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‘Dead man’s clothes’ drives new fashion culture in Ghana

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File picture: Nipah Dennis/AFP – Kantamanto is the largest secondhand market in Ghana and it is the go-to place for affordable, stylish clothes that are not only economical on the pocket but also scream vintage and fashion.

By Chad Williams

There is no denying that Ghanaian men and women are some of the most stylish dressed on the continent. Ghanaian fashion is known for its use of vibrant colours and eclectic prints.

The west-African country is a fashion hub bursting with local artisans and designers, all of whom specialise in reinventing traditional kente or fugu clothes with a modern twist, as revealed in American Vogue. Fashion author Ken Kweku Nimo told The Guardian in a recent interview that growing up in Ghana, it was impossible not to find oneself immersed in fashion. He says an endless stream of colours and fabrics is a constant presence and there’s a palpable affinity for design and style.

With that said, as young people continue to follow trends, a new trend has emerged in the African country, called “Obroni Wawu”, which directly translates into “Dead Man’s Clothes”, which is basically thrifting as we know it.

Kantamanto is the largest secondhand market in Ghana and it is the go-to place for affordable, stylish clothes that are not only economical on the pocket but also scream vintage and fashion.

Kantamanto Market is the resting place for all the clothes and is a source not only of designer items but of rare fabrics too, a recent report by Daze magazine revealed.

Thanks to Kantamanto, a thriving thrift culture has emerged in Accra. With the market easily accessible to everyone, people in search of fashion items can take a quick trip and get whatever they need, and pay a fraction of the cost that they would pay in department stores.

The Kantamanto Traders Association is the local organising body for the more than 30 000 traders who sell at the market. According to Smartcities Dive, in recent years, it’s been the tool for appealing to government bodies to protest threats to ejection of the traders, especially given the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Ghana Railway Development Authority’s interventions in 2011 to refurbish the railway line that cuts in near the market.

But this hasn’t stopped Ghanaians from thrifting and shopping for the coolest and hippest drips and clothes. Stylists, creative directors, models and various others have come to rely on the market for access to designs they wouldn’t ordinarily find and are driving a fashion culture that is unique to the west-African nation, without the expensive price tag of course.

*Williams is a multi-media journalist with the African News Agency (ANA).