Akua Shabaka, BBA Strategic Design and Management ’19, has always had her own style. Even as a young person, “I felt confined in my school uniform,” she says. “Colorful socks, leg warmers, and dreadlocks with hairpieces were my form of self-expression.”
Shabaka’s family in Los Angeles encouraged that creativity. Her mother and muse, Rebecca Henry, is an attorney and trained seamstress with a love of handicrafts and vintage clothing. At 16, Shabaka was posting her own upcycled vintage outfits on Instagram.
“People would ask, ‘Where can I buy that?’” says Shabaka. So mother and daughter opened an Etsy shop, filling orders from their living room. They called their line of upcycled clothing, based on traditional African fabrics, House of Aama.
When it was time for college, Shabaka chose Parsons and a major in Strategic Design and Management, which enabled her to acquire skills to complement her existing competencies and her mother’s design role. She was in the thick of her studies when House
of Aama was selected to be part of New York Fashion Week. Shabaka launched the collection between classes.
House of Aama’s aesthetic has evolved to delve deeper into the Black American diaspora experience. Its celebrated Bloodroot collection, named for an herb used by women in the postbellum South, featured “vintage Southern Victorian vibes, but through a
modern lens,” says Shabaka. The new Saltwater Collection was inspired by the culture of Black American resort towns of the early 1900s. Textile patterns incorporate sea deities, vintage maps, and tattoos.
In 2021, House of Aama received the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, which, Shabaka says, “put us on the map.” Shabaka also had the honor of being named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Shabaka’s achievements testify to the power of fashion to bolster