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Bloomingdale’s Aqua private brand, extending its trace record of collaborations with designers, brands and celebrities, has teamed with Studio 189, founded by designer Abrima Erwiah and actress/activist Rosario Dawson, on a limited-edition collection.
The collection features colorful, summery, hand-dyed prints and styles produced by Studio 189 artisans in Ghana, Africa, including dresses, tops, skirts and swimwear — all designed to be mixed and matched. The Aqua x Studio 189 collection launched Friday at Bloomingdale’s stores nationwide and on Bloomingdales.com.
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Bloomingdale’s is hosting celebrations at The Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York, through July 4, where the Aqua x Studio 189 collection will be displayed in the boutique.
“By partnering with Aqua on this collection, we’re able to celebrate the work of our artisans on a whole new level,” said Erwiah. “The special hand-batiked prints that were created exclusively for this collaboration resulted in Studio 189’s largest single fabric order to date, which grants us the opportunity to present the craftsmanship of our artisans to a broader audience. It’s an accessible collection that embraces joy with vibrant and tropical designs fitting for the summer season.”
Said Denise Magid, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for ready-to-wear, center core, concessions and Bloomingdale’s Outlets: “As a brand that works with artisanal communities that specialize in various traditional craftsmanship techniques, Studio 189 brings bold, inspired new looks to our beloved and bestselling Aqua portfolio this summer.”
The collection, called “Akua,” was born on a Wednesday during New York Fashion Week after Aqua’s creative director Erica Ruff Hatfield contacted Erwiah following Studio 189’s spring 2022 runway show. “I felt very moved by this idea of birthing a new project when I was contacted by Bloomingdale’s and Aqua.”
In Ghana, people can be named after the days of the week, so Akua is an Akan female name for a girl child born on Wednesday and is derived from deities. Akan people are from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Akua also is said to refer to a champion for the cause of others.
“This was fitting because the goal of this collaboration was to allow Studio 189 to create more work for the communities we serve in Africa,” Erwiah added. “We were able to produce more than 20,000 yards of handmade fabric and activate rural communities that really need the work, especially considering the effects of the pandemic and rising prices. This was also our first time producing in Asia, which is where Aqua produces. We learned new ways of working.”
The Aqua x Studio 189 prints are produced by Studio 189 artisans using the art of hand-batiking. This art form starts with patterns carved into wood or sponge that are dipped into hot wax and stamped onto cloth. This cloth is dipped into hand-mixed dyes and then the wax is removed to unveil the finished design.
Eleven hand-batiked prints were created exclusively for the collection, including palm leaves and pineapple motifs. The summer styles can be worn on their own or mixed and matched, with rtw pieces including halter maxi dresses, ruffled tiered skirts and miniskirts.
The collection also marks the first Aqua swim collaboration with one- and two-piece swimsuits and that can be paired with the rtw styles for a “beach-to-bar” look. Aqua x Studio 189 has 17 apparel pieces and eight swim styles ranging in price from $48 to $198.
Aqua, a long-standing, contemporary private brand at Bloomingdale’s, each season features “of-the-moment ready-to-wear apparel and accessories for a stylish head-to-toe look at an approachable price point,” the retailer said. “The brand has previously partnered with cultural figures and top brands, including Pendleton, Scout the City, Mary Katrantzou, Zendaya, Helen Owen, Mary Lawless Lee, Yigal Azrouël, Maddie & Tae, Zadig & Voltaire and Madeleine Thompson.
Studio 189 produces African and African-inspired content and clothing, operates a store and a manufacturing facility in Accra, Ghana, an e-commerce site, and supports community-led projects in Africa and in the U.S. Studio 189 works with artisanal communities that specialize in various traditional craftsmanship techniques including natural plant-based dye indigo, hand-batik, kente weaving and more. Studio 189 focuses on empowerment, creating jobs and supporting education and skills training.