Reece Yeboah’s Metamorphosis
As he launches a capsule collection with COS, Reece Yeboah discusses community, heritage and never giving up.
Self-taught fashion designer Reece Yeboah (he/him) knows the value of resilience. The West London native rose to prominence in 2013 with a highly regarded debut project that would quickly become a sell-out favourite among the likes of Future, Lewis Hamilton and Gucci Mane. Success, however, was cut short when Reece had to abruptly pull the plug on the brand at the peak of its success.
Yet this challenging moment would be the catalyst to a rebirth for the designer. Fashion would become an 'alternative form of therapy' as he describes it, carrying him through difficult times and allowing him to redefine his creative goals and personal passions.
At the centre of everything, Reece has long honoured community and heritage. Two strands of a personal and shared history have been woven together under his newest project, YEBOAH, a street-luxe label that celebrates both his Ghanaian heritage and his West London home – Notting Hill to be exact. The result is one of the most exciting emerging brands to come out of London in recent years.
On the eve of launching a capsule with COS, Reece’s commitment to design with purpose is unwavering: ‘Translating it from Akan, the language and people it comes from, YEBOAH means “helping others”.’
‘Never give up. When you manage to keep going and turn things around, even though you're at rock bottom, that's everything.’
‘I’d always loved fashion. My aunty has been involved in the business for over 30 years, making dresses and taking on tailoring jobs for people and my mum would always dress me in designer brands from a young age for school. At college, I did my plumbing diploma but lost the love for it, so I went on to a fashion design course. I did that for a while but dropped out and went self-employed. I just figured it out for myself via YouTube.’
BUILDING HIS BRAND
‘After my first brand closed, I immediately wanted to start something new, something that would give back to the community. I’ve been involved in streetwear for ten years, but I feel with YEBOAH, I’ve been given a second chance to showcase my talent and live up to my designer’s name. I want to push boundaries and to do that I need to incorporate that luxury element, to challenge myself in a new direction. Streetwear will always be powerful, that core element of community will never die or be diluted: YEBOAH is first and foremost a social impact brand.’
‘Community means family to me. It means responsibility. It’s about looking out for your family, doing the best for them rather than just for yourself. Even if that’s hard. It’s about accountability, admitting when you’re wrong, having conversations and understanding where people are coming from.
That’s why I’ve always wanted to do a fashion show in London. For me it’s important to give that opportunity to my community, to let them see what’s possible. It’s going to make them believe that they can achieve what they’re witnessing.’
FASHION AS THERAPY
‘Fashion is like alternative therapy for me, whether it’s anger, pain, happiness… Whatever the emotion, I make sure I’m able to express it through design, explain a story and come up with a concept. Even if it’s a negative one at the start, it’s about making sure it leads to a positive change or viewpoint.’
‘There’s a very specific feel to West London. It’s the balance: the mix between the super-rich, the middle class and the working class, all living on the same street. I don’t think you get that in other boroughs. It’s all on your doorstep, it generates something so creative, so real. That's why Carnival is held here, we all understand that we live different lives but when we come together for that one weekend, we all unite, we’re all one.’
‘YEBOAH draws a lot from ideas around Pan-Africanism. I wanted to have a mixture of the city, London, and the village element, referencing when I was sent to Ghana as a child and intertwining those two heritages, which are both parts of me. That’s why I added the three stars and the colours from the Ghanaian flag to the YEBOAH branding.
Being sent to rural Ghana as a kid was nerve-wracking at the time. Getting accustomed to a completely new way of life in the countryside, having to walk six miles to school every day, not having internet, electricity… that reset helped me understand that there’s so much more to life, so much that people are going through.'
COS × YEBOAH
‘Before I designed this collaboration with COS, I was a long-term customer; I’ve always been drawn to the quality of the design and materials that COS consistently uses. I thought it’d be really cool to bring together our ways of thinking, so I created some sketches that communicated my time, my metamorphosis if you like, in Ghana, and showed them to the COS team.
I think people are going to love the collection and understand immediately that it’s a bit of both of us - my creativity and COS’ outlook. I’m excited to see how people put looks together. I want them to feel comfortable, empowered, and find their best fit.’
‘Never give up. It sounds cliché, but when you manage to keep going even though you’re at rock bottom, and then things suddenly turn around – that’s everything.’
What was the last book you read?
The Fashion Business Manual
If you could catch a flight to anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
What’s the one album you couldn’t live without?
What’s your most treasured possession?
My old Chelsea kit from way back
Words by Lena Dystant
Photographs by Ekua King and Bear Visuals
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