July 28, 2020 2 Comments
“Akin was born on a sunny London afternoon when two sisters-in-law decided to create, grounded in their shared belief in empowerment, beauty, and traditions. Hailing from the Dominican Republic and Romania, they embody the endless inspiration of their travels and the artistic expressions of different cultures. The desire to bridge gaps between cultures and connect women through art and tradition flows through their veins.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your brand?
Hi! I’m Gina. So happy to be part of #SpokenJefas! Thank you for having me! I am originally from the Dominican Republic but currently living in London. Even this wet weather can’t fight the Latin fire inside me 😊! I love colors, music, dancing, the ocean, pottery, playing the piano, women empowering each other, and feeling passionate about everything I do. My biggest passion is traveling and learning about the artistic expressions of different cultures. I am fascinated by people and their stories. It was this passion alongside the need to create, express myself, and empower others that gave birth to Akin, our small-batch, handcrafted line of timeless pieces. We want to honor traditions, but we also want to look after our mother earth, so we craft slowly, we try to use practices that are mindful of the environment, and all our pieces are made to order or measure.
How has your culture and heritage influenced your journey as a Jefa Entrepreneur?
The influence has been bigger than I ever expected. Akin has allowed me to connect deeply with myself. My culture is the obvious side that comes out when we are creating. It’s in the colors that I use. I always think in terms of movement, intimacy, vibrancy, sexiness. I can imagine every single piece telling a passionate story of self-love or self-discovery, or just any love to be honest. Latin people are all about feelings! And it's also about honoring those curves. But then there is my family and the European background. My family is made of very strong women which is a blessing, but it also requires a lot of self-healing and grounding. So, the strong me left home and has always been searching and creating and traveling and constantly being reminded to take a break and breath. My commitment and perseverance in what I do is definitely a blood thing.
What is the inspiration behind your brand and doing what you love?
Romania was what kick-started it all. It was my big bang. I remember driving through the countryside and falling in love with all these amazing traditional wears. It made sense to start there as my sister in law, who is the other half of Akin, lives there. She is such a champion of her culture that it wasn’t very difficult to convince her to come on board with this project. We wanted to bridge gaps and advocate for cultural connections. When we connect with others we allow for compassion and respect. Fashion has the power to create so much good. It can empower if under the right guidance. It's about going back to what matters: time tested craftsmanship, patience, love of details, going slow and steady. We want to work with the skills that are already there and uplift them. Bring them to modern times while respecting their craftsmanship. We are also inspired by ALL women! We believe they are all sexy and beautiful. Therefore, we also measure 😊 We do sizes, but we don’t want anyone to feel that those are the limits of where they need to fit. We want to fit them.
If your brand had a personality who would it be? Why?
It wouldn’t be one single person. We stand for interwoven beauty. I always picture graceful, strong, passionate women fuelled by their love of life and art inspiring Akin. It can be anything from listening to Chavela Vargas, Valerie June or Million Miles, the sculptures of Ruth Asawa, the women in Olaf Hajek’s paintings or just watching Susan Sarandon in one of her old films.
How do you nurture your creative spirit and mind when you're facing creative blocks?
I take refuge in my creative passions and in learning new ones. I love doing pottery, playing the piano, and writing short stories. I am also producing a short film based on one of my original ideas. I get absolutely lost. I also dance. A lot. I sweat the blocks away! And sometimes out of the blue, the smallest thing will trigger an idea. The curve of a vase, a few notes on a sheet of music. Every year I try to learn something new as well. It opens the mind up. Playing the accordion and learning stand up comedy are next on the list. Maybe even trying out for a gospel choir!
How have you supported the local artisans in your design team? And what have you learned by working with them collectively?
We are committed to the artisans we collaborate with. The artisans we have partnered with come from different places across Romania. Each region’s traditional handwork is different, but also each artisan within these regions is influenced by both where they live and the specific family techniques that have been passed down by generations. We want to empower each artisan to promote their own personal heritage and traditional handwork in our unique pieces. We collaborate honoring their techniques while allowing for the pieces to be used by modern women. We want each artisan to express their skills and creativity so that cultural identities are preserved. It takes time to nurture those relationships. We had to learn to adapt and understand their ways of life. For example, Romania's winters are very cold and the summers very warm, so the summers are for tending the crops and preparing for the winters and it's in those winter months that many artisans can then sit down with our projects and get to work.
What can we expect to see from Akin in the next year?
We are not rushing through any projects and not really pressured by seasonality. That will certainly hinder the creative process and what we are trying to do with the artisans. Our pieces are meant as heirlooms. They are intended to live a long life. We want to honor the inspiration and see where it takes us. We want every detail to count. But here is what we are exploring: working with artisans in other countries that tie-up with our ethos, we are looking at growing our home range and we are feeling a bit sexier with the new pieces we are working on. Blame all the dancing!
January 26, 2021