Remember when what seems like just a short time ago most young, chic, and fabulous African women shied away from wearing African fashions? African print suits were usually the outfit of choice for our grandmothers, mothers, and aunties. Those days are now a thing of the past as African, tribal, or ethnic prints have found their way to the mainstream fashion industry, and as fashionable African women it is our job to make it stick.
Archel Benard is one girl that has truly branded herself as an avid African wearer, and hopes to keep the “trend” going through her very own label. In 2009 Archel found a knack for sketching outfits, and while on a vacation to Liberia that year she found herself spent over the beautiful fabrics and prints seen in the local markets. As a communications personality, Archel would wear pieces made in Africa on air in order to promote the fashion of her homeland, yet realized that as beautiful as traditional (West) African suits are, they missed the functionality of today’s fashion. After noticing that some of the tailors that were making her ensembles just could not get them as perfect as she saw them in her mind, it was decided that she would start making them herself. In February of 2012 Benard launched It’s Archel, a collection of modern and comfortable clothing made in various African fabrics.
Archel states that the inspiration behind her designs comes from friends she considers fashionable in Liberia, and Atlanta, Georgia where she lived for most of her life. A large percent of It’s Archel designs are named after close friends and family members. She also gets inspired by what she sees in the media and on popular fashion blogs, which helps in letting her know what is fresh, hip, and timeless. Cloth of choice for her clothing ranges from Lappa (what Liberians call Ankara), Woodin, Batik, and Liberian tie-dyes. Though most of her fabrics are purchased in local Liberian markets, some are obtained from Ghana where she claims to find a better quality of products. The designer works with about six local tailors who assist in making clothing for customers in both Liberia and abroad. Products can be purchased online at www.itsarchel.com which greatly helps in reaching the masses and expanding her customer base. As of late, the brand has added handbags and clutches to the product line, which convey western designs made of authentic leather, crocodile, leopard, and snakeskin to give of a more “African” look. The label serves as a true success in exporting one of-a-kind products to lovers of ethnic threads and accessories.
As a person that is well known for wearing African clothing almost every day, Archel Benard more than anyone knows how huge the market for prints and fabrics of Africa is all over the world. It’s Archel prides itself in promoting clothing that is designed by Liberia, made in Liberia, and worn by all. Wearing African is not a trend it’s a movement.
Chiquita A. Johnson