Bee Arthur is an illustrious Ghanaian Fashion designer whose brilliant career spans over 17 years. She took the fashion world by surprise when she won the KORA All Africa Fashion Award in 2001 in Sun City and since then Bee Arthur’s eclectic collections have graced the runways of many Fashion capitals on the continent and beyond. The most recent shows were “Afric Collection” 2010 (Cameroon), Dakar Fashion Week 2011, (Senegal), Chris Seydou Fashion Week 2011 ( Mali), Malabo Fashion Week 2012 (Equatorial Guinea), Nigeria Fashion Week 2012 (Nigeria) and FAFA PanAfrican Fashion for Peace Show 2012 (Kenya). In 2012, Bee Arthur received the African Women of Worth Award for Excellence in Creative Fashion Design (AWOWA).
This year, Bee Arthur was selected to represent Ghana at the Africa Fashion Reception in Paris, Ouaga fashion Week 2013 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and received an Excellence Award by FESMMA in Cotonou. Bee Arthur’s beautiful works have been published in many magazines across the globe: BRUNE Magazine (France) New African Woman (UK and France editions) AMINA Magazine (France), INA Magazine (France), eBiz Africa Review (Madrid, Paris, New York), SAMVIRKE (Denmark), The Independent (UK), China Daily (China), AFRICA Watch, not to mention the innumerable articles by bloggers across the planet.
Earlier this week, I sat with the high achieving designer and took the time to find out, what really goes on in the head of the dynamic designer.
Beatrice Arthur: My clothes are not African clothes. My clothes are not European clothes. My clothes are pieces of art that have a universal appeal because of the cosmopolitan elements that are combined due to my multicultural heritage. My clothes are never banal. They always have a wow factor even when they are subdued or toned down to suit a more classic clientele. In terms of originality, am hard to beat by the younger generation of designers. There are some talented ones around, I am pleased to say. It would be nice to collaborate on some mutually beneficial project. Knowledge and experience are of no use if not imparted to others. I would want to leave a legacy behind.
FashionGHANA.com: There is a lot of envy and bickering in the Fashion industry do you think it is a healthy competition or crabs in a barrel pulling each other down.
Beatrice Arthur: Envy means feelings of inadequacy. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from such an ugly affliction. On the contrary, I have always been attracted to Excellence and people from whom I can learn to improve my skills. But indeed like in most artistic spheres, there is a big dose of envy and rivalry amongst artists. It’s linked to ego and financial gains. I find it manageable until folks start being spiteful and malicious. Mostly I ignore them and continue my artistic journey. Why waste energy on negativity when there are so many beautiful things you could channel it into?
FashionGHANA.com: How are you designs patronized abroad?
Beatrice Arthur: Currently, I focus on selling my line more outside Ghana, as it seems to me that Ghanaians have gone back to buying cloth and going to their tailors and seamstresses for very reasonable prices. This might be due to many factors, including the high cost of living in Ghana now. Folks want to pay as little as possible for clothes produced locally, irrespective of quality. Hence I choose to sell more of my clothes for a better price to people outside who appreciate the Art in my clothes and willingly pay a premium price. My clothes are hand-painted limited series pieces. For this reason, I refuse to sell them for a price I find inadequate.
I have never had to pay to participate in shows outside Ghana hence I won’t pay to participate in any show in my own country Ghana
FashionGHANA.com: Would you be participating in this year’s Ghana Fashion and Design Week?
Beatrice Arthur: The organizers Ghana Fashion and Design Week have not contacted me to participate. If they do, I shall gladly participate. However, I have never had to pay to participate in shows outside Ghana hence I won’t pay to participate in any show in my own country Ghana ….(.smile). I have paid my dues for over 17 years.
FashionGHANA.com: Of all the shows you have taken part in, which show did you enjoy the most and why?
FashionGHANA.com: Last year you had some progressive criticism that quite a few others shared of the Ghana Fashion Awards, what would you say they can look out for, to avoid any such criticism for this year?
Beatrice Arthur: Indeed, I am most hopeful that the organizers will avoid certain unnecessary and foreseeable glitches that tend to mare an event that is supposed to be all glitz and glamour. I am not privy to what finances the organizers have at their disposal but I would permit myself to recommend that GFA considers using the same professionals that Vlisco uses for their shows. The light and music are always perfect.
Also, I found it odd that last year a Togolese designer showed his collection instead of the winner in the Best Designer category. ….(smile).
FashionGHANA.com: What do you think of the current state of modeling in Ghana?
Beatrice Arthur: There are millions of models and wannabe models in Ghana, but in my humble opinion, very few are professional good and sophisticated. Someone should explain to these lovely young women that being skinny and pretty is but one aspect of modelling. And the young men too must realize that height alone is not enough. Modelling, like most professions, requires talent and skills in addition to the physique. Most models look and act like amateurs to me so I believe that a lot of work is yet to be achieved in this domain by the modelling agencies who must have professional instructors. Also, if the agencies cant protect the rights of the model’s visa versa remuneration and exploitation of their image, then its for the models themselves to unite and form some sort of association.
FashionGHANA.com: Won’t you say this is the role of the modelling agencies in Ghana?
Beatrice Arthur: I am not quite well informed if the existing Agencies ensure that models get well paid hence it would be improper to assume they don’t. I usually don’t deal with models from agencies. I deal with models directly and pay the full amount.
FashionGHANA.com: Being of mixed Heritage have you personally faced any racism in the fashion industry, whether it be complimentary or negative?
Beatrice Arthur: I face adversities like most people, but I refuse to develop a complex by attributing anything negative that happens to discrimination or racism. I have heard racist remarks of course, but it doesn’t bother me much. I know who and what I am, and if i can reach people’s hearts through my Art, what they think of my skin leaves me very unperturbed. I do think however that misogyny and sexism is a problem most of us Women entrepreneurs have to face in this cultural context. But it makes success sweeter, I guess.
END OF PART 1
Log on next week as Beatrice Arthur speaks about her best and worst moments as a designer and how she feels the government plays a role in the fashion industry in Ghana and her thoughts of other designers in Ghana.