In many ways, Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka are not your normal, average, everyday mother-daughter duo. Outside of their breakout label, House of Aama, the two have well-decorated backgrounds of their own. At 53, Henry works as an established attorney by day and designer by night, while Shabaka, 23, has modeled for everyone from Gucci to Savage X Fenty. And yet: "We're just like any other mother and daughter," laughs Henry when interviewed by The Zoe Report. "We agree and we disagree. One day we're getting along great, the next day we're fighting like cats and dogs. We're just gonna be honest about it!"
Together, the two launched their 100% self-funded, women-owned label in 2017, all through the process of uncovering their family lineage. With designs inspired by their ancestors, the two share their heritage with the world – and encourage others to do the same.
"We both have such an interest in our family history, and that's kind of something that my mother impressed upon me growing up," shares Shabaka, who received her degree in Strategic Design and Business Management at Parsons in New York. "When we come together to explore these narratives, [we] dig deeper into why we are who we are from understanding our family dynamics. It's almost like an ode to our family, and it brings my mother and I closer, because we're constantly unpacking ourselves through all of this."
To unearth the folkways of their ancestors, Henry and Shabaka conduct a wealth of archival analysis and historical research. This creative process informed the widely-popular 'Bloodroot' collection, which was inspired by the spirituality and Creolism of Henry's maternal line. "We really see ourselves as storytellers, as folklorists, that are using the medium of clothes, fabric, and apparel, to tell stories." Therein, for all House of Aama designs, the narratives come first and the garments follow.
Through empowering brand fans to explore their own lineage, House Of Aama has forged an online community of storytellers and folklorists. Once or twice a month, House of Aama spotlights 100-plus year-old tales from their network, sharing archival images and narratives on its Instagram stories. "We've been using these to break our consumer into how we come up with concepts, and just bring them more into our world," says Shabaka. These remain on view constantly through their live-in "Folk" highlight.
As for what's next for the American Southern and Diasporan heritage brand, the two founders are looking to bring some of these stories from their community into their designs, as well. There's also plans to expand their made-to-order, direct-to-consumer business model, so that they can grow their market share and customer acquisition. This could involve some new stockists for the brand. "I told my daughter earlier this year when COVID-19 hit, 'There's gonna be some opportunities that present themselves, and we're going to have to buckle down and keep moving our brand forward, so that we're ready to seize them'," says Henry. "So thats what we're doing. We're just continuing to work and move our brand forward."
With regard to its hotly-anticipated next drop, shoppers can expect some new silhouettes towards the end of 2020 — though a specific date is to be decided upon. For now, Henry says, one thing is certain: "We really want to continue to work together and put this narrative out there," she says. "There is something special with mothers and daughters — when we combine those two forces, there's just nothing that we can't do."
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