INT: Can you tell us about the techniques you’ve used to create this collection?

FAB: I asked my aunt and mum to send me photographs they took in Ghana from when I was a kid, since it is hard for me to remember all the fabric details, embroidery and shape of the garments. I then focused on the silhouettes, colour coordination, fabrics and details rather than prints or creating something over the top, since I wanted to focus more on delivering a message. With this collection I want to take you back into my imagination during those days in Ghana where I did not know what gender was. I want to give you the essence of what my Ghana was, where I was happy with very simple things but today they are considered very rich and valuable in the world of fashion.

It’s also been very challenging to try to create a collection in a pandemic where universities and shops were closed. It was hard, but I got there by organising my time. I had a piece of paper on my wardrobe reminding me what to do and how much time I had to finish a shirt or trouser. My communication has very much improved with production since it was impossible to see them in person and explain what I needed. And bless my aunt Abi in Ghana who really helped me get my accessories and beads shipped here.

GalleryFranco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

GalleryFranco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

GalleryFranco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

“I want men to be free to express themselves because it will cause them no harm to do so.”

Franco-Appiah Baah

INT: Have your other collections carried a personal theme? It would be great to hear more about your earlier work too!

FAB: I think so. I like to take something small from my personal life and add it to something random I find in a book. I then research until I develop a solid story before I begin to work on it. My previous work is about recycling clothes from the army and I am now trying to find something personal to go alongside this. It’s going to be a sensitive story, so I’ll need to be careful – that’s why it’s taken me time to get to this point.

INT: If you had to pick a favourite project, which one are you most proud of and why?

FAB: Definitely my final collection. It represents my little voice in the world of fashion. I want to prove that dressing up is fun and shouldn’t define who you are or what you like. I want men to be free to express themselves because it will cause them no harm to do so.

INT: We’d love to hear more about The London Seven collective you are part of. How did the collective form and what are the ways it supports your practice?

FAB: The London Seven was formed as a response to our university not being able to provide us with a physical showcase due to Covid-19 restrictions. While they did offer us an alternative digital showcase, we wanted to create something we could have more control over. As of now, The London Seven is primarily led by myself and creatives Hunter McFarlane and Coraly Lanqué. We hope to welcome more participants in our collective to build a diverse community of young designers who challenge and change the way fashion has been done.

Above

Franco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

Above

Franco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

The images of Franco’s collection, Still A Man In My Mother’s Closet shown in this article are styled by Seyon Amosu and photographed by Iliana Kanellopoulou, with hair styling by Jaz Hope and make-up by Aimee Louise Twist.

The Next Generation 2021 continued!

Meet 19 more creatives you should keep an eye on this year!

Check them out!

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Franco-Appiah Baah: Still A Man In My Mother's Closet (Copyright © Franco-Appiah Baah, 2021)

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

lb@itsnicethat.com

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