Hemma creates fresh, elegant collections using authentic hand-woven Kente, a textile rich in African royal tradition. Kente began to flourish in West Africa in the 17th century and still remains prominent representing social prestige, luxury, and cultural sophistication. Each garment is uniquely handmade from intricately hand-woven Kente imported from Ghana. By incorporating the same techniques used to dress Ghanaian nobility for centuries, Hemma allows each client to exude royalty. By investing in quality pieces that last a lifetime, the lives of Ghanaian school children are also impacted. A percentage of all proceeds will be donated to a West African middle school where the designers instructed classes.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out and About in Hemma

Don' t you love the holidays? Of course there's the recession.. but there's also family, friends, & the parties where you get to meet new people. Here are some pictures of Edna, myself, and my sister at the annual Boies, Schiller, & Flexner holiday party. Check back for more out and about pics!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why is Kente such High Quality...

History: Kente is a fabric that was created over 500 years ago as a cause of the Saharan trade routes of North Africa. Chief Akenten of Ghana traded for beautiful textiles from the East and then Kente was birthed out of the need for an African textile worthy of royalty.

How is it made: Kente is now made from cotton spools that are naturally dyed in an endless array of colors. Colors of thread are chosen by the Kente weaver and woven on a wooden loom, as was done hundreds of years ago.

What is special about these Kente technicians is that they inherit the right, as only a particular group of families in Ghana are allowed to learn this sacred skill. Watch a video of Hemma's Kente weaver doing his thing!

Each color has a specific meaning and each pattern has its own symbolism. The combination of colors and patterns tell a story. Kente, like no other fabric is rich with meaning.

6 yards of Kente takes 2-3 months to weave and the intricate patterns are all weaved by eye, which is unbelievable because there are all sorts of lines, shapes and figures that are perfectly formed without any measuring tools. To give you a sense of the time it takes to make Kente, 3 yards is approximately the amount of Kente used in 1 full suit of size 0. For all of these reasons, each Hemma garment is unique in color, pattern and there will never be 2 identical pieces. Each piece is original and of the highest quality. Only the best was made for African royalty. Kente is not only the highest quality fabric in Africa but surpasses most around the world.

Now you too can feel like greatness wearing Hemma!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beauty Tip Tuesday

Thanks for checking in for Beauty Tip Tuesday. Today's tip is all about those pimples/zits that pop up at the most random time. Rapid Clear by Neutrogena is a product that I have shared with my friends and they all have raved about it. Put it on the area after doing your normal face routine and in two days it will be gone. If you have an important event (the ideal time for an annoying bump to pop up) I would just put it on top of the area sporadically during the day between normal face washes. It really does work!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Fashion District

Edna and I have checked out the pricing in many stores in the fashion district for zippers, steamers, garment racks, everything. One place rarely disappoints us and provides lower prices. Panda International Trading Inc. almost always have the goods for less. Here are pics of Edna and I making our first purchase with our Hemma Business Cards there. Panda is located at 247 W 38th St.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanks for Your Support!

Thanks to everyone that supported us and made it to the fashion show! We really appreciated the response we received from everyone. Check back for all of the photos and videos from the show. For everyone that could not make it, check back for details on upcoming shows and events. We are now planning a photoshoot for the line. If you model or know someone that models, send their information our way!
Shoot us an email at kouture@hemmafashions.com

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Every Company Needs Investment

