With our second interview as a part of the Conversations with GhanaMade segment, Cathryn and I were so happy to see the great reception our first article received! This week I was fortunate enough to connect with a friend of mine, Paakow Essandoh, a clothing designer who founded a street apparel company called MIZIZI. We met a couple of times last year, once at GhanaFest in Chicago and the other at a day party in Brooklyn, NY. If 2019 has taught me anything, if you stick your head out far enough, you’ll realize how close-knit the Ghanaian Diaspora really is. The chance of linking with the who’s who is quite high if you attend the right African events.
Over the years, we’ve seen MIZIZI grow from a grassroots clothing line to a well-received brand. MIZIZI partnered with Marvel for the premiere of the Black Panther film in 2018, and also with Disney for the Lion King’s 25th anniversary release in 2019! Paakow, we’re still waiting for a limited edition “GhanaMade x MIZIZI” jersey…
There is so much we’ll get into during the interview, but before we do that let’s play our quick game of “This or That” – Ghana edition!
- City or Rural
- Jollof or Waakye
- Kenke or Banku
- Taxi or TroTro
- Ofori Amponsah or Kojo Antwi
- Shatta Wale or Stonebwoy
Paakow’s responses are:
- City. - Jollof. - Kenke. - Taxi. - Kojo Antwi. - SHATTA.
Tell us about your business MIZIZI, does the name have a meaning?
Paakow: MIZIZI, meaning “roots” in Swahili, is the official streetwear brand for the African Diaspora. Imagine the new cool kid who wears their heart on their sleeve yet gets along with everybody, effortlessly. We’re a walking celebration of the individual identity yet underlying roots and culture that connect us all.
What or who has inspired you to build your business, did you think you were going to build a career in fashion?
I just wanted to make friends with other black people.
Paakow: If I'm being [fully] transparent, I just wanted to make friends with other black people. Moving from Texas to Florida to attend USF was really hard for me and I felt like I could never relate to other people and their cultures on campus, but one of the first friends I made happened to be Kenyan and he inspired me to do more. I never thought fashion would have been the outlet to do so, but it started off as a just project while I was pursuing a Health Science degree, and has now evolved into a global community of others who can relate. That’s insane.
What challenges do you face today while building your brand?
Paakow: I think, one of our biggest challenges is expanding into the global market. There’s a lot of opportunity for MIZIZI to grow abroad but it’s not always the cheapest option, for us or the consumer. But we’re exploring different manufacturing and logistics options to help bring the costs down for everybody.
What about your Ghanaian heritage that interests you most?
Paakow: Recently I’ve been studying the art of design and how locality can be translated and adopted in global context. That being said, I want to learn more about my family tree and how the Essandoh name has contributed to the global culture.
How would you like to give back to Ghana through your business/craft?
Paakow: I’d like to see manufacturing come back home one day and put money back into our people's pockets. That “Made In Ghana” tag would be *chefs kiss*!
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
Paakow: The goal is for us to be a fully actualized athleisure brand where we’re producing kits from head-to-toe having everybody representing their full authentic selves. How long that may take I couldn’t tell you, but know that MIZIZI is here to #stayRooted.
You can learn more about Paakow’s company here at their main website and follow their social accounts:
MIZIZI on Instagram
MIZIZI on Facebook
MIZIZI on Twitter
MIZIZI on Pinterest
MIZIZI on YouTube