Skip to main content

Meet Wilhelmina Cooper, the Designer Inspired by Liberia’s Unique Cultural Heritage

By Robin Dopoe, Jr. Guest writer.


It is actually rare to see a handbag blended with art. But emerging fashion designer Wilhelmina Myeonway Cooper is doing just that with her upcoming handbag designs titled ‘wearable art collection.’

Using acrylic paint, the artist cum designer paints a visual image (either picture of yourself or anything you like), that enhances and personalizes the handbag making it quite singular and distinctive.

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion, which are water-soluble, but becomes water-resistant when dry.


Wilhemina Myeonway Cooper's 'wearable art' handbags

1 of 6

Wilhelmina Cooper founded Myeonway Designs in April 2013. The company, is an affordable-luxury ethnic fashion brand that features collections beautifully combined with exceptional style, quality and elegance inspired by urban living and African craftsmanship.


“I love art and fashion. And being a creative person, I’m inspired by art, mainly renaissance or contemporary painting. I also get inspiration from things around me. My inspiration is so weird to the extent when walking and sees a cloth or an object, I instantly know or see in my head what that piece of object can be transformed into.


“Most importantly, I am inspired by home, people, culture and Liberia’s traditional heritage. We are a unique set of people and I strive to highlight and celebrate that through what I create and that it should be very dynamic and strong,” Wilhelmina Cooper talks about the creation behind her designs.

But Wilhelmina Cooper, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from the African Methodist Episcopal University and a certificate in fashion design from Ghana, did not just jumpstart her career right away after high school.

She went to work at the Freeport of Monrovia and later college to pursue higher education.

However, while in college she looked over her decision and decided to go into fashion and design for the long haul.

“I have always been fascinated by fashion and always wanted to start a brand that exudes confidence, elegance, and craftsmanship. I saw fashion as a way to express my uniqueness.

“But I was always discouraged from the start and was told that I could not make it as a fashion designer. Nevertheless, during the years, the skills and passion were still burning,” she said. “So when I was in college, I decided to give this burning feeling a try, and that’s how I returned to fashion.”

After three months of hard-work behind the scenes sketching clothes and handbags, Wilhelmina came out of her comfort zone by taking sketch patterns to tailors, who turned them into beautiful dresses and suits.

“This was a breakthrough for me. I was now out of my conform zone doing what I love best. After a while, I started sketching clothes for friends, whom they turned into beautiful dresses and suits.

“My friends tease me all the time; they say I hold on to stuff too long. I do because they are sentimental – beautiful reminders of where I came from and the dream that lives in my heart,” she continued.

Starting the business

After college, Wilhelmina launched her company, Myeonway Designs, with an initial capital of US$125 that enabled her to make three handbags and started selling them on the streets.

“I started my company because I sought to create and to fulfill my dream and live a happy, fulfilled life. I was not going to be happy if I had not brought my dream to life. Dream is creation, and creation is execution,” she said.

From the first initial sales, she made US$175, profit of US$50. And after a period of time, she generated a total profit of US$1050, which she reinvested in the business.

Today, the business annually generates an annual turnover of between US$8,000 & 10,000, but after overhead deductions on production costs and other expenses, the company is left with a profit of more or less US$3,000.

However, Myeonway Designs, which she operates from home at Airfield, a suburb in Monrovia, and stalls at places like Royal Grand Hotel, is one of the fastest-growing startup fashion businesses in Liberia.

“I’m proud of my company’s growth in the last few years and working hard to expand the business. Frankly speaking, the start was not that easy. I went through a lot to reach this far. But determination and passion for what I do keep me going,” she said smiling while sketching designs patterns for her upcoming handbags.

Despite the growth in the business, there remains a serious financial challenge for a company with four employees, as they have not been able to get bank loans to facilitate the company’s expansion due to the high-interest rates from banks, ranging from 7-18% and upwards.

