Rise of Fashion South: Afriyie Poku

Spartanburg, S.C.


“IT WAS LIKE 3 O’CLOCK A.M. I woke up, my TV was on and this guy was just standing right in front of the camera,” Afriyie Poku reminisces on his decision to become a designer. “He had on this beautifully cut, kind of orange-yellowish suit. I was like ... that is how a suit is supposed to look. The cut on it — everything. I watched the show and at the end of it everything went off like ... yeah, that’s what I want to do.” The well-dressed person he’s describing, who left such an impact on him, is Ozwald Boateng, the English designer known for putting a twist on British tailoring and his shop on Savile Row.

But being enamored watching “House of Boateng” wasn’t the first indication that the Ghana-born Poku would have a future in fashion. He was used to seeing the men in his family dressed in well-tailored suits and clothing — a polar opposite to American trends circa 2004. “Everything was baggy! Baggy pants, T-shirts, your white tee used to be by your knees.” So he used his mother’s sewing machine to alter his own clothing to make it fit. “Sometimes when I was done, there would be no pocket left on the pants, or the pocket would be sewn shut,” he remembers. But, for Poku, it worked and served as his first steps into the industry.

After being unable to find a tailor he could apprentice, he taught himself through a series of trial and error. He would buy jackets from the thrift store just to take them apart and put them back together to learn the complete construction of how they were made. Soon, Poku was skilled enough to create pieces of his own, focusing on fitted slacks and tailored jackets, and a line was born. Taking the overall prize at the 2012 Peroni Style Atlanta: Emerging Designers Competition, as well as the Emerging Designer Competition: East at Charleston Fashion Week 2013 solidified and, more importantly, validated his decision to pursue creating his own line, Oberima Afriyie.

And while Poku continues to develop his craft and grow his brand, his goal is for his customers to use his pieces to express their own individuality. “I want to provide every gentleman with a key arsenal of pieces they can use to present themselves, whoever they are.”