Ensure your vision, mission, short/long term goals/plans are clearly laid out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. You just need to take that first step to crafting something on paper just so you have a blueprint to follow 5. Define which aspect of the fashion industry you belong to. If your interest is in fashion design, fashion styling, fashion blogger/fashion editor, fashion model, etc., research, read, plan and then get started.
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Helena Aidoo-Morrison.
Helena Aidoo-Morrison is a co-owner, creative director, fashion designer and President of Aya Morrison LLC. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baruch College, New York and a Master of Arts degree in Luxury x Fashion Management from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta. She is also a licensed realtor but currently works at SCAD as an account lead, while still performing all listed duties at Aya Morrison LLC daily.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I always dreamed big. I dreamed of accomplishing much more than what my parents did. In my undergrad I majored in corporate communications with a plan to get into communications and eventually have my very own talk show. It all seemed planned out until my absolute love for adventure led me back home to Ghana during one spring break.
Strolling on the shores and reminiscing about relationships, family, and life, I was captivated by breathtaking sunsets, the exotic horizon and palm trees, the luxurious seaside relaxation, our local afrobeats music with delicious culture-rich Ghanaian food, enchanting festivities, and delightful new people. I was most inspired by the incredible women I encountered along the way, realizing the various paths some of these women had journeyed and what they were still encountering. At that point in my life, I related easily with these women because we were all broken one way or another. It helped me realize my own inner strength. I realized the strength of these women all around me, and then I realized our shared connectivity. And so collectively, these women and our shared bond became the muse and inspiration behind the brand. This is how Aya Morrison was born.
Turns out entrepreneurship is definitely in my DNA and it became a clear career choice after this wonderful trip.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
When it came time for me to recruit the best, talented tailors while setting up my factory in Ghana in late 2012, I decided to travel to the Ghana/Togo border as research told me that the francophonian tailors were the best. What was interesting about it was that I didn’t speak French and they didn’t speak English. But we managed to use facial expressions, hand gestures and body language to communicate just fine haha. I was able to hire tailors and seamstresses through this method for that entire period. I made that trip a total of 3 times in a space of 2.5 years and each time it was the same situation. Crazy but funny!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh, my gosh, the funniest mistake I made in the beginning — ha! I still remember it like it was yesterday. I came from a family of entrepreneurs and so my knowledge of business was through my parents. I had no prior formal business education when I started. Funniest mistake was when I went to big companies asking for “sponsorship” in a bid to raise capital to start my business. It was a funny mistake because I genuinely thought that was the best and only way and I felt entitled. And I remember my pitch was along the lines of them donating to my business from their CSR budget. I was of course turned down everywhere. I learned that there are so many other creative ways to raise capital to start a business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My African heritage definitely adds to my company standing out. I allow my cultural background to greatly influence every aspect of the company while ensuring it meets the global audience standards. I call it “an African Luxury ideal in a less traditional manner”. There are quite a few businesses out there today who tag themselves as African fashion brands/designers and use African prints as well, however, my story is unique. How the brand came about through travel; to incorporating prints and then involving empowering women as part of its community goals, while still helping to make the world a better place through supporting women artisans around the world, especially in Africa and under-developed countries is what makes my company unique. Recently, I have added a 2024 sustainability goal/promise to our company’s vision. Simply put, the main things about Aya Morrison today, that I believe stands us out from the rest is our UNIQUE AFRICAN PRINTS, TRAVEL-INSPIRED SILHOUETTES, WOMEN EMPOWERMENT and how it all ties back into my African roots so contemporarily and luxuriously.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
1. Take breaks in between busy schedules to reboot. Every creative brain needs a refresher every now and then. And that can help with making sane decisions when you’re feeling drowned and burnt out. Do yourself that favor and thank me later! Because giving up shouldn’t be an option. Reboot and start again.
2. It’s okay to fail. We all don’t have it figured out. Just ensure that when you fail, you try again and NEVER give up.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As you can probably tell by now, I draw a lot of inspiration from my roots. I am from Ghana and so when I had the chance to, my first thought was to help bring goodness to the world through my motherland. This is why in 2012 I chose to set up my factory in Accra to provide employment to the locals. The business also donates a percentage of proceeds to the Yaa Asantewa Girl Empowerment Foundation. The success of the brand has also reflected in people gifting our products to loved ones during various special occasions — now, if that’s not bringing goodness to the world, I don’t know what is!
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
When I returned from my travel that birthed the idea of Aya Morrison, I was petrified to get started. I didn’t know where to begin. I had the vision, but couldn’t see the whole picture. I knew what I wanted Aya Morrison to be but I wanted to see how it’ll all play out before getting started. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. Wake my sister up and have her help me stitch stuff. Then I came across this quote and it stuck with me. This quote is what got me to take that first step to physically register the business and get started.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
Yes, oh yes! For starters, I actually think more and more luxury brands are going to adopt the “see now, buy now” method. I think some luxury brands MAY include a fast fashion aspect to their brands. And I also think that virtual fashion shows will become more popular. This is true because that super hi-techy, computerized one that the Hanifa label had without actual models was a hit that had other luxury brands attempting to copy it. I’m excited about all these.
Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
Not in any particular order:
1. In this age of social media, ensure you have a social media presence for your brand
2. Invest time (and money) in PR & Marketing as it’s a must! Even though you know your vision inside out, you will need fresh eyes and a creative, fresh perspective to strategize and handle your marketing and PR at various touch points of your brand to help bring your vision to life. Get creative interns to handle this, if possible.
3. You need grit and perseverance because social media has made everything easily accessible to the point, everyone and their mama are now “fashion experts”. The fashion industry is saturated and you need to be determined, focused and driven to succeed
4. Ensure your vision, mission, short/long term goals/plans are clearly laid out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. You just need to take that first step to crafting something on paper just so you have a blueprint to follow 5. Define which aspect of the fashion industry you belong to. If your interest is in fashion design, fashion styling, fashion blogger/fashion editor, fashion model, etc., research, read, plan and then get started.
Bonus: be humble, take criticism gracefully and learn to build relationships.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
I think the fashion industry as a whole should pay much more attention to helping reduce our environmental impact. Doing this would evolve the industry greatly because it’ll essentially entail boycotting factories that aren’t practicing sustainability, especially the chinese manufacturers who are still producing harmful environmental materials. Fashion industry players, if they decide to go down this path, would seek to work only with sustainable suppliers and factories. If this is done right, sustainability won’t be a choice for brands but a must and it would ultimately bring some semblance of an evolution/improvement to the industry!
Another pressing evolution that should take place is steps towards reducing unnecessary stress and anxiety in the fashion industry. The fashion industry can improve by us all in the fashion space first letting go of the “snobbery” concept. That was back in the day when high fashion belonged to royalty who looked down on people with their noses in the air — for lack of a better way to put it. People today have prematurely adopted that notion and are rude, disrespectful and unfriendly for no reason. This attitude has caused undue pressure and tension in the fashion space. This idea leaves no room for mistakes and makes high fashion out to be this perfect world. The few brands who dare to embrace their mistakes and form a new trend succeed but not without rigidity. People in the industry call it cutting-edge but I think it’s borderline toxic. It pays to be nice. Being rude, disrespectful, difficult because you seek perfection or purely just to be intentionally mean and horrible in the name of fashion is not cool.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Gifting a stranger twice every week with a flower, smiling and wishing them a lovely day. Or buying a stranger something less-expensive but thoughtful. As cheap as candy or a bottle of water even.
*A bonus movement for all women could be normalizing flats to outings instead of heels. When I’m extremely tired I find high heels to be overrated haha!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!