I think that money or the lack there of makes most people apprehensive about starting their own business. However, there are dozens of ways to get around this problem. Though its not so easy to get someone to give you large sums of money, it's more possible than people think, myself included. Cindy and I were lucky enough to find a couple who believed in our idea and in Hemma's potential and chose to invest in our company! Best of all, they not only invested monetarily but are investing time, resources, ideas etc. This brings me to a very important point, Once you do have investors or know potential investors, you should ask your self :
  • Do I get along with them as people? (You will most likely be spending large amounts of time sharing and communicating with them)
  • Do they share my motivation and drive to make the business a success?
  • What are you looking for in an investor?
  • What do they want out of the deal?
  • Do you trust them?
Its very important to find a good fit between you and your investor because hopefully they will be someone who shares more than just money with you (ie: information, knowledge, experience). Cindy and I thought about these questions and what was important to us, before we even found investors so that when we did, we were prepared! Prepare for opportunities, so that when they appear, your ready! Its more than just being at the right place at the right time. What we did when searching for investors:
  1. INTERNET RESEARCH: We searched for grants in all fields we thought would apply. Who would give you money? Be very inclusive and search broadly at first not only specific to your industry but specific to who you are (ie: student, woman, person of color; were just a few of the criteria we looked into).
  2. YOUR FAMILY: The closest people to you, who would probably be very supportive of you doing such a courageous thing like starting your own business. Ask them for money: parents, granny's, aunts, uncles.
  3. USE YOUR NETWORK: Whether you are a student, employee, parent etc, use yoru network of people. They may be potential investors themselves or more likely than that is that they will know someone who would be interested in investing. Tell as many people you can about your business! You have to basically become your company, its biggest fan and cheerleader. The more people you tell, the more people will hear about your company and possibly want to contribute. That is pretty much how we met our investors.
  4. READ as much as you can about business related issues, including tips on effective ways to get investment for your specific industry. One publication I would recommend is Inc. Magazine, read the magazine or articles online, its great for the new business owner! I also recommend SBA another organization that helps small businesses with a wide range of services from loans to counseling.
  5. YOURSELF: Cindy and I invested our own capital at Hemma's inception and we did so willingly because we both really believed that we would see a return. We had both just graduated college when we decided to start Hemma, so we were not at all financially established, but that goes to show that you do not necessarily need large sums at the inception of your company.
  • Learn how to write a business plan by internet/book research and by looking at templates online or from friends
  • Be very detailed when writing
  • It's OK to not have all the answers about your business at the very beginning of writing your plan, the more you research, the clearer they may become
  • Make the cover and writing style within very professional and concise
  • A business plan is your way to convince someone that you have a great product, service or idea so treat it as such!
So now your ready to move your business to the next level. Good luck!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Last Day in Ghana!!!

My last day in Ghana was great. It started at Kokrobite beach where I hung out with some friends I met from Ashesi University last year. A man with a horse came by and we each ended up taking a ride on the horse. Then some local fisherman offered to catch us lobster (only about .80 each!!) which ended up being our lunch. It was a perfect ending to the trip. I had my last meeting with Richmond our Operations Manager in Ghana and the leading tailor which went extremely well. All of the garments came out great and I couldn't ask for a better trip. And then there was packing and my last outing at Rhapsody lounge at the Accra Mall.
I was so nervous when I flew in and was worried about setting up everything for Hemma's operations abroad. I couldn't have asked for better trip and I am so excited to show everyone the products of our hard work!

The Hemma Team - Richie Rich

Richie Rich (his nickname for himself), is our operations manager. He is great at getting any job done, and I am so excited that he is on the Hemma team. He graduated from the University of Ghana in May 2007 and was a senior there when Edna and I studied abroad.
We all took a trip to Kumasi that year and he helped us buy our first bundles of kente. I just came from Tokaradi, Ghana where he lives and teaches in a middle school from Monday - Wednesday and got to meet his students and faculty members. We had several meetings with the tailors together and I am so happy that it is all working out!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beads & Stones

Every Thursday in Koforidua (about 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Accra) there's this bead market that everyone flocks to for the best prices. I found out about it during my NYU in Ghana semester. I took a History of African Art course and the whole class took a trip there with one of my favorite Ghanaian professors we called Uncle Joe. Vendors come from all over with beads from Ghana, Kenya, Congo, basically everywhere in Africa. Here are some stones found underwater in Ghana that may be used for the upcoming Hemma jewelry line.


I wonder if Jay knows he is the poster boy for this local photo shop....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama Fever

They love him out here; I mean there's a freakin Ghanaian song dedicated to him! Why do they love Obama so much, well according to Ghanaian news its partly because his father is of African descent and they see his accomplishments as inspiration. Many Ghanians are also hoping for an alteration of U.S. African policies leading to a trickling down of benefits for African countries. Everyday I either see people wearing Obama t-shirts, a Ghanaian biography book of Obama being sold on the streets, or even the Obama poster. I mean, I woke up Thursday morning in Kumasi and the first thing I heard was the screaming of his name from outside!