Another challenge is getting materials, which are mostly outside of Liberia, to fix the bags since they have to be purchased in US dollars, which is at the high exchange rate of LD$131 to US$1 (the rate changes every day). This depreciation in the Liberian currency has put a strain on the running of the business.

All of these factors are presenting extra challenges for Wilhelmina Cooper who wants to expand her business.

“I’m grateful for the growth in the business, but right now I’m having problems with raising the money to have massive production in order to be able to reach my goal.

“You don’t have a stable price of leather and country cloth (waved cloths made in Liberia), which I use for producing the bags. The price changes at any given time,” she explained. “Also, keeping the staff has been a problem because of the up and down in the economy. The economy is not doing fine; therefore, I don’t have a stable price for my products.”

Managing the financial crisis

Despite the financial crisis the country is experiencing, Wilhelmina Cooper still manages to keep the company running by reinvesting capital and profit into the business.

The young fashion entrepreneur strives daily to keep the business running with extra capital and working hard to produce designs for the strong, bold and daring individuals and her dream of seeing her iconic handbag designs grace the international fashion scene.

“I’m working to see my product grace runways in cities like New York, London, and Milan a few years from now. I know the time is short, but I’m working extra hard to bring that to pass. That way, every day I put out my best to perfect my products and services,” she concluded.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Liberia: Top 7 Iconic Music Videos Directed by Jackie Russ

​By Robert Serge Saint-Pe Alex Nyenga, alias, Jackie Russ has enjoyed a seven-year stint as a videographer which has put him behind the camera of numerous memorable Liberian music videos, earning him several nominations and awards. He has again proven himself as a top-notch video director over the past months, which has landed him nominations for the 2021 MTN – Liberian Music Awards (MLMA) for Best Music Videographer and the 2021 Liberian Entertainment Awards (LEA) for Video Director of The Year.  Even if Jackie Russ is not a familiar face, he is definitely a household name who has worked with many top Liberian artists and influential celebrities. One of his unhighlighted gesture is that he gifted Caroline M. Moore, better known as MC Caro with her first ever music video for her song “Bring Our Money Back” in 2018. Here is a look at the top seven iconic music videos directed by Jackie Russ. 7. Christoph Ft. Margas – Hold Your Polaruh (2016) “Hold Your Polaruh” was directed by Christoph

Liberia: Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh New Year's Message

  On New Year's day, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh wrote a powerful message to the people of Liberia. Check it out below:  Some people are saying that there is nothing good about the New Year 2022 because nearly all of the people of Liberia are suffering in the misery of the poverty pandemic coupled with the corona pandemic. But let it be said to these people that Ngala (Our Creator in the Kpelle language) does not give us a burden that we can not bear. This New Year Message is directed at raising awareness to motivate people to bear the burden of the suffering by doing the right thing. So, we are grateful to Ngala for giving us yet another chance to do the right thing. There is a Call for us Liberians to move in the right direction because 80 per cent of the people of Liberia have concluded that Liberia is headed in the wrong direction (Afrobarometer, 2020).  Here is the evidence for this conclusion: Over 80 per cent of the people of life in longstanding and widespread poverty

President George Manneh Weah appoints Cllr. Musa F. Dean and more

Counselor Musa Dean President George Manneh Weah made additional appointments in Government pending confirmation by the Liberian Senate where applicable. Liberia Immigration and Naturalization Service (LINS) Moses K. Yebleh                           Deputy Commissioner for Administration Land Commission Ellen D. Pratt                                       Land Use & Management Libtelco Richmond Nagbe Tobii                      Managing Director    National Fisheries William Y. Boeh                                  Deputy Director for Technical Service National Document and Archives Neilleh Daituah                                   Director Kollie Kamara                                     Deputy Director/Administration Archives Robert International Airport Paula Fares                                          Deputy General Manager Technical Services Liberia National Police (LNP) Robert Budy                                        Deputy Director/Opera