Akaso is a Belgian label and the brainchild of Philippe Vertriest, father of two Ethiopian born daughters and great believer in Africa's creative talent. From the encounter with a book on African body painting art, he developed the Akaso collaborative design concept, uniting the Kara tribe in Ethiopia with the resident Belgian Akaso designers.
The Kara people in Ethiopia are one of Africa's most authentic tribal people and reknown for their abstract body painting art : a fascinating act of transformation, using the skin as a canvas and the earth as a palette.
Every single print in the Akaso collection is the exact reproduction of a body painting motif created by a Kara tribe artist on their face and body. Akaso pays each artist as a Western free lance designer. The Kara invests these proceeds in sustainable projects improving the livelihood of the entire Kara tribe community.
The entire Akaso collection is manufactured in Belgium and Europe using only natural European materials such as Tencel, baby alpaca, fine merinos wool and calf leather from Tuscany for the handbags.
Akaso comes from the Italian 'a caso' meaning 'by coincidence', reflecting the many coincidences that Philippe encountered on his route that brought him to the Akaso co-creation vision. 'There is no coincidence in this life - just follow your intuition, however bold the path may be'.
Akaso founder Philippe Vertriest is also the creative director and designer of the label. As a young child and adult Philippe developed his artistic vein in the Art Academy. He holds a degree in Finance and International Affairs and was trained as a diplomat, speaking six languages. Coincidence took Philippe from the diplomatic career path to the fashion industry, where he initiated as commercial director and subsequently occupied product design roles for 15 years for international Belgian labels in accessories and lingerie. Labels famous for their immaculate quality, it is where Philippe developed an eye for detail. With 20 years of experience in his pocket, he founded Akaso in 2014.
March 2014. My first encounter with the Kara people in Duz, one of only three Kara villages. I came here with Ethiopian anthropologist Desta. Seated under a tree by the Omo river bank, we shared my vision with the Kara community inviting them to give a new dimension to the Kara body painting art. Right there, intuitively, we connected. Next, the Kara needed only one night to select six young Kara body painting artists. The Kara Six.
Kara body painting. An act of transformation, using the skin as a canvas and the earth as a palette. Encoded messages. Desires, status or simply a mirror of the state of mind. A celebration and a signature of being alive.
December 2014. Homecoming at the Kara. Seven days. 8am, Class room session. Belgian fashion designers Sandrina and Michaël discuss with Wucho – the Kara’s design team front man – the theme of the day. Afternoon body painting sessions by the river. Other than that: let intuition rule.
Photography by Michael Marson and Philippe Vertriest. Akaso co-creation design work shop among the Kara, December 2014, Ethiopia.
"Aucune civilisation ne peut se penser elle-même si elle ne dispose pas de quelques autres pour servir de terme de comparaison"