Nana K. Brenu founded his label, 1981, in 2012. The label expresses his quest for equilibrium between two highly contrasting genres of style. The first being his Ghanaian heritage characterised by vibrant colours and bold prints, and the second being his minimalistic design aesthetic which is influenced by modern art, design and architecture.

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I am Nana K. Brenu, a Ghanaian born designer residing in Milan and the creative director of contemporary fashion label 1981, which I founded in 2012. I grew up in Ghana and spent most of my adult years in Canada, United States. I currently live in Italy where I had my higher education and training in fashion design. I am also an alumni of Parsons School of Design New York and Istituto Marangoni Milan. After obtaining my Master in fashion design at Istituto Marangoni, I worked for a small design studio in Milan for three years before launching 1981.

What is your creative process?

My creative process involves weeks of research based on a theme or idea that inspires me. My research for a collection spans across fields of art, modern design, architecture (which I am heavily influenced by), Ghanaian/ African culture, fabrics and colours just to name a few. From this, I begin to create the collection, exploring and developing design details and themes, colours and materials.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I believe fashion has to be ethical due to the large number of human resource involved, the impact on the economy, cultures and lives of individuals involved in  the design process. With everything becoming mechanised and industrialised, we are losing the human touch and the traditional craftsmanship involved in the design process, making the final product less personal and meaningful. It is our responsibility to ensure design traditions and traditional techniques are preserved and don’t disappear from history and is highlighted in the modern era.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Be sure it’s what you really want to do. Never expect success overnight and be ready to put in some hard work, long hours and have no social life. Always surround yourself with people smarter than you and who have had a lot of experience in all sector of the industry. Be open to constructive criticism. Most of all, believe in yourself and make sure you know when you are going down the wrong path.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Lack of education and infrastructure. There is also a severe need for technical skills and know-how which makes it challenging to produce in Africa. Compared to other countries, there is no support, government involvement or major institutions to increase the growth or help the industry thrive.

How do you give back to the community?

I work with local textile makers and designers who weave and dye fabric using traditional methods. This involves a lot of man-hours since almost everything is handmade. My work helps support these industries, emphasise their relevance, pushes them to be more creative and aims to modernise their process.

What’s your price range?

My price range is from €120 for a t-shirt up to €800 for a gown.

Where can we see more of your work?

Most of our work can be found on our website