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How a UK fashion grad broke Ghana

PROVERBS 31 WOMAN: Sharna Darko balances being a mum and wife with growing her fashion and lifestyle brand

REGISTERING ON the radar of heavyweight fashion editors from an early age, Sharna Darko left the UK in her twenties to start a new life and a new business in South Africa.

Darko's now-husband Alex was already living in South Africa, as were his parents, so the natural beauty said 'goodbye' to south London to join him. Soon after her move, the young couple were joined by family who travelled from all over the world to South Africa for their wedding day; the marker of their new beginning.

Fast forward a few years, the Darkos, son in tow, packed-up Sharna's lauded fashion boutique (run with Alex's sister Louise) which attracted celebrities and customers from around the world and created another new home in Ghana.

The latest move has inspired Sharna to birth a new online fashion brand, Eight Lifestyle.

Q: What is the Eight Lifestyle?

A: Eight Lifestyle is a fashion and lifestyle brand based in Accra Ghana. Currently, our range consists of African print head wraps, fashion accessories and also African print cushions for the home. We say currently, because we have plans to expand into clothing very soon!


Scroll to the end for details on how to buy this head wrap, modelled by designer Sharna Darko

Q: Your headwraps are beautiful - where do you source materials?
 
A: Thank you! We source our materials locally. Ghana is an absolute feast for African cloth.


Scroll to the end for details on how to buy this head wrap, modelled by designer Sharna Darko

Q: Tell us about your journey from your birthplace of London, to South Africa and to Ghana...

A: Gosh I feel like it’s such a journey, haha! I was born and raised in south London. I’m the eldest of four children. From childhood, I’ve always been a creative, experimenting in the kitchen late at night, or doing hair for family members.

I would say I had two 'fashion influencers' close to home that sparked my love for fashion in particular. One was an aunt that was a designer at the time. I remember her bedroom wall was covered with beautiful sketches. I was in awe, and really admired them. The other influencer was my beloved grandmother who used to make me cute little dresses.

After graduating with a BA Hons. in Fashion with Business, I pursued a career in fashion buying. It was a big eye-opener to join the industry as it appears to be a glamorous one, however it is quite tough. But, the proud feeling you get when your Monday morning report says one of your styles is a best seller, makes it all worth it.


Scroll to the end for details on how to buy this cushion, designed by Sharna Darko

I made the bold move to South Africa as a fashion buyer. I was blessed enough to land a job with the largest non-food retailer in South Africa. The major change in surrounds, culture and even work practises took some getting used to however I wouldn’t change it for the world. To experience life in a different part of the world is such an invaluable experience, and South Africa is beautiful.

My husband is from Ghana so it was natural for us to eventually move here. And I cannot express how much I love it here. Again, a big change in culture, and way of life however I feel at home here which was missing for me in South Africa. After seven years in south Africa, unfortunately I still felt like a foreigner for some reason.

What was the business start-up process like for you in both South Africa and Ghana?

A: What I love about Africa, is the amount of business opportunities there are here, and for Ghana in particular, the fact that everyone one is an entrepreneur! Literally the majority of people have a side business. Even people with successful corporate careers, will have an extra means of income. It’s incredibly inspiring, and somehow makes you feel like the world is your oyster. Things just seem more achievable here. I think if I were still in the UK, I may have found it a little more difficult to become an entrepreneur.


Scroll to the end for details on how to buy this cushion, designed by Sharna Darko

Q: Have you met many other millenials that have moved from the UK to Ghana?

A: Yes, I have. And it’s lovely to see people either returning home or even making Ghana their home with an objective to make a positive impact here. There are so many cool and innovative companies popping-up, it’s a real exciting time seeing things develop quite rapidly.

How do you fit in building the Eight Lifestyle brand with being a wife and mum?

A: I wish I could say that I’m extremely organised. I am to an extent but if I’m honest, it’s a juggling act that I have yet to master. I’m blessed that I have an extremely supportive husband that keeps me motivated.

To browse and purchase the Eight Lifestyle ranges, click here.

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