Co-founder and co-creative director of a social enterprise called Studio 189. Abrima Erwiah is a force to be reckoned with. Her Brand Studio 189 promotes African and sustainable fashion. We got to learn more about the New York native when she shared insights into her life and aspirations with us.
I was born and raised in New York City. I have a brand called Studio 189, which promotes African and sustainable fashion. I love what I do because it brings people together, and it is innovative and expressive.
I started working with luxury labels such as Bottega Veneta, Cesare Paciotti and Hermès many years ago, and ultimately decided to weave development work into it. Through her role in activism and philanthropy, actress Rosario Dawson helped me forge a path in social development work, and I eventually moved on in my career to work and partner with organisations such as the United Nations International Trade Center, Afripads, 14plus foundation, V-Day and the Lower Eastside Girls Club.
My favourite pieces of design at home include furniture that we had custom-made in Africa, such as a peacock chair and a Danish-style teak table. My favourite contemporary artists are French-Senegalese photographer Delphine Diallo, New York City-based Nigerian portrait painter Kehinde Wiley and visual artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, and US artists Kaws, Mickalene Thomas and Kerry James Marshall.
When I dress to impress, I wear a vintage navy-and-white pinstripe power suit by Yves Saint Laurent that belonged to my mother. I also love wearing my Marni dress with a Bottega Veneta coat and bag, and adding a Studio 189 silk scarf or a silk kimono.
My go-to comfort food is pasta, salad and Ghanaian light soup. My kitchen-cupboard staples are almond milk, farro, granola, yoghurt, kale, broccoli rabe, onions, tomatoes, ginger, turmeric, rocket and coriander.
My favourite restaurants are Café Mogador in New York City for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. I love their grilled salmon with beetroot and couscous. I also like Chez Clarisse, an Ivorian restaurant in Accra, that makes a grilled tilapia glazed with an Ivorian secret sauce, topped with sautéed onions and served with aloco and acheke. Then, to satisfy my love of Ghanaian dishes such as kontomire stew, boiled yams and jollof rice, I turn to God is Love Chop Bar in Takoradi, Ghana.
The one thing I always travel with is a bottle of water. A country that I will never forget is Zambia. My next dream destinations are Senegal and Morocco. If money were no object, I’d treat myself to travelling around the world with my mother. I’m reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and listening to Uproot Andy’s Bumper to Bumper mix album presented by Studio 189.
If I could change some things about Ghana, it would be healthcare, electricity and infrastructure issues and in the United States, it would be the prison, food and healthcare systems. I hate it when people are not given a fair chance to succeed. When I was younger, I used to think that I could make a big difference by helping to make the world a better place.
All I need to make me happy is home. I love being with family and friends. They are comforting and grounding. I think it’s important to know where you come from, and to surround yourself with a strong support system of people who love and understand you, no matter what. Home is a safe space and a feeling, regardless of where you are in the world. The best advice I’ve ever received is from my mom. She said that money doesn’t make you rich.