Born In Gambia; Made In London: The Story JEKKAH's Vibrant Street Wear
JEKKAH began in 2014. Two old school friends saw demand for traditional African prints amongst young people in London.
One, Kamil, was based in the Gambia, where he worked for father’s African print fabric business. The other, Petros, got involved out of interest in the fabrics themselves, continuing with his corporate role in the city – for the early stages.
And in those early stages, things were very simple. An online store, some vibrant trousers, some vibrant t-shirts to match (or mismatch, if you wanted to mix it up). At the start, the pair saw their customers as young, fun, festival goers. And this remains true, in the summer.
Then demand increased.
JEKKAH – which means ‘to be beautiful or elegant’, or ‘to be dressed well’ – appealed to young people in London, beyond just the festival goers (and performers, they've dressed Paloma Faith, Fuse ODG, MNEK, Natty to name a few).
JEKKAH appeals to those with an affinity for African culture, music, and food. Or just those with an appreciation of the aesthetic. Those who have an interest in African wax print, but want to wear it tailored into something youthful, fresh. And, crucially, those who want something distinct from the traditional cuts popular with the older generations. JEKKAH are one of the few African print specialists producing street; one of the few street wear specialists so committed to traditional fabrics.
And ‘so what?’ I hear you ask. What does JEKKAH offer? What of the colour, the style, the fabric, the quality?
The colours are lively and varied, with large bold prints which contrast nicely with the sleek cuts.
The style: If you take a glance at their Instagram page. You’ll be struck with the creativity of what they do. Tradition African prints woven into casual jackets, for example. Wax print on denim. Crisp white shirts tucked into bright, colourful trousers, short-shorts in the same fabric as smart A-line skirts. – Styles which play to the strengths of the fabric…
…The fabric. Traditional wax cloths, 100% cotton, no man-made elements woven through. Which brings us to the quality…
The quality, which JEKKAH continually reviews and improves, starts in the fabrics and carries into the tailoring. They’re very selective about which fabrics they use, and the result is something well-made and enduring. The commitment to traditional fabrics, means that there is no stretch. As a result, the fit and the cut must be very good to allow for the lack of flexibility. Unlike highstreets brands that can imitate silks with synthetic materials, the wax cottons do not allow for a floating effect. Instead they offer a sophisticated, structured look which retains its shape.
I have my own crop tops which I bought a year ago. They match beautifully with A-line skirts for nice restaurants, denim shorts for days on the beach, or high-waisted jeans for gigs. They make me feel infinitely better dressed than in anything I’ve bought on the high-street.
There’s more. More that distinguishes this brand from something you might pick up on the high-street. Their website describes an ethical brand, born in Gambia, based in London. Petros became quite animated when I asked about what this means. It means they value their trading relationship with West Africa based suppliers. It means that if they’re packaging part of African culture to meet demand in London, then they’re making sure that the supply chain includes African based businesses. It means their fabrics are bought in the Gambian market, and the clothing is tailored in Gambia too. It means they take seriously their responsibility to their employees there, who are paid above the market rate.
These origins and authenticity are an essential part of JEKKAH. It could be possible to print imitation fabrics in the UK. But the commitment to both authenticity and youthful street trends is what distinguishes JEKKAH.
They’ve grown a long way from the early days when Petros was still working in the city and they were selling from different stalls in London’s markets. They can be found online at JEKKAH.com or in Unit 596-598 of Camden Market (next door to Shaka Zulu Restaurant).
Young fashion with traditional fabrics. Street trends which are timeless, durable. Bright, loud prints, with quality tailoring and elegant cuts. It may seem as though these features might contradict themselves, but JEKKAH have married them up and it works beautifully.
Written by Bethan Ashmead-Latham