She is talented, creative, and her work is colourful and fun! Dinah Abban-Ampiah, a milliner based in Calgary, Canada, creates stunning, custom-made fascinators for women who can’t find the right statement accessory for their special occasion.
Dinah’s brand, Acquah Hats and More, and her approach towards head-forward fashion evolved organically when she decided to pursue millinery professionally three years ago. In The Runway Issue this month, we chat with the designer about her work, inspiration and future plans.
1. What is the story behind the name of your company?
I have always loved wearing fascinators and headpieces for weddings and other special occasions. Back in the summer of 2016, I had a friend’s wedding to attend and wanted a fascinator. Most of the pieces I saw and liked weren’t within my budget. I wasn’t looking for a piece with a bunch of flowers, nor something too showy to steal the occasion. I wanted a simple, classy fascinator with an “attitude”.
My brother was visiting Ghana before the wedding, so I asked him to purchase a fascinator for me. In the end, I didn’t like the piece he got me either and remember telling him: “I’m not wearing this, I will make my own fascinator.”
That weekend, I spent about 2-3 hours online to get some ideas, and ordered my first millinery book and my first hatblock. By mid-week, I had an idea of the hat design I was going to make and got my hat supplies. I really liked the result of what I designed: it was the perfect hat for me for the occasion and I received a lot of compliments at the wedding.
Being a milliner isn’t just about being creative, you need to know how to sew and make fine hand-stitches. So back in the summer of 2017, when I finally decided to start my own millinery business, I thought the right name for my company would be “Acquah”, named after the two people who taught me how to sew and make my first hand-stitches: my late mother and paternal grandmom. Their maiden name was “Acquah”.
2. Where do you pull your creative inspiration from, in and out of fashion categories?
I believe my creative inspiration comes naturally. I think it’s one of my gifts. Most times, I don’t have a pre-determined design in mind when I’m working on a headpiece/fascinator, I follow my inner creativity. Occasionally, I learn new skills from other milliners in the U.K. and I give it all my own for the final finish.
Acquah is about standing out and is defined by two things: colour and attitude. We combine brightly matching colours, or just one colour that is finished with a touch of brightness. We try to let the fascinator speak for you—our fascinators are unique, with an “attitude”, designed to fit your occasion. We work with our customers throughout the process to make sure it’s the right fit for their needs.
4. How long does it take from inquiry to delivery for a custom-made piece?
You can expect it to be ready for shipping within three weeks of the initial inquiry. Depending on where you are located, it could take other 3 to 14 business days to be delivered once shipped.
Yes, we do have permanent collections ready to be shipped during spring and summer. People don’t tend to wear fascinators in the winter, so we try to cut down on production in the winter.
6. Will your upcoming jewelry and bags be custom-made as well?
Our statement jewelry and bags will not be custom-made, but will be unique to Acquah Hats and More, and available online all year.
We are currently working on the designs for our bags. We hope to have them available for purchasing on our website within the next two years.
8. Can we look forward to seeing an Acquah Hats and More location in Toronto any time soon?
Toronto is definitely one of the locations I’d love to have an Acquah Hats and More branch in the future, but not anytime soon. We currently do ship to Toronto and are hoping we could supply shops there in the near future as well. We’d love for shops to get in touch with us to have this arranged.
It’s possible but we haven’t made any firm plans for now.
10. If you think of fashion trends, which ones are you living for and which ones do you think need to stop right now?
For Acquah, “style starts at the top”. It’s about time we focus on “head-fashion” and wearing fascinators for special occasions: not just styling our hair or focusing on the clothes, shoes and jewelry. I would like to see more hair adorned with headpieces. Wear the perfect fascinator and you’ll stand out from the crowd!
Photography by Pierre-Luc Cormier.