Meet the Second Group of scaleUP Recipients for 2023!
The partnership between Fashion Minority Report and ASOS through the scaleUP program represents a forward-thinking approach to nurturing talent. While it celebrates the achievements of the winners, its vision is broader, aiming to harness the rich potential of as many brands as possible. Recognising that each applicant brings something unique to the table, the program picked a further four brands to bring along on the journey by offering them access to transformative workshops and mentoring sessions.
Today we speak to founders Jackie Abrafi of Eljae, Maddie Sellers of Senja by Maddie, Rosette Ale of Revival and Pokuaa Ansere of Kwaku Joseph, who represent the wealth of creativity and ambition that resonated throughout the applications. Speaking to them, we find out about their individual stories, why they applied and the broader narrative of how inclusive initiatives like ScaleUP are pivotal in shaping a more vibrant and diverse fashion industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Pokuaa Ansere: I’m 27, from Bermondsey, South East London. However, I’ve now lived in Peckham for the last 5 years.
Maddie Sellers: I’m also 27 and from North London.
Jackie Abrafi: I’m 30 years old, from Mitcham, but my parents are from Ghana.
Rosette Ale: I’m 28 years old, from Ghana and Nigeria, currently based in East London.
Can you introduce your brand for us in one sentence?
Pokuaa Ansere: Kwaku Joseph is a Black British Menswear brand that celebrates what it is to be Black & British, exploring the familiarity and nuances of the spaces/areas Black British people often inhabit, through themes such as culture, heritage and identity.
Maddie Sellers: Senja by Maddie is a London based slow fashion brand, creating colourful and unique clothing.
Jackie Abrafi: Eljae is a celebration of individuality and self expression through jewellery
Rosette Ale: Revival is a zero-waste slow fashion brand which crafts contemporary capsule collections from reclaimed textile waste, inspired by a fusion of 90s aesthetics and West African silhouettes.
What inspired you to create your brands?
Pokuaa Ansere: I established my brand as a means of exploring deeper connections with both myself and others who, like me, have grown curious about the nuanced identity of being a Black Brit, particularly expressed through creative mediums. With a background in fashion and a degree in the field, it led me on the journey of creating a brand that delves into and articulates these themes. This not only allows me to explore my own interests but also serves as a platform to share and celebrate the multifaceted aspects of being a Black Brit through the lens of fashion and creativity. Having encountered limited opportunities to enter the fashion industry after graduating, establishing Kwaku Joseph essentially functions as an on-the-job learning experience for me.
Maddie Sellers: I started in the middle of a lockdown when I was let go from my job at the time. I never set out to start a brand, I just started upcycling things I had laying around and making clothes for me and my friends out of boredom. I’d post the creations on Instagram and other people seemed to really enjoy what I was doing. I then set up a website and it’s grown from there! I’m now lucky enough to work on my brand full time!
Jackie Abrafi: I created Eljae to bring to life my passion for the nostalgic affordable gold jewellery and to empower wearers to express their unique styles.
Rosette Ale: I’m a creative problem solver so Revival was born out of my desire to express myself creatively whilst providing a meaningful solution. Combining my academic background in Mathematics and Business Studies with my love for fashion, my aim was to tackle the detrimental effects of the fashion industry, particularly textile waste and worker exploitation, whilst creating expressive fashion pieces. The devastating Rana Plaza factory incident in Bangladesh in 2013 deeply impacted me and propelled me to become an advocate for change within the fashion world, leading to the inception of Revival. My ultimate objective is to foster a renewed appreciation for clothing and the individuals who bring it to life. Through the upcycled designs I create from reclaimed textiles, I aspire to promote sustainability and champion the value of ethical fashion. Drawing inspiration from a fusion of the 90s era and my West African heritage, Revival brings a nostalgic yet distinct look to the sustainable fashion scene allowing for bold, self/expression.
Why did you apply for Scale-up?
Pokuaa Ansere: As a designer/brand, I’ve reached a point where I can pinpoint the gaps in my knowledge and experience within the business realm. Recognising the need for growth, I applied to the FMR ScaleUp programme, understanding that an incubator of this nature, structured to provide comprehensive support, would significantly contribute to my personal growth and, most importantly, the development of my brand, especially in the areas of marketing, business models/development, and community engagement. Alongside this, being part of a cohort of designers striving to do the same, has in the past and continues to really motivate me, so being in this space of inspiring mentors & peers is super invaluable to me.
Maddie Sellers: I applied for the scheme because I feel like there’s no real blueprint for small brands, it can feel very lonely and daunting. It’s difficult to know what the next steps are and how to move forward. I think Scale-up really helps with bridging those gaps.
