It was this conclusion to one of William A. Ward’s quotes that lingered in my mind as I spoke with Nana Bediako; a Toronto based, Ghanaian artist with many mediums at his disposal and an affinity for seeking and dispensing knowledge. The full quote compares the effects that different types of teachers can have, but what goes unmentioned is the element that I feel contributes heavily to one’s ability to inspire: passion. That intangible force that drives novices to push past the boundaries of inexperience into mastery; for Bediako, it is an element that presents itself in abundance.
When describing some of the influences that contribute to his art, whether fashion or canvas based, Bediako is clear about the significance of authenticity and innovation in his work. When designing for more sartorial pursuits, while Bediako admires the work of Alexander McQueen and Thom Browne, he tries not to “pick [his] inspirations from fashion” to avoid “show[ing] what is already out there”, choosing instead to repurpose the magic in photography, culture, and even everyday objects.
Recognizing the core of Bediako’s motivations – an unyielding love of Art – makes forging a through line between all his endeavours, easier for the average observer. Bediako is currently creative director for:
– MESFNxLLiM – a collaboration with Yaw Tony creating ready-to-wear street pieces, accented with Tony’s uniquely distinct fabrics
– and Mr Tailor Club – an educational platform, established to level the playing field in men’s fashion, and making the fundamentals more accessible for the every day man.
Far from his first foray in to teaching, Mr. Tailor Club was a continuation of patterns formed in his time spent at the Toronto Film School – then the Academy of Design – when he would first grasp the concepts presented to him, and then – almost reflexively – help the students in class along with him.
“There’s no point learning so much that you can’t give back[.] That you can’t teach others.”N. Bediako
An opportunity to do more of the same, presented itself to Bediako when one of his professors reached out to request that he come on board as a lecturer, allowing him to provide more of the direct guidance he always tries to share with up and coming creatives. Describing the appeal of entering the position, Bediako concentrated on the serendipity that brought such a request to him just as he intended to approach them about ways he would be able to return to the school in a more professorial capacity. In Bediako’s mind, there’s no point learning so much that you can’t give back [or] teach others – a stance that created questions in my own mind about him and his motivations.
What does it say of one’s character to have the opportunity and discernment to corner a market, and choose instead to grow the craft and make it more accessible to those who might otherwise overlook it? What does it say to have had the opportunity to capitalize on the more fickle elements of the fashion industry, and choose instead to give his clients the tools to eventually render his services obsolete?
It is either innovation, or self destruction, but either one is felt in earnest.
Learning more about Bediako’s commitment to authenticity and technical skill, I’m reminded of a common turn of phrase repeated by many vanguards of their field: you have to learn the rules to break them. The most talented chefs, electricians, and dancers alike, all understand that before you can attempt to disrupt any expectations, you must first fully grasp their extent.
That the sliver of a difference between mastery and happy accidents, is intent. It is the decision to grow your potential through humility; to see the the new heights your craft could reach, while recognizing the giants who came before you. Those upon whose shoulders you might find new perspectives – new means of materializing whatever magic you may hold. Certainty that there can be better than whatever is already on offer, is a necessary step in anyone’s path to greatness; a journey, upon which Nana is enthusiastically embarking.
Bediako maintains a standard, across mediums and into his work as a tailor and personal stylist, that consistently sets him apart. From the balance of a stitch, to the intricacies of the fabrics chosen as lining for his bespoke pieces, for Bediako; “the quality has to be there [and] it has to make people feel good.”