SUBWAESTUDIOS’ Ode To Accra & Farewell To 2021

A look into SUBWAESTUDIOS and Spatial 3Concept’s Debut Immersive Art Installation and Rave

Interview: Koura-Rosy Kane

Editor: Marnie Guglielmi-Vitullo

Images/Photos Courtesy Of: Subweastudios

Generating spaces for creative Ghanaians to come together and connect with one another is at the forefront of Christopher Akpo’s vision for SUBWAESTUDIOS. Lead by his love for spatial design, architecture, and minimalist aesthetics, SUBWAESTUDIOS proposes new ways to experiment with temporal spaces.

Christopher Akpo, creative director and founder of the RTW label, SUBWAESTUDIOS, and event promotion company, Spatial 3Concepts took some time to speak with Fertilizer about his debut art installation and rave event, SUBWAE Installation & Rave Party Volume. 1. The two-part event, organized under both SUBWAESTUDIOS and Spatial 3Concepts, will take place on December 22, 2021, in Accra, Ghana.

Just a few hours before opening the doors to the public, Akpo gave Fertilizer exclusive access to the art installation that he calls Volume 1—the first of many to come. His Team, mainly composed of close friends, spent the entire night piecing together what seemed to be an ode to Accra’s emerging creative scene. From a video shared by Akpo to our internal team, we could see a few young men hard at work—some taping aluminum tapestry to the walls of the space while others played with studio equipment gears, all as Don Toliver’s verse on Can’t Say roared in the background. We watched as the new temporal space was being built up, right before our eyes. A few hours later, we received exclusive access to the final installation.

You state that, “SUBWAESTUDIOS means STORYTELLING UNISEX BRAND WITH AESTHETIC EVOLUTION, and that the brand’s inspiration is driven by landscape, art, architecture, and minimalism to define its silhouettes.” Can you elaborate more on your vision for the label? 

SUBWAE is an abbreviation of STORYTELLING UNISEX BRAND WITH AESTHETIC EVOLUTION. I started my brand based on my life experiences, the place I grew up, schooling at a young age, the people around me (landscape), buildings, etc. Every collection I’ve worked on so far consists of reconstructing garments with the idea of giving new life to old clothes while also using the little available raw materials, like deadstock fabrics and accessories, to make clothes because we don’t have access to everything in this part of the world.

I want to use all these mentioned above to reinterpret the way of looking into fashion as a whole. I want to build a community or environment with all these garments to live in. Clothes can’t just exist alone, they will need a space to survive or live in, this is what I’m trying to create for both temporary and permanent spaces of the brand through Spatial 3concept (which is a brand under SUBWAE). 

You started your brand in 2018 with an upcycled capsule collection, sourced mainly from vintage t-shirts and denim. How has the label evolved since then?

Yes. I started by sourcing old blanks (shirts and denims) from the market, some were torn and worn out. After sourcing, I reconstruct them into my signature style with labels and prints. For the last three collections I produced, I’ve included upcycled work. The market is full of old clothes which people consider as garbage while it can still live for years.

“My job is to establish or re-establish information that people don’t really know exists.” Can you delve deeper into this statement?

This simply means storytelling, by ‘unformalizing’ what is known as formal in our community. To me there are no rules in the [fashion] industry, whatever you create should just have a positive change agenda. 

The Ghanaian creative community is doing enormously well and I’m proud to witness and be part of it. It’s exciting times right now and everyone is just trying to create.

Your upcoming art installation, SUBWAE Installation & Rave Party Volume, 1 aims to experiment with a temporal space through a minimalist aesthetic, love for spatial design, and architecture. What is the goal behind your upcoming project?

This first fashion installation is going to be a stepping stone for the brand’s vision, a little dive into the SUBWAESTUDIOS spatial world, and how we want our garments to look in our spaces. I am talking about upcycling in Accra. The installation is going to experiment with how clothes are treated in our secondhand markets in Accra and the concept of imperfection.

Following the installation, a rave party will be organized to enable the community to share and interact. Why is the concept of gathering the creative community important for SUBWAESTUDIOS?

I feel like we need more events like parties, workshops, talks, etc to bring our community of creatives together. Everyone has been doing things with their small teams for a long time. We all need to connect across industries like music, art, photography, film, fashion, architecture, etc. To do that, we’ll be collaborating among DJ sets with local and diaspora friends, and music performances by a few artists. It’s a collaborative process as a whole. We need that power of togetherness as black creatives.

Speaking of the creative community, Accra has been an important hub for the West African creative fields. How do you experience this dynamic? and what are your hopes for the future of the Ghanaian creative community? 

Finally, how would you describe being a creative and designer in Accra? What do you think is your role in this whole dynamic?

As a creative in Accra, I have so many roles to play and one of these is to make sure We create our own doors and open them for the younger ages. We see ourselves as we need to be seen, before we are classified as “top”, we can build our own “top”. That is the point!

June 7, 2023