Small Brand Spotlight: Meet the Mother-Daughter Duo Behind House of Aama

by Freya Drohan

Parsons The New School for Design graduate Akua Shabaka and her lawyer mom Rebecca Henry are the creatives behind House of Aama, an LA-based brand that wants to bring African American history and heritage to the forefront of its modern designs. The environmentally-friendly, unisex brand has sustainability front and center, with each low waste piece piece made to order and produced in the City of Angels. Here, the duo tell The Daily about how they’re emphasizing the black experience, culture, and tradition through their garments.

When did you launch the brand? What’s the meaning behind the name?
House of Aama is a boutique lifestyle clothing brand based in Los Angeles, California and Brooklyn, New York. The brand was founded by myself, Akua Shabaka while I was in high school in Los Angeles. We officially launched House of Aama to the general public in 2017. Aama is Akua’s second middle name. Aama means gracious and benevolent, and is associated with the Ancient Egyptian Goddess Hathor or Het Heru. Thus, House of Aama pays homage to founder Akua and the Goddess Hathor or Het Heru.

What are your backgrounds in fashion/design?
Rebecca, the mother of the duo is an attorney in private practice by trade but artistically oriented in nature with sewing, quilting, and art hobbies. Rebecca comes from a background of craftswomen in her family. Akua learned from her mother and is a graduate of Parsons The New School of Design.

How do you like to sum up the ethos of the House of Aama brand?
House of Aama explores the folkways of the black experience by designing timeless garments with nostalgic references informed by historical research, archival analysis, and storytelling. We aim to evoke dialogue, social commentary and conversations around heritage, remembrance and to shed light on nuanced histories.

Why is it important to you that the pieces are made in L.A.?
We value the importance of employing local workers and artisans.

How do you bring your own personal experiences into what House of Aama is doing?
We have looked to our own family legacy to inform the stories we can tell in a sartorial fashion. The Bloodroot collection was inspired by Rebecca’s maternal grandparents in Shreveport, Louisiana. Every summer, when Rebecca was a child she would spend her summers in Louisiana on her grandparents’ farm. On the farm, Rebecca would help with planting crops, fishing, feeding farm animals and other country chores. At the end of each day, Rebecca’s grandmother would administer a spoonful of Bloodroot as a medicinal. Bloodroot is an herb used by Southern folk to protect the family.

Who, or what, inspires you?
We started the company due to our collective interest in the cultural retention of storytelling, transference of storytelling narratives in the family context, and the reclamation of these narratives within the black community. We are particularly interested in how these narratives are expressed communally, spiritually and in the present time.

House of Aama’s Akua Shabaka and Rebecca Henry (courtesy)

Your pieces are made to order; do you think this is something we’re going to see more brands turning to?
We hope so. This model is low waste and ethically responsible. Especially during this time of major uncertainty, the last thing we need in fashion is unused gametes, fabric, and waste.

What are your hopes for the future of House of Aama?
We look forward to continuing our mission to explore narratives around the black experience that inform our timeless garments. Storytelling that resonates with people on a personal level. We are excited for our growth and the opportunities to reach new consumers and retailers.

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