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Crybaby An interview with Akua Shabaka

Jan. 3, 2018
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First discovered by the modeling world at AfroPunk 2016, Akua has now modeled for huge designers like Gucci and magazines like Vogue—but her true passion lies in fashion design.  Although she is studying what she calls “the least artistic major at Parsons,” she is currently working towards releasing an entire lookbook for her clothing brand, House of Aama.

House of Aama’s designs are inspired by Akua’s experiences as a black woman with hints of the Postbellum South.

When did you start House of Aama?

I started House of Aama with my mother in 2014. I was 15, in the 10th grade. 

What inspired you to start designing clothing?

Honestly, when I first started House of Aama it sprung from my love of unique pieces and upcycled vintage clothes. I would make clothes and redesign vintage clothes and post them on Instagram. I started to get a lot of interest and opened an Etsy shop. In 2015 we launched our youth collection, Urban Nomad, inspired by West African fabrics/motifs and urban designs. Now we’ve rebranded, bringing you House of Aama AW17: Bloodroot.

What is the partnership like with your mom like?

My mother and I have always been close and shared many artistic interests including fashion design and culture. Although my mother is 30 years older than me, I feel it compliments our design. 

How did you start modeling?

I didn’t begin really modeling until the summer of 2016. I’ve always been stopped and featured on publications for street style, but the summer of 2016 is when I started to get contacted by casting agencies and working with various photographers. 

Was AfroPunk 2016 a big moment for you?

I honestly feel it was. On one side, it was a precursor to the display of my new collection, as we vended Afropunk that year, and also because through Afropunk I was featured on Vogue Magazine and picked up by a lot of casting agencies that later led me to different publications and campaigns, including the Valentino Eye Wear ad, Mastermind Magazine, and the Gucci Pre-Fall campaign.

What was leaving the US for the first time like?

To say the least, it was amazing! I mean, who wouldn’t want to leave the country their first time to be a model for Gucci in London?

What did you do for the Gucci campaign?

I was cast as a model, and we did a lot of dancing.  

Do you have a favorite part about modeling? 

I enjoy the traveling part a lot.  So far I’ve been able to go to London and Berlin just off the grace of my Instagram and pictures—I’m not signed.

What is your current House of Aama line influenced by?

Blood root is a rare herb used by old-time conjurers and root workers as a powerful guardian for the family. House of Aama AW17 Bloodroot is an ode to Southern Creole spirituality and African Roots: hidden in plain sight. These are the tales of a rootworker, Southern lady and bluesman in the Postbellum South.

Where do you want House of Aama to be in the future?

I see House of Aama being a boutique based brand that is in high demand for publications and film. I see House of Aama venturing into other artistic mediums to tell our story, whether it’s clothing, film, art, etc. 

Are you working on anything currently?

I’m currently working on the launch and campaign for House of Aama Bloodroot, and as far as modeling, the campaign I shot in Berlin in July is releasing in the fall.