East Oakland's Akintunde "Tunde" Ahmad had long wanted to visit the African continent and reconnect with his ancestry. When he arrived at the University of Ghana in Accra in 2016, taking a semester off from Yale to study abroad, he was captivated by everything about the bustling city.
"I was fortunate to be able to go for an entire semester and have a deeper and longer connection out there, learning African history from an African perspective, rather than Eurocentric or American perspective," he said. "I was able to dispel a lot of myths and stereotypes that are negative, overwhelmingly, and put into our heads about the continent."
One of the most stunning revelations to Ahmad was how prosperous Ghana's fashion industry is—but not in the fast-fashion, mass-produced way we're accustomed to in America. In Accra, you'll see a lot of people in completely custom outfits, rather than something you'd find at a chain store.
The reason: It's extremely easy to access affordable tailors, along with endless unique fabrics, from bògòlanfini (traditionally dyed with fermented mud) to woven kente (a handwoven cloth with strips of silk and cotton).
"Even every dorm on campus had a tailor," he said. Ahmad started getting garments made and visiting different fabric markets. "The tailors get your measurements and can make different custom pieces."
These experiences laid the groundwork for what is now Ahmad's successful clothing brand in Oakland, called Ade Dehye, which uses custom West African textiles sourced directly from Ghana to create urban streetwear designs. It's all operated under an ethical business model that aims to respect, rather than exploit, African culture and workers.
"It was a very natural progression," he said. "I never really had a huge interest in fashion. But once you actually get to try stuff and see how it looks on yourself, that is how I caught the fashion bug."
Now, his 100% Black-owned and operated brand works with a dozen tailors in Accra to create around 250-300 pieces at a time. Ade Dehye is known for its fusion of intricate prints stylized as streetwear, bomber jackets, lined trench coats, and two-piece outfits that you can mix and match. The pieces are then shipped to Oakland and sold online or through pop-ups. The timeframe from Ahmad selecting the fabrics and designs to receiving the garments can take anywhere between 10 weeks to five months.