Meet EXIT 14, the talented designer trio based in Ghana.
To celebrate Afro street style. I decided to interview Exit 14, to know more about their work, inspiration and future plans .
Please introduce yourselves?
Exit 14 was co-founded by a mother-daughter trio: Delphine Brew-Hammond, Essie Brew-Hammond, and Nana Brew-Hammond. As the Chief Production Officer for Exit 14, Delphine manages all logistics of making our garments from sourcing fabrics to hiring tailors. Essie Brew-Hammond is the Chief Creative Officer, developing the overall look and feel of our brand. Nana Brew-Hammond handles the marketing and PR as the Chief Marketing Officer, focusing on consumer outreach and press placements.
All three of us collaborate on creating and developing designs. Delphine’s aesthetic tends toward playful silhouettes and fabric blocking. She loves a swing shape and putting unexpected fabric combinations together. Essie is all about luxe fabrics, sharp tailoring, and clean lines. Nana gravitates toward “loud” prints in equally vocal silhouettes and statement details.
Tell us about Exit 14, how did the name come about?
Driving to pick up school supplies for their brother in university, Essie and Nana were directed to get off at Exit 14. The distance between Exit 13 and 14 seemed so long, they lost confidence and turned back. Upon asking a helpful local to confirm their directions, they learned they had been minutes away from Exit 14 when they turned around. Since then, “Exit 14” became their shorthand reminder to stay the course, no matter how long or difficult the journey.
What set your designs apart from other designers?
All Exit 14 coats are limited edition. The fabrics we choose are usually exclusive to us or available in very small quantities. The silhouettes are original. We love a good shape mash-up whether it be a coat cum cape or a cape cum wrap. And we incorporate traditional techniques in unexpected ways.
What do you wish your designs should convey? a story, heritage?
We want Exit 14 designs to reflect the incredible craftsmanship, expertise, and history that have always informed African textiles and garments. We want to be clear that the combination of traditional knowledge passed down for centuries and painstaking artisanship connotes luxury, not charity. And we want to challenge the notion that clothing made in or inspired by Africa is part of a “boho” trend and/or reserved for “resort wear” or summer vacations.
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career as a designer?
Getting into the fashion business has felt natural for all of us. In Ghana, collaborating with tailors and seamstresses to make made-to-measure clothing is common.
Growing up in Ghana in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, Delphine was a fearless fashionista, rocking the minis, maxis, bellbottoms, and platforms of her time, and literally making them her own. When her mother (who would later go on to found one of Ghana’s first female-led advertising agencies) worked as a seamstress, Delphine assisted her in cutting fabrics, sewing pieces, and attending to customers. When she moved to New York, Delphine continued sewing at her leisure. Today, she references her knowledge to oversee production of Exit 14 garments.
Born in Ghana and raised in New York, Essie was exposed to custom-made fashion from day one and became particularly captivated by the modeling and photography side of the fashion business as Benetton was creating iconic advertising featuring models of all colors and the supermodel triumvirate of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington came into being. When she got older and started returning to Ghana more frequently, Essie resumed working with different tailors and seamstresses to create looks she wanted. Today, she references her knowledge of iconic, editorial fashion photography to direct Exit 14’s visuals.
Even as a young child, Nana expressed herself through her fashion choices, but when she went to live and school in Ghana at 12 years old and had some outfits custom-made for her, it changed the way she looked at clothing. That was the beginning of her understanding how fabrics and designs work together, specifically which kinds of fabrics work for certain designs. When she began her career, she worked as an editor at style and culture magazine TRACE and later at AOL’s fashion and lifestyle site StyleList before transitioning to retail working in advertising, marketing, and PR roles at one of the first online retailers Bluefly.com and as a copywriter for Victoria’s Secret. Today, she brings her experience designing clothing for herself, her passion for the pageantry of African textiles, and her marketing background to position Exit 14 as a luxury outerwear line.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Social media really levels the playing field for emerging and cash-strapped brands. It enables us to reach and engage potential customers without a large financial investment. With Instagram and Facebook offering free shopping tools to business accounts, it provides a platform to convert likers and followers into customers. And at a fundamental level, it works as a real-time focus group helping brands know which styles people respond to the most.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
We started Exit 14 from a place of passion, not fear. We each love designing clothes for ourselves, and this label is an extension of what we have been doing for years.
What is your favourite part about being a designer?
The best thing about designing something is seeing it manifest. It’s one thing to sketch something on a piece of paper or come up with a concept, and another to wear it.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
We want women, and eventually men and children, to feel like they are honoring a rich legacy of African artistry and expression even as they are wearing it in new ways and making it their own.
There’s so much pressure for designers to come out with their greatest collection season after season. What advice would you give to young designers just starting out and hoping to make it in the industry?
We are just starting out professionally, so we are learning as we go. Our advice to anyone considering launching a brand is to laser focus on your brand identity and mission. Even the most well-meaning counsel and the coolest opportunities will take you off course if you don’t know what your brand is about, what it stands for, and what you stand for.
How is the future for African designers globally?
The future is exciting! There are so many designers and brands we admire including Mimi Plange, Loza Maleombho, Maxhosa, Legacy of Clothing, Titi Ademola of Kiki Clothing, Aisha Ayensu of Christie Brown, David Tlale, Nelly Hagan Aboagye of Duaba Serwa, Abrimah Erwiah and Rosario Dawson of StudioOneEightyNine, Nana and Afua Dabanka of MoNaa and Mo-Saique, and so many more.
I would like to thank Exit 14 for taking their time to answer my questions and sharing their beautiful Exit 14 designs. check them out on instagram at SHOPEXIT14 for more.
Images by Exit 14