In August, Sportswear giant PUMA announced a brand-new competition to support emerging Black fashion designers across the UK. To further their dedication to championing upcoming talent, PUMA is spotlighting the next generation of design talent by offering a platform to express their creativity and share their unique stories.
Meet Rachel Boonin, a 27-year-old Londoner born and raised in Tottenham. After graduating from Fashion Design in 2017, Rachel aims to use design to celebrate and marry contrasting concepts through storytelling and her experiences having worked with luxury brands.
In this interview, we explored the influence of her Ghanaian-British and Christianity that led Rachel to be one of three PUMA Design shortlisted winners.
How would you describe your journey as a creative?
I would say a rollercoaster in a good way! I’ve always known I was creative for as long as I can remember. My mum used to tell me whenever I would throw a tantrum as a kid, she would hand me a pencil and I would instantly go silent and draw. I think it was natural to pursue fashion. After all, my passion for fashion grew as I would design clothes for my Bratz dolls. I would say I had a naive or fairytale way of thinking about pursuing fashion. After graduating from University, the reality of what goes into it was a big reality check! Nothing hits you more than realising talent is not enough. You have to be a great businesswoman.
I’ve dabbled in many aspects of the industry from design to personal styling though, I discovered I’m more passionate about changing the industry than anything. From ethics to the positive concepts and stories I’m trying to tell. I look back at everything and see the Lord’s hand in every step because I find myself more passionate about creating an impact of righteous values instead of just being a hot new brand. It just means so much more to me now.
Why did you enter the Puma Black Designers competition?
Honestly, I had no clue about the competition when it first came out. I was taking a break from social media when a friend (shout out to Steph) sent the competition post. I just happened to return to Instagram. It was probably God wanting me to see the message! I entered because I have so many concepts built about Africa so, I always have a story to tell. What better way than telling these stories in Black History Month? The Puma brand resonates with my design aesthetic which I would describe as luxe streetwear.
Can you tell us more about what inspired your designs?
So my concept was inspired by the Kumericans in Ghana. As I am a second-generation Ghanaian, I always have a fun story to tell when I visit Ghana. Kumericans are Ghanaian natives who reside in Kumasi and live or aspire to an American lifestyle. I could relate to this story because I remember how influenced the world was by American Hip-Hop culture in the 2000s. But as I began to reflect on the Kumericans, I thought it was ironic that such a rich Ashanti culture would be discarded for a Western lifestyle. I named the project Kumeraglam to glamorise the idea of contentment and embracing what’s already there whilst taking something new. It’s almost a message to the Kumericans that we have so much rich culture that we can already celebrate. I guess it was also a way to uplift them. My designs are revamping a Y2K style inspired by the Ashanti culture. You can see this in my modern take on a kente print. The wrap-over silhouettes are inspired by how we wrap our Ntoma (cloth) on special occasions. Beading, excessive gold jewellery and the list goes on!
Did you face any challenges whilst developing your entry? If so, what were they?
My first challenge was finding out about the competition a bit later than most. Then, my summer was full of back-to-back weddings; one was with a very dear friend. Managing that alongside being a stylist was very overwhelming. Somehow, God allowed me to get the designs in just before the deadline!
How will winning this competition benefit your journey as a creative?
It would take that stepping stone to changing and shifting the ideals in the fashion industry. Fashion is more than clothes. It tells a story and pushes agendas. Winning this competition will allow me to continue to make that impact. I think it’s rare to see Christian representatives in the industry promoting Godly perspectives.
If you proceed to the final stage, what do you hope to learn most from a 1-to-1 with June Ambrose?
Honestly, I would like to know everything! From the things that may seem insignificant to all the major parts. It is so humbling to glean and learn from such an industry expert. There’s a saying, “Wise people learn from their own mistakes, but wiser people learn from others”. I hope learning from her will allow me to be a wiser person.
For more about Rachel, you can follow @rayeboonin on Instagram.