Madison’s Mom Makes Authentic African Print Kids Clothes

MADISON, Wis. – A mom from Madison started a business creating clothes with authentic African prints and patterns.

It all started when Nina Akli’s daughter Alise was about a year old.

“I was looking for African print clothes for her in Madison, and I couldn’t find any. So I went online, and it was just too expensive,” Akli said. “So I was like, ‘ You know what, I’ll just do mine.”‘

People immediately noticed Alise’s clothes.

“We started attending different events around the city,” Akli said. “People started asking me, ‘Oh, where did you get your clothes? We want to buy some too.'”

It was then that Afribbean Baby was born. Akli, student services coordinator at UW-Madison by day, already knew how to sew. But she had to perfect the craft.

“I had the basic skills, but I’m learning visually,” she said. “I just jumped on YouTube, and I was watching videos of people sewing, and then just trying to go and sew things.”

From time to time, his “assistant” gives him a hand.

“Sometimes I help my mom to sew,” Alise said with a big smile on her face.

Her son JJ is only one year old so he is not able to help yet.

Akli finds the fabric online, mostly from African artists.

“I have a few different referral providers. I like to make sure they’re genuine,” she said. “Most of them are from Ghana.”

The Progress Center for Black Women has been integral to its success. It’s her second home and a way to find resources and support for her business.

In recent years, its clientele has continued to grow.

“Around holidays, like Christmas, it’s really busy for me,” Akli said. “Black History Month, and Juneteenth too.”

She can also keep busy around Mother’s Day, creating matching mommy and me sets.

This means for her that she can help other families to wear the styles of their cultures.

“I myself am half Congolese, therefore Central African, and my husband is from Ghana. African print is really important to us,” she said. “To pass it on to our children, but also to share it with other people.”

Akli will be installed at Madison Makers Market on June 18.

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