Barack Obama (Crunk Mix) - Blakk Rasta (Ghana)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh Kumasi!

So I am on my way to purchase the fabric for the line at the kente village in Kumasi, assuming everything will go according to plan....which most likely doesn’t happen in Ghana! Of course the bus breaks down only a quarter of the way there! So we were stuck waiting for a new bus to arrive from Accra for 4 hours!! I made friends with two elderly men, one who was on the way to see his 107 year old mom! He takes the trip every month and cherishes each one as he knows she will not be with him for much longer. So I finally made it to Kumasi with a grand total of 8.5 hours on the bus and ended up sleeping there and buying the kente a day later than planned. I spent the whole day in the kente village going from vendor to vendor trying to purchase enough for the initial line. Since the road was so dusty on the way there and we were out in the sun all day the only thing I wanted to do when I got back home was take a shower! When I arrived back to Accra by 11:30pm I turned on the shower and nothing came out! No water..damn...guess there’s always tomorrow....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reason 237 of Why I Love Ghana

So I was very nervous about going to Ghana without Edna, I mean we had such a great time studying abroad there and I couldn't believe that I was traveling back for Hemma by myself! But during the flight I remembered another reason why I loved Ghana: Ghanaians are so welcoming! This is how I managed to get a new boyfriend and be the bottle opener official all in the 9 hour flight to Ghana. So, theres this cute 3 year old boy sitting in front of me who manages to waddle his way over to my seat. As always, babies are just attracted to me! By the end of the flight, everyone was referring to me as his new girlfriend! By dinner time the flight attendants were serving wine. There were older women around me and somehow I became the official wine bottle opener for those 55+ women who wanted to get their drink on. Although I was on the flight alone, I felt right at home!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keep on Keepin on...

Cindy just left to Ghana! Production of Hemma has officially begun. There she is ready for lift off! However, nothing is ever as smooth as it seems...but I'm realizing more and more that whatever can go wrong probably will and your job as the owner of a business is to suck it up and make it seem seamless. A small example: Cindy calls me understandably freaking out because the Airline she's flying want to charge her $600 in over-weight fees for her luggage. Luggage that is carrying raw materials for Hemma! A huge expense we didn't expect on having and like for any small business, funds have to be allocated very carefully. Some how she got the rep to go down by almost half...which leads me to believe that he was just trying to hustle us! Another trap expecially for small businesses to look out for. So she had to use her Ghana spending money and I had to Western Union her more money later that day. I was ill prepared for what happened next...I couldn't log into Cindy's account online because the password wasn't working, so I made my own account. We all know how long registering for a site takes, so you can understand how frustrated I was when the transaction didn't go through. Then I called customer service-- the most incompetent people I have ever spoken to! I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a rep trying to do an over the phone transaction, only to find out after all that that he could not put my transaction through, wtf I thought to myself! Then I got dressed and went to my bank in order to send Cindy $ from a physical Western Union. When I get to my bank, a withdrawal had been made from my account in the same amount that I was trying to send to Ghana! (even tho my transaction had failed and was canceled) So this lead to 3 more hours on the phone, back and forth between my bank and W.U. No Help! Which reminds me, always get the name of any rep you speak to over the phone from any company. After all this time, the conclusion they give me is that I have to wait until Tuesday and see if they money has been returned to my bank account. So I spent 4 hrs on a Saturday night on the phone with reps only to have nothing taken care of and $500 poorer (at least temporarily, I hope). In the end I had to borrow money from my boyfriend to send to Cindy until my situation clears up. So the moral of the story is, no matter how frustrated you are, remember that its all part of earning your stripes as a business owner and no matter how prepared you think you are, the unexpected ALWAYS arises! Enjoy the struggle and keep moving forward because there's always tomorrow...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghana Flashback: Lets Get Crunk!

I know the term is very outdated, but this is a Ghana Flashback. Edna and I studied hard even while studying abroad. It seemed at times we were the only ones in the program who actually did work! Every weekend we were determined to have fun. Baze was one of our favorite local spots. Somehow we would end up there every weekend with our friends from Ashesi University. One of our close friends always used the term crunk and it just became part of our normal vocabulary. When we came back, we were forced to reject it from our speech, but I still have fond memories of it nonetheless!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Countdown to Ghana!

