Maker Stories

On the Road with Tina Tangalakis

July 19, 2011

Tina Tangalakis, founder/designer of Della and our new tribal print macbook and iPad cases, and two interns traveled to West Africa this month to work with their team in Hohoe, Ghana. Tina sent us a travel update from the road about her latest adventures:

It has been exactly one week since myself, Jenna and Chelsea left Los Angeles and arrived in Accra. Accra is the capital city and heart of Ghana, being home to over 1.5 million people and the cultural center of the country.

After two long plane rides and barely making it through customs, we immediately ventured into the busy fabric markets. This was quite a feat after 19 hours of travel, but I found it the best way to initiate Jenna and Chelsea into Ghanaian life. After all, if they can survive the heat and chaos of the large outdoor markets they can do anything in this country.

This early venture was exciting and an overload to the senses. In the markets we were surrounded by hundreds of colorful textiles. The bright colors and intricate designs were like candy to the eyes. This day we were given VIP treatment at the distribution center of ATL, one of my favorite Ghanaian fabric companies. There we registered Della as an official ATL distributor, giving us access to a giant warehouse full of fabrics to choose from. In the warehouse we sourced new fabrics for our Spring 2012 collection and gathered inspiration for several new designs.

That evening we traveled to Hohoe, the small town where Della is based. This journey is typically a 3 ½ hour ride from the capital, however, our travels took us on an unexpected detour as our driver pulled over to fix the van’s faulty brake pad. For myself this was typical, as broken down cars are a way of Ghanaian life. Thankfully, my comrades were content as we sat on the side of the road, in the dead of night, waiting for our transportation to be fixed.

Once safely in Hohoe, the rest of our weekend consisted of both business and pleasure. Saturday we had a meeting with our head seamstresses and tailors, brainstorming ways to better organize our workforce and prepare for the influx of holiday orders. Sunday we took a bumpy car ride to the Wli Waterfalls, where we enjoyed a tropical hike and swim under West Africa’s tallest natural waterfall.

The work week has been full of ideas, designs and challenges. We have begun working in our newly constructed workshop, fully equipped with electricity, fans (a necessity here) and new industrial sewing machines. One of the more involved projects has been working on new designs for our future collections.

It is very rewarding to be here, working side by side with the women and seeing the impact it has on their lives.

The entire process of building a socially responsible fashion line is definitely rewarding; yet, everyday we face little challenges which can be greatly compounded by language barriers, cultural differences and American work-ethic that is not understood by our employees, who are used to getting everything complete on “Ghanaian Time.”

But through it all, the growing pains are worth it, as the expansion of Della is an exciting process. And, when challenges arise, no matter how different our two cultures may be, the best remedy is always laughter.

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