A lot can change in the formative years of a business. But four years after launching, Yevu’s founder Anna Robertson is still running around Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, hunting for the right African wax prints.
“Sometimes, finding the right print is a matter of getting lucky,” says Robertson. “It can be like banging your head against a brick wall.”
Navigating the market’s 30,000 square metres is no mean feat. To put it into perspective, Makola is one-and-a-half times the size of the MCG. Individual sellers spruik everything from fresh food to refrigerators and freshwater pearls.
On one occasion, it took Robertson six weeks to find enough material in the print she was after. “I was pulling yards from all different wholesalers just to get enough,” she says. “The textiles sector is completely informal. Sometimes you think you’ll never see a print again, but then you do spot it. It’s a matter of knowing wholesalers really well.”
Yevu’s latest range was released online this week. Back again is a set of punchy prints, in high-waisted culottes, shirts and wrap dresses for the girls, while the men’s range offers matching shirts and shorts.
Robertson works with an Australian pattern maker to design the classic trans-seasonal shapes, before sending them off to Yevu’s Ghana workshop to be made.
Robertson recently overhauled the operational side of the business, moving to quarterly collections. That means the brand’s 22 production staff in Accra will have year-round work.
“It was hard to maintain ethical standards with contracted home workers [in the past],” Robertson says, “But now we’ve got a centralised work place, with accommodation and facilities so workers who are rural can live with us and travel back and forth when they need. Knowing that everyone took four weeks off over Christmas, made me feel comfortable too.”
It's a far cry from the early days of Yevu, when Robertson and her Ghanaian business partner Gifty Darko sat on the workshop floor hand sorting and labelling every piece of cloth for production.
Looking forward, Robertson is exploring Malian textiles and different hand-woven fabrics in northern Ghana, but Yevu’s core designs will stay the same. “We’ll continue to produce what people want here in Australia. At the end of the day, it’s about providing jobs and sustainable employment for the workers.”