MONAA is a luxury footwear company that pays homage to regal Ashanti heritage. Founded by two sisters, MONAA manufactures its unique sandals in Ghana from globally-sourced leathers refined with African-inspired embellishments. MONAA’s footwear are meant for “the customer who makes herself at home anywhere in the world she may be.” Ayiba’s Rara Reines recently spoke with MONAA about their future plans, the shoemaking process, and lessons learned from starting a business.
What was the inspiration behind the MONAA brand?
It was our love for fashion and the desire to tap into Ghana’s creative energy to produce a label made entirely in Ghana.
Do you plan to expand your business beyond your base in Ghana?
Since we live in New York and London, respectively, our business already stretches beyond Ghana. We also plan on including Ethiopia as a new production hub.
What is your view of the “Africa Rising” narrative?
We feel that it is long overdue and highly important for widespread recognition. Although we are thrilled that the conversation is taking place, we hope that at some point, it will no longer be necessary and that creatives from Africa will no longer be the exception.
How do your designs span cultures?
Our designs are linear and structured which is a nod to European industrial design. We embellish the designs with gold beads made of Oware seeds, ornaments reminiscent of Adinkra symbols, and pom-poms to reflect our Ghanaian heritage.
Could you walk us through the shoemaking process?
First, we pick a theme for the collection and prepare a mood board for our inspiration. Once the story around the collection is clear, we start the design process. Since we live in different countries, we both sketch our own version of the collection. Then we review all of the sketches and choose our favourite designs. In this phase, we revise the sketches, throw some out or exchange them with others until we both agree on the final designs. After that we discuss materials, colours, hardware, embellishments and the quantities we want to produce. We then send our orders to the shoemakers for the first round of samples. We are usually present during the sampling phase and can discuss any alterations directly with the shoemakers. Once the samples are completed, we shoot the look book.
How did you get into entrepreneurship?
Nana is an interpreter and studied footwear design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Afua is a banker and studied footwear design at the London College of Fashion. Afua has already been running her footwear label, Mo-Saique, for a few years now which has been incredibly helpful with the founding of MONAA.
Do you face any challenges in being sisters and business partners?
Quite the contrary! It’s actually easier because we have the same work ethic and similar design aesthetics! We can also communicate at any time of the day without having to respect each other’s time too much.
What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned from running MONAA?
It takes more tenacity to run a business than we imagined.
Sometimes it does not hurt to deviate from the original plan.
The story behind the brand is key.