Meet Ghana’s fashion guru and entertainment juggernaut – K.O.D

When one of fashion’s most powerful women, Dame Anna Wintour made her now famous statement “you either know fashion or you don’t”, there’s a 95% chance that she had men like Kofi Okyere Darko in mind for the first sentence.

Mentioned on the list of Africa’s 50 most dandy men, the “Classic Man” K.O.D as he is widely known is a rich blend of the old school that thrives on experience and the new school, driven by passion.

Richard’s story starts as a young boy working as a copywriter in an ad agency to landing his first radio job at age 18 but it was his trip to the U.K in search of greener pastures that unearthed the business side of fashion.

As a young security officer working at the offices of TED BAKER and later PAUL SMITH, his sharp looks drew the attention of his manager at PAUL SMITH, Covent Garden, who advised him to apply for the role of Sales Executive, a position he held for two years before returning home to carry on his radio career and fashion business.

KOD is the creative president at Nineteen57, a men’s fashion brand that is adept in making ostentatious garments for the man of means and class. Nineteen57 which is a creative play on words is inspired by 6th March,1957, the year Ghana gained freedom from British Colonial rule.

For close to a decade, he has brought Africa’s biggest entertainment names, fashion insiders and party frolickers under one roof to celebrate music and style under the RHYTHMZ ON DA RUNWAY show.

The show is a hallmark of Ghanaian ingenuity and Pan-African craftsmanship having been hosted at poolsides of hotels to Castles that were once seats of government and dungeons for slaves.

A man who is fuelled by sheer grit, positivity and energy, the success of the previous shows isn’t getting to his head as he plans another spectacular experience this October.

GQ South Africa caught up with KOD on the sidelines of the launch of yet another electrifying launch of RODR 21. Enjoy the read.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers? -Who are you? What do you do these days? What is your favourite thing right now?? What don’t you like?

My name is Kofi Okyere Darko, from Adansi in the gold-rich Asante Region of Ghana.

A Ghanaian Broadcaster, Master of Ceremonies and Creative President at Nineteen57 (my clothing label), founder and Executive Producer of Rhythms On Da Runway (Ghana’s biggest annual music and fashion exposé).

Over the years, I have also been instrumental in the rise to fame of some of Ghana’s finest musicians in the last two decades and more as an Executive Producer/Artist Manager and have been consistent in the spotlight for a quarter of a century.

I also sit on the board of Vodafone Ghana Music Awards as well as the founder of Smile GH, a philanthropic organization that supports the needy across Ghana.

2. How have you managed to remain relevant in the entertainment industry for over 20 years?

I have consistently evolved as a creative person over the years. Right from my days as a copywriter in an ad agency, getting on radio at age 18, prior to university,

producing and managing musicians, hosting most of the major corporate and private events, following new global trends and also staying original in the creative space.

3. What do you miss most about life before the pandemic and after the pandemic?

I miss being out as an event host, traveling to Asia and different parts of the world to source fabrics and holidaying with family in different parts of the world.

It’s been mainly not traveling out of Ghana because of all the new travel/Covid protocols.

4. What is your role at Nineteen57?

I’m the Creative President at Nineteen57 and Head Designer as well. For many years, I juggled work in the media and Nineteen57. My wife, Ophelia, is in charge of quality control aside running Ophelia Crossland (her own label). She understands quality control to the letter, and being arguably Ghana’s finest female fashion designer and as someone who’s done it for about 20 years, she knows the right knobs to press.

It is actually great working together with my family because my sister-in-law works with us as well as a milliner.

5. What made you go into the fashion side of the entertainment business as a designer and the producer of Rhythms on Da Runway?

I actually wanted to learn sewing as a teenager because I sketched whatever my tailors made for me. I always thought I could bring the designs to life the way I envisaged them. After meeting my wife, she thought I could make it a business instead of just designing for myself. Nineteen57 was fashioned from the blueprint of Jay Z’s Rocawear and Didi’s Sean John. Except that we take care of a niche market. Rhythms On Da Runway was born out of the quest of owning our own in-house fashion event, then evolved to become the Pan-African event it is now.

Rhythms On Da Runway, had a very humble start from the forecourt of the old Twist Night Club in Labone, the maiden edition saw the launch of OHEMAA KIDZ KLUB (my daughter’s clothing line), then the second edition had both Ophelia Crossland and Velma’s accessories, followed by another one that saw the birth of Nineteen57.

After the third edition, we started inviting other Ghanaian fashion brands both home and abroad, till it became the Pan-African event we see now. I always assemble the best hands in the creative industry to produce RODR.

6. Mention 5 people who have inspired you as a creative and an entertainment juggernaut.

Five people who inspire me… First is my late mother (Margaret Aidoo), she was a resilient person and believed in me. Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, for his vision for the entire Black race, Sean Combs for his consistency in showbiz, the late President Rawlings for his selflessness, the late great Kofi Ansah, for his passion for the African fashion industry.

7. Does a design have to look good on you, personally, in order to go into the marketplace?

I think looking good is essential! However, I have gone past putting loads of effort in what I wear. I have become very subtle in colour and also wear verysimple garments except if it’s a black-tie event or I’m hosting a corporate/social event, but looking good is always important.

8. As a father of two admirable and intelligent daughters, how are you raising them to be bold and assertive in today’s world?

My daughters are simply amazing. At ages 12 and 9, we communicate like adults and they are at liberty to express themselves and get corrected when they’re wrong.

Walking them through the do’s and don’t of life should arm them for the future.

They are already very assertive in their ways, so I believe as they grow, they’ll make their mistakes and learn from them as they face the future.

9. What lessons have you taken away from each of your experiences in your career so far?

My career experiences have come in handy in terms of guiding me nurture my own business. From disappointments from people I saw as family who didn’t think twice pushing me beneath the bus, to appreciating opportunities and running with them and also appreciating teamwork. These are things that guide how I treat people and focus in the work space.

10. The late Ghanaian president Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings considered you as more than just a son. Would you follow in his footsteps by running for office someday?

President Rawlings (God bless his soul), was such an amazing person to me. A true father figure who promised to step into my father’s shoes in my dad when I lost him. He knows I’m very politically inclined but had no challenge whether I belonged to his party or not. He always said I have so much to give and should expedite it aside from my philanthropic work for society because time is not our best ally in life. Looking at how young he was when he took over the reins of government in Ghana, I guess he was very right. I am definitely going to play a role in our country’s political life. This should happen pretty soon.

11. What are your top 3 life hacks for the GQ guy?

Keep used mint tea bags in your shoes overnight to get rid of shoe stench. Mint tea bags have amazing properties that quickly absorb any unacceptable odors in your shoes.

Always wear a black undershirt (not a white one) before wearing your white shirt to prevent distasteful visible lines from underneath your dress shirt.

Stretch tight shoes in your freezer. Fill two bags with water and place them in the shoes—careful not to force them in lest they might cause a mess. Put it in the freezer and as the water freezes it will expand, causing the shoe to stretch.

Main Image: Ghana Weekend