The Woman behind Arhinarmah
Me Firi Ghana caught up with Catherine Arhin the founder of Arhinarmah. An ambitious lady in her early thirties. Catherine was born and raised in West London, but her family originate from Assin Kumasi in Ghana. She gives us an insight into how she got started, her love for her culture and what’s next.
1) What is Arhinarmah and how did it begin? Arhinarmah is London based homeware/ home decor brand offering African accented products for your home such as handmade cushions, lampshades and bespoke furniture. We also offer a upholstery service, and provide bespoke pieces of furniture from scratch (including the wooden framework). All our items are handmade to order and we use traditional methods of joinery in the production of all our pieces . We’re based in London where I head up a team of 5 staff.
Arhinarmah was ‘conceived’ in January 2012. I developed it after working for a variety of private and public sector organisations over a 10 year period. I wanted to apply my first hand experience in business to create an entity that was a reflection of my cultural identity. My parents are Ghanaian, so I’m fiercely proud of my heritage and culture. At the same time I’m very much a Londoner and take great pride in having grown up in this city. London is one of the world’s creative hubs. It’s a veritable melting pot of cultures and ‘old England’ is synonymous for its quality in relation to textiles and production methods. The label combines the quality, with the colours, symbols and vibrancy of Ghanaian culture.
2) How did you discover and explore your creative side? It was always there. As a five year old I would draw on walls whenever I ran out of paper. As an 8 year old I would write stories involving my classmates – they loved them so much the teacher would keep them in the book corner for everyone to read. As a teenager I harboured dreams of being an interior designer, a stylist, a hairdresser. I’m always experimenting with colour so my house is a show home – each room has it’s own colour palette. My living room was Navy well before it became popular. I suppressed my creativity for a long time after I had my son and never considered going into a creative industry as a ‘serious’ profession. The expectation when I was growing up was for me to become a Lawyer, Doctor or Accountant. I feel that people often have to make a decision between taking up an occupation that ‘pays the bills’ versus taking on a ‘softer’ occupation that they might enjoy. I did that for a long time.
3) Could you talk us through Arhinarmah’s collections? They are all named after places in Ghana or people who have had an impact on me in some way;
The Joseph collection: There are three generations of ‘Joseph’ within my family. My Grandfather (the label muse) was called Joseph Armah. My Mother was called Josephine, and my son is also called Joseph.
The Jamestown collection: Jamestown is the Ghanaian coastal town that my mother’s family settled in after relocating from Aburi.
The Accra Collection: Features a distinctive Kente print pattern – and the bright colours represent vibrancy, hustle and bustle of Ghana’s biggest city.
4) What do you love about your culture? Ghana: The colours. The textiles. The symbols. The tradition. Afrobeats. Old school Ghana parties. London: The mobility. The choice. The diversity.
5) How has Arhinarmah become involved with WAM, & why must others also get involved? This is demonstrated in the inspirational talks that I get involved in (in schools and at start up networking events) and also in us being awarded the Blue Butterfly by award winning organisation Positive Luxury. We began donating on a monthly basis to the WAM Campaign from June 2013 mainly because it shares many similarities with our organisation (ie affecting positive change and having a connection with both Ghana and the UK).
6)With Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, what would you highly recommend from Arhinarmah?I’d recommend any of the items in our Ashanti collection. We product lampshades and cushions in this print and it’s red which fits in with the tone of the occasion. From a male perspective it’s one of our best sellers so women *hint hint* – so don’t let Valentines Day be one sided – get him a unique gift that he’ll really cherish this year.
7) What do you want to achieve from Arhinarmah? I’d like to achieve the respect for African fabrics in the home and ethnic inspired home decor that you see for well established luxury brands such as Missoni or Versace home. My grandfather’s name was Joseph Armah – he was (and still is) the muse behind the brand. I’d like his name and legacy to live on through this venture. I never intended for this to just be about ‘selling cushions’ – from day one, my intention has been to create a worldwide homeware label that people with an interest or affinity with Africa can truly be proud of.
8) What does the future hold for Arhinarmah? We are now looking at branching out into the US and Europe.
9)Could you share with us any words of wisdom? Create the highest grandest vision of yourself because ultimately, you become what you believe.
10) How can readers, find out more about yourself and Arhinarmah? You can find our products at www.arhinarmah.co.uk . We’re on all social media channels Facebook: @arhinarmah/London, Twitter:@arhinarmah, Instagram &Pinterest: @arhinarmah, Linkedin:@arhinarmah and we’re also on Google+ and Linkedin 11)
Tracey Kusi (@moitreyc)