Hailing from Ghana, designer Kwame Richard Braqo first landed stateside to attend Parsons The New School for Design at the ripe age of 18. He honed his skills in womenswear before graduating in 2009.
He unexpectedly found his niche in accessories when he entered his thesis collection on a whim into a design competition underwritten by Cesare Paciotti.
“That year, I had won the accessories designer [of the year] award and the accessories collection kind of just took off,” explained Braqo, who later had to change his namesake line’s name to Richard Braqo due to copyright issues. “The win led to a collaboration with [Cesare] Paciotti as a sort of capsule of five or six shoes, and [they] ended up selling the collection to Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue."
Working for Helmut Lang and later Acne once in London, Braqo got his footing in production firsthand, finding that commuting from the U.K. to Italian factories was a much easier feat than traveling overseas from America month-to-month. Last July, he debuted his very own shoe collection and gained the attention of the British Fashion Council, who subsequently approached him to show during London Fashion Week at the Somerset House both for Spring and Fall of this year.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive with both press and buyers,” he noted. “Leading to accounts at Wolf and Badger in London, Mahani in Dubai, and Ssense.” Retailing from $560 to $1,000, Braqo’s collection sources the finest skins and artisan craftsmanship from Italy. He recounts his experience collaborating with Paciotti as the thing that “taught me how to liaise and really work alongside [such] artisans and grasp their craft and understand the whole culture.”
Braqo’s heels are made exclusively in Bologna and create what he calls an “illusion of being too high” at five or more inches, using specially developed hidden platforms for comfort. Now in its third season, the Richard Braqo collection is for customers with discerning taste. The designer defines his woman as “one who likes refined footwear. She’s somewhat severe and fashion-forward…and a bit feisty as well. It’s really for the girl who knows how to wear stiletto heels.” (Already a fan of the brand is none other than pop provocateur, Rihanna.)
His self-proclaimed obsession with astrology also lends influence. “Being a Gemini, I like to play on dualities, for instance the duality of masculine and feminine, and for my color palette I tend to work with rather dark, deep hues much like the night sky: bordeaux, cobalt, sapphire, emerald, black, and of course, gold-plated hardware. It’s all very adult coloring," dished Braqo, whose next move will be collaborating with ready-to-wear designers for his first runway outing.
(londoncollections.co.uk & elle.com)