House of Aama’s mother-daughter duo Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka describe their vision as “folkways, Black experience, timeless garments.” Their collections merge spirituality, craft, and pragmatism with signatures ranging from corduroy suits to soft pussy-bow blouses and Victorian dresses. But Henry and Shabaka aren’t just in it for the clothes; they’re as passionate about storytelling and sharing knowledge, particularly about the lesser-known histories of Black people in America. In 2017, they designed a collection in homage to Creole spirituality, largely influenced by Henry’s upbringing in Louisiana, and for their first official New York Fashion Week show, they recalled the beach towns that African Americans established in the early 1900s. Built along Midwest lakes and California coasts, the resorts were a joyful respite at a time when most beaches were not yet desegregated. In the fittingly tropical, low-key atmosphere of the Freehand Hotel, Henry and Shabaka’s spring-summer 2022 show nodded to that era with circle skirts, crochet tanks, scarf prints, and beachy stripes, with a retro playlist to match. The duo recut their halter dress in luminous charmeuse and their unisex jumpsuits got a nautical twist with sailor buttons and rope belts. Faded sweatshirts, silk shirts, and a “tattoo” mesh were printed with hand-illustrated ships and anchors as well as African deities and scenes from “Camp Aama,” the fictional resort Henry and Shabaka dreamed up as they designed. Henry proudly pointed out that the tattoo motif, along with every other print, fabric, and illustration, was custom-developed by their team in Los Angeles. It’s a significant point of difference for their brand; in 2021, it’s much more common for a young designer to purchase pre-made textiles. By creating everything from scratch, Henry and Shabaka guarantee a more personal, idiosyncratic touch in a market where so many collections look signature.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.