Jackie Abrafi: I applied for the Scale-up programme in hopes to access resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities to help propel my brand to new heights and growth!
Rosette Ale: I applied to the programme recognizing its potential to boost Revival’s brand awareness and gain significant press coverage, essential for elevating our market visibility. This exposure is crucial for spreading our sustainability message and reaching fashion-forward individuals who share our values. As a black female founder, I’ve faced systemic barriers and financial challenges in scaling my business. The programme promised resources and support to overcome these obstacles, helping to elevate my brand’s presence, expand our network, grow revenue streams, and increase our social and environmental impact. While I wasn’t one of the main winners, being a runner-up and having access to mentoring and the demo day to present my designs to ASOS is a valuable opportunity, especially as a black designer in the sustainable fashion space.
What are you most looking forward to about the programme?
Pokuaa Ansere: Continuously absorbing and learning totally new ways and approaches to apply to my current practices. But also to find new methods of working to really help scale Kwaku Joseph. I love learning from how other people work, from the structures they put in place to witnessing the small details I wouldn’t usually think about, and how they really make others’ minds tick and the impact even the small details have.
Maddie Sellers: Meeting the other designers in the scheme and all the workshops!
Jackie Abrafi: Leveraging the programme’s support in line with Eljae’s overall business strategy, networking and sharing knowledge with other business owners. But I’m most looking forward to having a mentor – this is something I’ve always wanted to have but never got round to making happen.
Rosette Ale: I’m most looking forward to the mentoring opportunity; to be able to learn from someone in the industry who is way ahead of me in terms of years of experience, knowledge and wisdom. Their guidance and expertise would be instrumental in refining my business strategy, improving operations, and fostering sustainable growth. As an entrepreneur, you’re continually learning (and making mistakes) so I’ve previously found great value in mentorship and I’m excited to have a mentor who works in my specific field. To be honest, I’m also really looking forward to (but nervous) about the demo day!
What are some key milestones of the brand so far?
Pokuaa Ansere: Launching Kwaku Joseph through the Metallic Funds Fashion Design programme, releasing my first independent collection, being a part of Atelier100’s 2nd cohort & FMR scaleUP incubator have been moments in time I am honestly so grateful for, these experiences have inspired me, pushed me and given me so much more confidence as a designer/brand owner. One of the other most amazing parts of having a brand is working with my friends and connecting with the creatives within my extended network. Being able to lift each other up and express our creativity in a collaborative way, is such a powerful feeling that I always want to remain present at all stages of my brand.
Maddie Sellers: Doing a pop-up on Oxford street, being in Vogue business and being able to work for myself full time!
Jackie Abrafi: Key milestones so far are having celebrities such as Maya Jama wear my brand and having my brand noticed in publications like The Zoe Report, Refinery29 and Forbes.
Rosette Ale: Our brand has gained recognition for its innovative approach to fashion redesign and sustainability, highlighted in major publications like Stylist, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Photo Vogue, and Bustle magazine. We successfully raised £10k through a crowdfunding campaign in 2021 to establish a sustainable supply chain, followed by securing £5k start-up funding from UnLtd in 2022. Our partnerships with notable organisations such as Fashion Revolution, TikTok, Adidas x Depop, AKOU, and Colechi have enabled us to engage in social initiatives and upcycling workshops for young creatives. Additionally, our brand, Revival, has been adorned by famous personalities such as Becky Hill, Orsola de Castro, Ms Banks, Precious Mustafa, Corinna Brown, and is featured on Wolf & Badger.
Where do you see your brand in 10 years from now?
Pokuaa Ansere: I see Kwaku Joseph, having a really bold and beautiful community of people who see the brand as an extension of themselves, but also a brand that collaborates and brings people together to uplift and empower one another, through celebrating Black British culture, heritage and identity.
Maddie Sellers: I’d like to grow a team of like-minded people and have a fun studio space where we can create and experiment. I’d like to continue to produce everything in house and continue to be focussed on slow fashion but just on a bigger scale. I’d also love to open my own shop in London!
Jackie Abrafi: In the next decade (God willing!) I envision Eljae to have a global presence and retail presence through physical stores/pop up shops. Eljae will be a name that people run to when thinking about where to get their jewellery and our jewellery will be accessible through multiple stockists – solidifying our position as a globally recognised jewellery brand known for its unique designs whilst still maintaining affordability and commitments to ethical practices.
Rosette Ale: As a global circular brand involved in innovative textile recycling and textile technology research, I’d love to expand into other sectors such as homeware and skincare etc to broaden the circular approach to our entire lifestyle.
To find out more about scaleUP and future opportunities, follow Fashion Minority Report on Instagram, and of course to see what these brand get up to in the future, please find their websites detailed below: