28 Apr 2016

Meet the woman who’s bringing African fashion to New Zealand

11:16 am on 28 April 2016

The only thing brighter than the clothes at this show is the organiser’s spirit.


Pinaman Owusu-Banahene wearing clothes created by designers who will be showcased at her upcoming Africa Fashion Festival.

Pinaman Owusu-Banahene wearing clothes created by designers who will be showcased at her upcoming Africa Fashion Festival. Photo: Supplied

Pinaman Owusu-Banahene is a busy woman. She works full-time as a senior advisor for the Ministry of Health, runs a community initiative called ADJOAA (Africa Design Journey Australasia), and is organising a fashion festival in her spare time.

She is so passionate about what she does, she has actually funded her most recent project, the Africa Fashion Festival New Zealand, out of her own stylish pocket. With the help of various small businesses in Wellington, this dynamic event will showcase the work of African designers living all over the globe. It’s been popular, too, and less than 50 tickets remain to be sold.

The show is community-focused, and not just in a “donate five cents per ticket” kind of way, but in a real, practical way.

“I don’t believe in aid - I believe in giving people skills.” 

To give back to the New Zealand community, Pinaman has offered internships to around 20 design students. She’s doing this to provide practical industry experience, which she said she would have wanted as a young person.

For the African region, the festival is showcasing the work of sustainable designers to promote their products in Australia and New Zealand. From glasses made out of recycled wood to traditional bags crafted by local Ghanaians, the types of businesses she has hooked up with are all extremely community-minded.

Pinaman hopes that by sponsoring these companies, more jobs will be created across Africa.

As if that’s not enough, Pinaman is also donating 15 percent of the proceeds of the event to a school in Accra, Ghana.

Even though this Ghanaian-born woman has lived in New Zealand for the past eleven years, her family back home are still her main source of inspiration.

“My grandfather owned a large hotel complex that gave a lot of people jobs. People looked after me there and really respected him, and he has always inspired me to give back to the community,” she says.

In terms of fashion, her mother is her biggest influence.

“My mum has an amazing closet. She is very well put together and I always wanted to be like her. Also, in Ghana dressing nicely is really important,” says Pinaman.

At the show people can expect to see vibrant and contemporary styles. They will be modelled by women of all nationalities to represent the diverse population of New Zealand and Africa, and to demonstrate that the clothing is for everyone.  

Pinaman says her event will be the first time clothing made by African designers will be modelled on a runway in New Zealand, and judging by the community's response, it probably won’t be the last.

The Africa Fashion Festival New Zealand will take place in Wellington on 28 May at 6.30pm.