Growing up poor in Ghana, Kwaku Boateng Brommon had to sell water to make ends meet. The handmade bespoke suits he now designs for the country’s affluent and powerful tell a tale of hardship and tenacity.
Not many can go from selling sachets of water in a remote village in Ghana at the age of nine to having a private audience with the president of their country in the same lifetime. But that is exactly what happened to Kwaku Boateng Brommon.
He vividly remembers the day he walked into what is essentially Ghana’s Oval Office at the presidential residence in Accra, with a handful of bespoke suits made specifically for President Nana Akufo-Addo.
The moment, forever etched in his memory, was a turning point for the young entrepreneur whose trajectory to the top of the Ghanaian fashion industry has been all but conventional.
“Sitting in his office I had a flashback to when I was a kid standing in the market selling my pure water and I was like ‘How did I get here?’ A village boy sitting in the office of the president was impossible and the story played like a movie in my mind,” recalls Brommon.
And like all great dreams, Brommon faced impossible odds. The first roadblock he had to overcome was poverty.
“I grew up with my grandparents and as far as I can remember, I never met my mum until I was in my teens because she had left for London. My dad was a teacher in Nigeria and he came back to Ghana when I was nine. Growing up was tough because I was poor and I had to fend for anything I needed. After school, I would go home, go to the fridge, pack my water and travel to the markets to sell.
“I would do two trips before I [returned] home in the evening and the cash I got selling water is what I would use as pocket money at school. I did that for six years and I also went to the farm with my dad to plant crops and we would harvest the food and take it to the local market to sell. It was tough and I felt like living in Ghana was torture,” says Brommon.
The first chance he got to beat poverty came when he moved to London, United Kingdom (UK), at the age of 14 to live with his mother; and the whole world opened up to Brommon.
Wanting to put to good use the hard work and tenacity he had learned in Ghana, he decided to drop out of college and pursue his passion – fashion.
“From an early age, I always liked to look good and keep my clothes clean. I remember asking myself ‘What is the closest area of work [that would] pull me into this passion of mine?’ I thought I should find a job in a clothing store, which I did.”
By 18, he was working for a retail shop in London, staying on in the industry for about 12 years.
Every time he would get a break from work, he would roam the West End in London, a popular cultural hub with retail stores, restaurants and a theater district, for hours, window-shopping and studying the impeccable materials used for crafting high-end wear. After stints with luxury brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Hackett London, Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen, Brommon realized that he had reached a glass ceiling in the UK and needed a change.
“I had become a father and had two kids to take care of so just looking at them and looking at where I was at the time, I knew there was more to me than what I was doing; I had to find my purpose. I didn’t want a hand-to-mouth lifestyle anymore and seeing my kids running around in the tiny
apartment we lived in at the time – I was married – and I just thought this can’t be it,” says Brommon.
He decided to forge a new path for his future and returned to Ghana.
The Ghana that he found torturous was gone and here was this buzzing, upwardly-mobile and cosmopolitan city Accra firmly asserting itself as the latest destination for those brave enough to follow their dreams.
That is exactly what Brommon needed.
“Accra was new to me because I had lived in a village. The place was buzzing with new ideas and people were starting new businesses. I met a friend who was into finance and every time I visited Ghana, I would see him and we would hang out. This was a well-to-do individual and he used to advise that whatever I do, I must make sure Ghana is part of the plan, and
I could see it myself,” says Brommon.
The trips to Accra became more frequent and on those times, he received consistent orders from professionals in Ghana for quality suits and clothing from London, primarily because they couldn’t find top brands in Accra in keeping with their aspirations.
“They said that if they [could find] one supplier who had great quality [brands], they would buy it locally but it just didn’t exist,” recalls Brommon. That was all he needed to hear.
“I said ‘They want quality and easy access, so what if I am able to start my own brand.’ I was done with the UK. I told my wife that I needed to move back alone and have that freedom to move around and hustle and so, I asked her to take care of the kids whilst I managed. I felt I needed to follow this vision.” Even when people discouraged his ideas, Brommon believed differently. The desire to create a luxury bespoke suit line in Ghana had been birthed and there was no turning back.
His research took him to Italy, Amsterdam and Spain in search of the best manufacturers of suits and he struck deals with them. It felt good to start a journey on his own.
“I said if it doesn’t work, at least I would have tried. I remember the factory [I had approached] told me I needed about £20,000 and I didn’t have a penny. So, I said to [them], ‘Sign me up and agree to the terms
and give me six months and if I don’t pay that money back to you, we can cancel’, ” says Brommon.
His pitch worked and with the necessary tools that he needed and £50 to his name, he returned to Accra and started knocking on every door he could find to tell people about his bespoke suits.
His biggest hurdle was trying to convince professional,
well-heeled Ghanaians to fork out $1,200-$1,400-a-piece for an unknown designer. But Brommon was convinced all he needed was one client and the rest would be history.
“This was 2014 and everyone [asked] ‘Why should I buy from you when I can spend the same amount of money on a Gucci or Tom Ford suit?’ I was on the street pitching for business for three months before one person known to be a fashionable lawyer decided to give my brand a try,” says Brommon.
After four weeks, the suit was delivered from Italy and the feedback was a resounding success. One order turned to multiple requests and Brommon was able to repay his manufacturer in three months.
As he helped the President of Ghana try on his sleek, sharp suit, it was clear to Brommon that his vision was slowly taking shape. As a recognizable force in the luxury suit and menswear market in West Africa and as founder of Brommon and Laxiri with a flagship store in Accra, he now has his eyes set on the rest of the continent.