African Style Isn’t All About Prints for This Fashion-Forward Ghana Curator

Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Armah

When scrolling through Lucy Adjoa Armah’s Instagram, the 28-year-old design anthropologist’s vibrant style may not immediately pop out at you. Rather than a selection of well-curated selfies or the #OOTD posts, you’ll find something more akin to a mood board. Posts after posts display a pastiche of the Accra-born, London-raised curator’s interests: African visuals, Bollywood film stills, Issey Miyake ads, and even throwback images of Lil’ Kim. Together they tell a cohesive story about Armah’s approach to dress and the research project she’ll be tackling this upcoming fall at the Royal College of Art.

A former fashion designer, Armah is inspired by her Ghanaian culture and lets its fastidious attention to detail guide her approach to dressing for the everyday. Which is to say, rather than leaning on wax prints, Armah is more focused on quality and investing in powerhouse pieces. Leaning on the sculptural and conceptual designs of Pleats Please and Yohji Yamamoto, it’s clear that Armah places the same thoughtful eye on her closet as she does her work.

Here, she breaks down how she imbues her self-described “African-ness” into her wardrobe, why she goes to great lengths to make a statement, and where to source fashion in Accra.

Ghanaian Style Is All About Making an Effort
“I was born in Ghana and moved to London when I was 8 after briefly living in Lagos. I visited Ghana at 12 for a few weeks but apart from that, I didn’t really go back until I was 26. In that time, what I always carried with me from my memories of Ghana was the importance of not being afraid to make an effort. My earliest memory of London was my first church service. I was absolutely baffled by the fact that people in England went to church in jeans. In London, and places like New York and Paris, there is sometimes ambivalence around being seen to have made too much effort. There is a fear of being overdressed, which is absolutely not the case in Ghana. I’ve never conflated making an effort with trying too hard. It’s accepted that elegance is something that you cultivate and work at, and I really love that about the Ghanaian approach to dressing.”

African Style Is in the Details, Not Always the Prints
“I don’t necessary wear wax cloth or Kente print fabric, which would be the obvious reference—my influences are far more philosophical. Having a very fast-paced life in London requires me to dress practically. Ghana influences my style in the way it feeds into my approach to shopping. I am extremely particular about what I buy, so my effort is channeled into what and how I shop, rather than my day-to-day routine. I don’t have a bigger wardrobe than most people, but I’d like to think my wardrobe is very well curated. I genuinely don’t buy anything that I don’t think is special. As a result, I rarely spend more than 10 minutes getting ready. I know that I can pick anything from my wardrobe, put it on, and it will have been considered.”

Fashion Meets the Arts
“I worked as a stylist assistant before going on to art school, transferring to fashion school to finish my undergraduate degree, then working as a fashion designer for a couple of years before beginning a design anthropology and material culture master’s. I’m going to begin a curating contemporary art Ph.D. at the Royal College of Art in the fall, using the archive of Ghanaian photographic negatives I have been collecting for the last couple of years as a catalyst for my research.”

The Universal Influence of Fashion
“Professionally and personally my focus is Ghana, but what actually defines my taste is an obsession with artisanship and style in the global south. I love the textures, the colors, the prints, the jewelry, the shapes, the different ways of wearing clothes. I love that moment when you see a visual connection in the style of two places that on the surface have nothing in common. I love the universality of it. I also really like being able to look at something traditional and seeing a little glimmer of the avant-garde and experimental.”

A Stylish Trip Back in Time
“There are so many times, people, and places that inspire me, whether in design, style, music, or politics. If I had to pick one, I’d say it would have been great to be 18 in 1970 in Harlem. You basically had it all in New York at the time. It would have been amazing to live your late teens and early 20s seeing the birth of hip-hop, watching disco become mainstream, seeing punk develop. There would be the best clothes, best music, best parties. It would have been a fantastic vibe to experience such vibrant subcultures rub up against each other.”

Fashion Is All About the Imagination
“There is a great quote by Christian Dior where he says, ‘Respecting tradition and being audacious must always go hand in hand.’ That sums up my style pretty neatly. I am obsessed with traditional textiles craft from all over the world, and I buy a lot of vintage traditional pieces. However, I don’t think that clothes should be looked at and not worn. I wear everything I buy and mix things together. As far as ‘fashion,’ I love a lot of Japanese design: Issey Miyake, Comme des Garçons, and Yohji Yamamoto pretty much nail the respect for tradition while always innovating and risk-taking. I used to work in the Pleats Please boutique as a student, so this forms a lot of my wardrobe. Those are great, practical pieces that are not boring. Finally, the ’70s is my favorite decade, so I am drawn to pieces that tap into this era. A typical outfit for me is a combination of at least two of these influences, if not all three.”

Take Color Risks
“I don’t have a particular philosophy in dealing with color—it just doesn’t frighten me. I do not mind being uncool and matching my shoes to my bag. I’m also more than happy to clash colors. I have definitely left the house in every color-pairing no-no you can imagine.”

Everyday Style in Ghana Is Tailor-Made
“When I’m in Ghana, the way I engage with style is more through artisans than fashion designers. Of course, there are some great designers in Ghana, but the culture of ordinary people having clothes made for them as a matter or routine excites me. The first thing anyone should do when they go to Ghana is get some recommendations for a great tailor and have some pieces made.”

Source: Vogue