“I could have just given up on my dream because as a kid, I didn’t even know exactly what it was but I knew that at some point, I wanted to create my own things,” Steve French told Kuulpeeps.com in an exclusive interview for Emergers 2020 – The Colours Edition.
It was a childhood of being creative after descending from generations of people who made clothes for others.
Knowing what we know now, it’s is an amazing thing that Steve never gave up on that blurry dream when he was a child.
“Not a lot of people saw that and I could have just given up. I could have said ok nobody understands,” he said.
“People didn’t understand what I had envisioned in my head. But I kept to it believing that this is it. It was my vision my dream,” he added.
I think what keeps us going is dreaming because once you stop dreaming then that’s it.Steve French – Emergers 2020
At every turn of his life, Steve has had to make a case for why being creative with clothes was important to him.
He had to make the case as a child he picked up drawing cartoons and that grew into sketching clothes.
“The transition from the cartoon stage to the clothes is when that bridge or whatever was supposed to happen happened. Then from there I just started creating,” he said.
But it came with a bit of resistance from his family.
“My family members were not accepting of the things that I was sketching. So it was just me believing in my craft,” he explained.
Even though his family is known for dressmaking, locally or traditional it’s meant for people who are school dropouts.
All of Steve’s grandmothers were dress makers. But it was not acceptable for him – educated and a guy to also go into that profession.
My family is made up of doctors, lawyers – that’s the kind of family I have,” he added.
“That’s my Fante family, that’s how they are so coming from a family like that and then saying I want to do this professionally – I am a guy, a science student and now I want to design clothes,” he said highlighting the nuances of what lied ahead of him.
That was the case he had to make when at Apam Senior High School, he took the bold decision of transferring from the General Science Class to the Visual Arts class in his final year.
Beyond getting his father on board, he had to make his case to the school authorities – and later he had to gain acceptance from his new course mates.
“I told them I wanted to transfer to Visual Arts, which wasn’t the easiest of things. Even teachers didn’t want me to transfer because they didn’t understand why. As a matter of fact, they even wanted me to be a school prefect but that wasn’t me. Trying to convince them to transfer me to the Visual Arts class was the hardest thing I have ever done,” Steve explained.
“When I got there, they didn’t like me because they said I was coming to top their class. They didn’t like me at all but as time went on we bonded. Most of my very good friends now are from that class,” he added.
However, though he had won over his father to move him to the Visual Arts class, his father didn’t want to make clothes.
According to Steve, his father suggesting putting him in a roadside dressmaking shop, when he first told him about his wish to go into fashion.
“But then again, he (Steve’s father) was like no… I have gone to school, I am intelligent so the next step I have to do arts-related must be architecture,” he told Kuulpeeps.com.
“I needed elective maths to do architecture and because my WASSCE is now Visual Arts with no elective maths, I had to write Elective Maths as a private candidate. So I started learning elective maths in remedial class – it was the most depressing thing I have ever done. Remedials is the most depressing thing,” he said.
Now, Steve, once again had to make a case for himself to get back on track to achieve that dream he has been painting in his head.
“One day I just went to class and started questioning what I was doing there. I remember calling my mother and telling her that I am moving, I am going to pursue my dreams. It’s either you hop on my boat or you hop on later, or you just let me be basically,” he said.
“I’d already quit the school. I would dress up from the house and go and sit at Atomic Roundabout, because I couldn’t tell my father that I didn’t want to go to the remedial school. Because they had paid money and everything,” he added.
“I remember going back home from “class” and my mother had gone to snitch to my dad,” Steve said.
At the time, Steve was in the process of pulling off the one trick most African kids always bank on to get through to their parents – get your uncles and aunties to intercede on your behalf or make your case for you.
When he was trying to “gather uncles and others to help me explain things to my dad meanwhile, my mother had already told my dad about the whole thing.”
The uncles and aunties intervention was no longer needed.
His father called him and his father talked about Steve’s happiness and his continuous wish to go into fashion.
It was then that his father told him that “he has always wanted me to be the best of myself in everything that I do.”
His father believed strongly that whatever he wished to do he had to get a tertiary education on it.
His father then researched and he found Radford Univerity.
“I didn’t even know about Radford University. It was my dad who actually found it and he said this is it, you have to go to the university to study fashion designing,” Steve said.
“Then I started the school. I don’t know how it happened. All I know was that I ended up at Radford and that was it,” Steve added.
It was at Radford Univerity – a school his father has found – that Steve started making impact in the Ghanaian fashion scene.
His final year project was received with much acclaim in the industry.
This then created the opportunity for what was about to happen next in Steve’s life.
Gucci, the international fashion brand was looking for young and upcoming fashion designers from diverse backgrounds to be recruited into its Gucci Design Fellowship Programme.
He was among the few young Ghanaian designers who submitted entries.
He was shortlisted and they were invited to Milan where only ten of all the designers from various countries would be recruited to join Gucci’s programme.
In Milan, the 10 designers were chosen but Steve, unfortunately, did not make it to the top 10.
It was after that the Gucci team had to make an announcement nobody expected.
Instead of only 10, Gucci had decided to make room for one more designer. This was unheard of.
That 11th designer was Steve French – once again he’s made his case for a seat at the Gucci table.
“One of the greatest things about joining the Gucci project is that I met Naomi Campbell. Listen, Naomi calls me on my phone and texts me,” the 26-year-old said.
I think the programme is brilliant. It’s an amazing programme for creatives, for young emerging designers. I never imagined this happening.
Beyond Gucci, Steve has plans for his brand.
“For my future goals I still want my brand to have its core element that is honoring traditions and creating artistic expressions.”
“Also, I just want the brand Steve French to be something that contributes to society it shouldn’t take away. It should help solve world problems through fashion. It doesn’t necessarily have to be clothes or arts-related. It could be business-related,” he said.
Thank you, for not giving up!
Watch Steve French Talk About Being A Ghanaian Designer, A Gucci Fellow & Designer For Naomi Campbell Below: