Review: Akua Gabby Makes a Triumphant Runway Debut

Jacqueline Addison presented her first full collection for her line, Akua Gabby, last weekend. Showcased against the industrial, sparse backdrop of the Broadway building in Northeast, it served as a fitting introduction to the talented, 26-year-old Minneapolis designer, a native of Ghana who immigrated to the U.S. in 2008. The name Akua Gabby is a reference to her mother, Akua, and her father, Gabby, who was a tailor. The collection was infused with fresh inspiration and impressive in its ambition—11 women’s looks and 11 men’s, all handmade by the designer herself—and showcased Addison’s unique point of view and excellent craftsmanship.

The skeleton flower was the starting point for the collection, which Addison dubbed “Fantasy.” She took inspiration from the unusual flower’s unique ability to become translucent when it comes into contact with water. Flowers were a recurrent theme throughout the line, which incorporated a variety of embroidered floral fabrics made by artisans in Africa, which Addison in turn manipulated to create appliques she hand-sewed to sheer fabric—a reference to the transparency of the skeleton flower and to Addison’s own dual nature.

“When I first saw that flower, I thought about myself,” she says. “I realized I was like that flower—fragile yet strong.”

Not that the mood of the line—with its effusively feminine silhouettes, decorative maximalism, and floral motif—was at all fragile. Each piece in the women’s collection, from a sheer bell-bottomed jumpsuit to a ballgown finished with a sporty bodice, invoked a sense of boldness and regality. The painstaking craftsmanship on display throughout the collection was astounding. Addison says that the handwork involved in a single bodice took as much as three hours to complete.

Addison’s men’s line combined the collarless, tunic styles of traditional African menswear and infused them with a streetwear edge and a slightly sci-fi vibe, incorporating hoods, cowl necks, asymmetrical necklines, and distressed fabrics.

One minor quibble: There was somewhat of a disconnect between the men’s and women’s looks, which were shown together. A men’s navy and red cowl-neck tunic had little to do with the topaz-blue floral woman’s looks that were shown before and after it, not only in color but in tone. The collection was most cohesive when the men’s looks took a cue from the botanical theme of the women’s looks, including a men’s shirt with floral sleeves and a men’s floral tunic. Both collections may have been better served if they were shown separately, or if Addison would have incorporated the floral motif throughout both.

The collection was brought full circle with beautiful hair and makeup styling by Steller Hair Company, which outfitted the models in slicked, futuristic braids and gold-tone Greek laurel wreaths. The show cemented Addison’s status as a bright, emerging talent in the Twin Cities—and between her beautiful craftsmanship and fashion-forward point of view, she’s clearly one to watch.

Akua Gabby designs can be purchased by contacting

all photos by Jay Larson