Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Beatrice 'Bee' Arthur opens up on her passion

'Bee' Arthur
It amazing how in Ghana, perception takes center stage around the lives of personalities, we define them especially by ‘hear says’ and the perceptions the tabloids present to us. Unique, bold, daring and creative best describes, Ghanaian designer Beatrice ‘Bee’ Arthur has curve a niche for herself on the world fashion stage with her daring and haute couture clothes. She is a visionary, who recently having embarked on a solo career with the label B’Exotic changed the face of fashion and with the added advantage of her Ghanaian and Russian roots, showed the world the fashionistas side of Ghana. The 2001 Kora Fashion Awards winner perfectly blends her heritage connection to express her love for fashion. Her expression of love through the unique mixtures of color and choice of exotic materials to create an absolute fabulous blend of fantastic pieces is amazing to behold. I recently spoke to the gorgeous lady whose style is certainly not only unique among her peers but cliquey and as well as distinctively ‘Bee’.

Tell us about your life as a designer and how it started

I was very lucky to have been born into a very ‘liberal’ family and an environment where self-expression was never discouraged; my idiosyncrasies as an adolescent were accepted as ‘normal’. Hence, when I began personalizing my clothes, my mum found that quite amusing and original. It would be fair to say that I became a unique designer at the fragile age of 11, but it wasn't until the mature age of 25 that I decided that, with no formal training in sewing or designing to make a profession out of this innate talent it seemed I possessed. Or maybe, it possessed me.

What’s that ‘thing’ that wakes up the passion whenever you get the urge to design?

The passion to design is like breathing, it’s a permanent state of being. What changes from one design to another is the theme I choose or the muse that inspires me at any particular moment in space. This could be anything: a human, an animal, sculptor, and a piece of cloth I lay my hands on, a trip to a beautiful place, and people on the street. A plant or even a song. Your personal life too plays a role, not to mention mood swings. Everything can serve as fuel for creating Art.

Your brand has gained appraisal all over the world, how have you been able to maintain the brand so far?

If I have gained respect in this fickle world of fashion where new talents emerge constantly with the intent of usurping the “older" generation its must be because I have never imitated anyone, nor did I bend to the whims and caprices of ever-changing tastes of fashionistas. I decided very early in my career to pursue my own vision of fashion, because for me it has been more a passion than a trade. Each outfit I create is a piece of art, a piece of my heart. When I began designing, I decided to make clothes that , whiles reflecting my personality, were stylish, unique, spectacular, daring and with quirky elegance. My garments have signature embroidery and hand painted symbols from different cultures of the world. In my outfits, trendy fashion elements often rub elbows with timeless elements. This is the reason why I am still respected as a designer, 17 years after I started "toying" with fashion and 11 years after I won the KORA Fashion Award in Sun City, South Africa.

You are one of those clamoring for ‘made in Ghana’ products, what is your quota to have this campaign spread?

I am a Ghanaian designer who lives and works in Ghana and employs Ghanaian staff. My clothes reflect my Ghanaian heritage, and even though I use imported fabrics to make my garments, I tend to use locally hand-woven cloth for my home accessories as well as accents on the garments I make. That is my quota to the made in Ghana campaign. I don’t produce any of my garments outside my country.

What runs through your mind when you know there are tough competitors out there competing with you for the same market share?

I believe competitors have been crucial in my carrier, because they play a key role in keeping me alert and on my toes. Competitors serve as a stimulus. I owe competitors a big thank you. It's the talentless imitators I have no respect for. As or the market, you must create unique products that are interesting and hard to imitate. Those who appreciate your style will come to you, even if they buy from others as well. There is room for all of us to co-exist as designers and dressmakers.

Take us through some of the Fashion shows you’ve attended

I have been on some of the notable runways in fashion circles and ones which come to mind include; AfricCollection 2004 and 2010(Cameroun), Malabo Fashion Week 2012 (Eq. Guinea), Dakar Fashion Week 2011(Senegal), Ghana Fashion Weekend 2009, KORA Fashion Awards, 2001 (South Africa) and FESPACO (Burkina Faso).

Define the typical Bee Arthur customer

The typical Bee Arthur customer enjoys being different and attracting attention. He or she is ready to pay good money for a unique garment, made for younger as well as mature people. Some clothes are very Elegant and demure. Others are appropriate for the stage.

Can we talk about your clientele both in and outside of Ghana?

My product is a niche products and its high end. I target people who value me as an artist, and not a mere dressmaker.

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