So the countdown has begun! In 4 days I will be in Ghana, West Africa to complete our initial line! This whole week has been so surreal for me. Edna and I have been planning for this trip for so long and it is finally happening. We were just talking about how it just recently hit us that everything we have worked so hard for is finally materializing in front of our eyes. I am very excited, but nervous at the same time, there is so much riding on this trip! So what am I doing now to cope? I'm at work working my butt off.....on Hemma, of course!

Edna: Doin My Thing

I've been interested in fashion since I could remember and from the pic you can tell that it all started with my mom. She is an artist in her own right and not only did she do all of our interior decorating but made me clothes and Halloween costumes. My father also an artist in his own career, you'd never find a sexier car but one that he'd painted, truly a skill. So art has always been in my blood and from a young age I've been in art programs and learned how to sew. If you know me, you know that sewing is the only "home-making" type thing I have any idea about! It goes without saying that I eat out a lot, lol.

As I got older, the fashion industry just seemed more unreachable. It's a tough industry to not only break into but be big in, there's so much competition. But I never let go of my passion and followed that interest by making clothes for myself, taking classes at FIT and modeling at dozens of fashion shows. This pic to the left is a show I did for 1Soul designs, a great company run by great guys who are very dedicated to community change through fashion!

By exploring different sides of fashion, I've gained a great view into the fashion industry and the business of it all- the good and the bad. (That's a whole other post in itself)

Like everybody, we're multi-dimensional and have several interests (hopefully). So I explored a lot of different fields and still was at a loss in college. What was I gonna do with me life!?

I got so frustrated with this question that I just stopped worrying about it and started just living my life. I decided, thinking it to death wasn't getting me anywhere. So I did the opposite, I decided to explore life and see where that took me. How'd I do that...I just left. I left the country through NYU's study abroad program. I went to London for my first semester of my junior year and then went to Ghana in the Spring.

One thing I did always maintain tho was my unbelievably optimistic state of mind and I suggest that people start making that change in them, because that's one of the things that has helped bring me so much success. Everbody explores through different ways, mine was traveling...take the risk to find your way!

Hemma blossomed out of my exploring life and taking a chance to live in Africa. If you too are interested in attaining a high level of performance in any field whether fashion or not, this post might help. It has great tips to live by!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our Commitment

While studying abroad in Ghana, Edna and I both volunteered as teachers at La Yahoushua Junior Secondary School. While I taught math, Edna was a biology teacher. Before this, I was a teacher's assistant in NYC and for some reason, brought with me the assumption that the experience would be similar. The only thing that was similar was the usual class disruptions due to some students cracking jokes. Other than that, it took me a while to get used to being called madam and children running to the front of the classroom to assist me if I dropped something by mistake. They were so polite!!! Edna and I also were advisors for the after-school photoclub but only another couple of entries can properly describe the crazy wonderful experiences we had during field trips and club meetings after school. We learned so much from these children and they really helped us in discovering what Ghana was really about. We never wanted to leave those experiences behind, and through hemma, we won't. A percentage of all proceeds will be donated to the Ghanaian school system.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Origins

The idea for hemma came about when we studied abroad in Ghana. We were there during the our junior year in the Spring of 07. This was a major turning point in both of our lives because we were able to become so detached from our lives in New York and fully immerse ourselves in the Ghanaian lifestyle. We were both worried when we first got there and weren't sure if we could last an entire semester. But by the time we left, we cried our eyes out because we didn't want to leave Ghana behind. Through hemma we've found a way to bring some of Ghana back with us and share it with New York. We fell into the idea of creating a clothing line, it started off unintentionally. While in Ghana we loved the wide array of West African fabrics and garment designs, so we started designing clothes for ourselves. Between Cindy and I we made dozens of pieces, including garments made out of Kente fabric. Everyone in Ghana and the NYU program loved it. When we came back to NY we got the same reception. A lightbulb clicked for us. We decided that we wanted to share the clothing that we loved so much by starting hemma.