Designed in Fort Worth, Texas and produced in Ghana, each shoe from George Baah’s footwear line, Kwame Baah, is passed through the hands of his hardworking family and friends. The line of sandals, which will make its FFANY debut in New York City May 31-June 2, is made by trained craftspeople in Ghana, including his mother, two brothers, three cousins and other friends of his family.
Baah describes the collection’s look as “Ghana flair.” “My designs are contemporary for Western and European markets, but all of the shoes have something unique that you can tell is Ghana,” he said.
The soles of the sandals are made from recycled tire rubber, while upper materials span imported leather to traditional handwoven Kente fabric from Ghana and a less expensive printed version. Silhouettes are simple—think crisscross slides and thongs for men and women, and strappy flat sandals for women—allowing the distinctive fabrics and leather handiwork to shine.
Wholesale prices are $25-$49. Baah will also present a collection of “mini me” children’s sandals at the trade show.
As the son of a single mother in Ghana, Baah taught himself how to repair and make shoes to bring home a little money. Baah would fix soles with recycled tires, and add straps to make shoes.
“Growing up, life was tough for us. My mom worked to provide and I wanted to help her,” he said.
Baah moved to the United States to pursue engineering in 2000, however he saw the potential for Ghana-made footwear in an American market eager for quality products with a unique aesthetic and story. He returned to Ghana to train his family in shoemaking, hoping to create new employment opportunities and provide long-term support.
“The goal is to make them there and sell them here [in the US],” Baah said. “In our culture, I’m the oldest of three boys and it is my responsibility to help raise and support my mom and brothers.”
Baah launched the first collection in 2011 and recently began to dabble in selling wholesale. The brand is currently sold in stores in Florida and North Carolina and online through the brand’s website. Baah, who works full-time as an engineer, says it has been challenging to find funds to advance, but he believes in the product.
“I think the product is unique and high quality. Most people buy it because it looks unique and is well made,” he said. “You’ll be shocked. [People] can’t believe it is from Ghana.”