The first time Amara Lea-Ahaghotu recognized the power of fashion was when she was four years old. Being a trendsetter from a very young age, her passion for thrifting and putting things together evolved into styling others and creating unique fashion-forward pieces of her own. “I always stood out because I wore stuff like cowboy boots, designer frames, and personality glasses,” she reveals. “I was the only kid who owned a pair of Pharrell’s Ice cream sneakers in like third grade.”
Born and raised in Washington, DC, but currently based in Atlanta, Amara has styled celebrities such as PnB Rock, Russ, OMB Peezy, and even Desi Banks. Although one of her most prized accomplishments is ARAMA Collections, a womenswear label pushing boundaries in fashion. “You’ll stand out in Arama no matter where you are or how you put it together,” she tells us. ARAMA Collections’ pieces range from stretch-knit tops and stacked pants to fitted dresses and jumpsuits.
We spoke with Amara to discuss discovering her passion for style, bringing ARAMA Collections to life, the challenges of running a womenswear label, and more! Read below.
Hey Amara! Introduce yourself and let the world know why people should get to know you.
Hi! My name is Amara I was born and raised in Washington D.C and I currently live in Atlanta GA. I am a designer, celebrity stylist, and creative director. I began styling during my sophomore year at Emory University which is when I had my first taste of the industry and fell in love with the entire creative process behind the scenes. About two years later, I began creative directing and curating my own photoshoots which eventually lead to me starting my own clothing brand.
When did you first get introduced to fashion and how has it impacted your life throughout the years?
I’ve been a fashion enthusiast for as long as I can remember. My mom always says that I started dressing and picking out my own clothes at the age of 4/5 years old. In elementary school, I was definitely the trendsetter amongst my friends. I always stood out because I wore stuff like cowboy boots, designer frames, and personality glasses, and I was the only kid who owned a pair of Pharell’s Ice cream sneakers in like third grade.
In middle school and high school, I was very into Tumblr. I had faux foxtails, snapbacks, wooden bracelets, and every pair of jordans. I was obsessed with thrifting like I would ride the train and bus for miles just to go to the good thrift stores in Maryland or Virginia to find things. I would cut up the clothing I found and add patches, bleach or dye and sometimes paint different pieces. My friends would always ask me for fashion advice or to help them shop for different events and if you ask them today they’ll tell you I put them on to a lot of trends and brands.
With ARAMA Collections, where did the idea for the brand start, and what’s the journey been like bringing it to fruition?
I always knew I wanted to start my own brand I just never really knew what I wanted it to look like or be. I would always come up with an idea and be obsessed for like 24 hours then be completely over it but when Arama came to me it sort of stuck and that’s when I knew. In 2019, I was in Miami right before the pandemic and I found this two-piece set in one of those cheap stores and the design on the fabric was something I had never seen before and I loved it I wanted more pieces to wear like that on the regular.
That’s when I decided I was going to design sets that were unique but versatile and could be worn for virtually any occasion. The name “Arama” is my first name spelled backward and doesn’t actually mean anything but somehow defines the brand perfectly It hard to explain in words but it makes sense. I didn’t create Arama as a business at first it was more like an extension of my creativity and an artistic outlet for me. By that I mean, I design pieces I want to see in real life and I happen to sell them as well.
Just like a painter paints what they see or envision then if they decide to sell it they do but most artists don’t create for the sole purpose of selling and making money.
The aesthetic of Arama is also pretty unique; how did you conceptualize the overall vibe of the brand. Is there anything, in particular, it’s inspired by?
Well, Arama is inspired by girls like me whose personal style is always evolving and changing. Also, two pieces sets make it easy to look unique and stylish without having to think too hard about it. You’ll stand out in Arama no matter where you are or how you put it together. I also value versatility when designing pieces because I think it is important to be able to express yourself in your clothes. One of my favorite things when I see people wear my clothes is seeing how they added their own flair to it and my designs make it easier for people to do that even if you aren’t the most creative when it comes to fashion and styling.
What serves as inspiration for the Haven Collection?
“Haven” designs were inspired by various pieces from different designers including a swimsuit from Chanel’s Spring 1994 ready-to-wear collection, a tank top worn by Carre Otis in the November 1998 issue of Cosmopolitan, and Balenciaga’s dynasty leggings. I’m not sure why I decided on a solid white fabric but I knew I wanted the vibe of the collection to sexy but still soft and comforting which lead to the name “Haven.”
What have been some of the challenges and highlights of running your own brand?
I’m not formally trained in fashion design so one of the first challenges I came across was the technical foundations of creating a garment. I had to learn a lot about patterns, measurements, different fabric compositions, etc that I’m still learning more about with every collection. You can’t just draw something and expect someone to understand your vision from a basic drawing you have to really map out every little detail.
Also, I have to be very disciplined when it comes to the business side of having a brand. I do everything myself like literally everything so that can be a little draining especially when it comes to the part of a business that I’m not super passionate about like accounting, project managing, etc. I love the creative side of having a brand like designing, curating concepts, and doing photoshoots but everything else I have to be really on myself about getting things done and managing the other divisions of having a brand– it is not easy but I’ll be looking to find some help soon.
Who’s the dream Arama muse? Is there anyone you’d love to see dressed in your pieces?
Um Rihanna, obviously. Beyonce, obviously. But some others include Diana Gordan, Alexa Demie, Kristien Crowley, Faith Jaggernauth, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and much much more. Ideally, I want the world’s flyest girls in Arama famous or not.
If you enjoyed our interview with ARAMA Collections creator Amara Lea-Ahaghotu, check out our conversation with Alasia Shalai!