‘My garments are more technically designed than they are fashion designed and this is even more so owing to my engineering background‘ says Kwabena Asamoah of Kustom Looks Clothier as I interviewed him for my blog. We caught up in Silver Springs Maryland in the USA where the Ghanaian born entrepreneur affectionately called Kwab has been living and working for almost 3 decades now.
The ‘Tape man’ (with tape around neck) Kwab Asamoah with Barack Obama
Kwabena Asamoah who prefers to be called Kwab for short has been running Kustom Looks Clothier for a little over a half decade during which he has earned himself an enviable reputation in the US fashion community as one of the most versatile and creative designers, wooing high profile clients like the Washington Redskins and news anchor Leon Harris. Other prominent clients of his are Michael Steele of the Republican party, former NFL athlete; Brian Mitchell, Hollywood Stars like actor Iddris Elba, top black CEO’s like Russell Wright and until recent, President Barrack Obama.
The Engineer turned Designer says he doesn’t see himself as your regular clothing designer as he is not so much of an artist. What he does is to employ his skills as an engineer to create his unique style of clothing. Kwab says his tailors take 27 measurements which leave his clients with clothing that fit better in a technical sense because it hugs the body with comfort.
The Root of Kwab
Born and raised in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti Kingdom, Kwab says he has always had the yearning to start his own business since age 21. It was that yearning which lead him to turn his guest bedroom and eventually the basement of his town house in Maryland into the office where Kustom Looks Clothier begun to take shape as a business entity in 2005. With time he started realizing a respectably decent number of clientele which forced him out of the basement of his house into a rented studio in Landover Maryland where he stayed and worked for 3 years.
In 2009 his store location moved from Landover to Silver Springs which is also in Maryland where it is now housed in a prime business district. It also has a window location where people outside the building walking or driving by can see some of the wares displayed and thus have a better sense of what Kustom Looks Clothier is all about.
During my interview with Kwab AsamoahKustom Looks Clothier represents about 10% of the top 100 black businesses that are harbored in and around the US Capitol today and has clients that make an annual income in excesses of $100,000 upwards.
When the company begun, its biggest trend was to serve each client directly and individually, hence they didn’t make anything that is a general size. According to Kwab, all of his client’s clothes, be they men, women or children are full hand-made and customized to meet each individual’s specification, and that is why it takes 2-3 weeks to finish a garment.
Throwing more light on how clothes are made after a client is measured and detailed, Kwabena Asamoah says that his company has its own factory in the Asian country of Thailand which accommodates some 10 tailors and two directors who work on orders and proceed to ship the finished products to the Silver Springs show room. Once the shipments arrive, clients within the East coast of the US pick up their wares from the store while those further out in the West coast have theirs shipped to them.
Service is key to Kustom Looks Clothier, which is why they do not rest their oars after shipping out finished products to clients. They also go further to provide the service of a master tailor who is also from Ghana to take care of client needs like adjustments, and alterations even for clothes that Kwab’s firm didn’t produce. This is done in line with the company’s full service nature. Currently, the firm has 3 sales representatives and a vice president of marketing with CEO Kwab himself at the head of the totem pole. They also produce and organize fashion shows and coordinate events in the United States and back home in Ghana.
It is the dream of Kwabena Asamoah to have persons all over the place to provide top quality service to existing and potential clients by increasing the account executive base of his firm. The clothing company believes it is not just luck that brings them high profile clientele because for one to have such a clientele, they must also have and exhibit a higher profiled product and service, something which has aways been the hallmark of Kustom Looks Clothier. As part of efforts to expand and meet demands of clients within the USA, Kustom is presently working on a second store in Capitol Hill, right next to the US Congress.
Speaking of present fashion trends, Kwab feels that the boom in the wearing of jeans today is a blessed-curse as it takes a bit away from fashion by creating so much of a casual mentality among its wearers, yet it provides a double edged result because in another way, it also gives comfort to the information age worker who doesn’t deal or work face-to-face with clients like people in today’s workforce did 2-3 decades ago. Today people can sit behind their laptops or even use their smart phones at home to transact tens of thousand dollar deals wearing just jeans and a vest with a buttoned up shirt or sports coat over sneakers so yes, jeans has become a necessary evil in today’s fashion world.
The ‘Tape man’ as he’s nicknamed by close associates and colleagues, won the Wynnewood Image Award from Wynnewood Technology of the USA in 2006, while his firm; Kustom Looks Clothier, was bestowed the award for Best Fashion Merchandising in 2009 by the Small Business Commerce Association of Silver Spring in Maryland with Kwab himself also annexing the Prince George’s County of Maryland’s Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the year award in 2009.
These achievements notwithstanding, Kustom Looks Clothier still has its eyes set on higher highest and recently is opened a branch of the business in the West African country of Ghana, to also produce and sell affordable high quality clothing to Ghanaians to deter them from traveling outside the country to purchase such clothing. Another goal for Kwab is to become the official outfitters of the present American First Family.
Kwab believes the wearing of suites especially among the African American community and blacks in general has once again gained importance owing to the fact that the current American President; Barrack Obama, wears them often. This has positively motivated the African-American in particular and blacks around the globe to take a second look at how they dress.
Presently divorced with two barely teen-aged sons, the ‘Tape man’ thinks blacks all over the world are taking a different conscience about their appearance, which is great for not only the race but for its business entrepreneurs like himself. ‘People are returning to the button-up shirts, getting into jackets and once more realizing the value of the suit’ he says.
Source: Oral Ofori for TheAfricanDream.net