THE PASSIONATE FASHIONISTA EMBODYING THE VISION OF CHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT
There is always excitement when people hear about organised fashion shows because of the beauty and elegance they reflect. But there is another side to fashion that this Ghanaian fashion guru wants the world to see.
Sally Torpey is a Ghanaian international fashion designer and entrepreneur. She is also the treasurer of the Ghana Accra Chapter of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), an Ambassador from Africa for the Global Business Alliance to the Fashion Business Association of America, a member at KYEN and the CEO of Sallet Fashion House. Ms Sally also owns the Ohema brands, Travelers Custom Made Clothing (TCMC) and JAK Gentle Giant Collection (In honour of President John A. Kuffor, the former President of the Republic of Ghana).
She was once featured as a designer at the National Art Centre of Accra, Ghana and at the African Sustainable Eco-friendly show presented by Global Women Innovators and Inventors. Ms Sally has taken part in the Miami Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, major business platforms, and runways in Ghana, Africa, and worldwide.
The Growth Cap UK features her as a case study, amongst others. She has partnered with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development of Ghana to promote Development of Vocational and Technical Institutes.
Her goal is enormous, as she intends to change Africa through fashion. She also invests her time in women’s and girls’ empowerment. As a teenager, she received the GAFUND and MSHAP from the Ghana Aids Commission for Advocacy, Behavioral Change Communication and support for PLWHIV. She researched topics such as teenage pregnancy and the dropping out of females in high school.
Sally Torpey was born on January 8, 1984, in Ghana. At age 16, she enrolled at the University Practice High School in Cape Coast. As a student there, she noted that female students behaved immorally, and some even had boyfriends. This differed from what she was taught at home and in church, and she aimed to share her knowledge with other girls. During Vacation, she got back home, related all she saw to her Dad, and started writing about it, the implications on the girl child and what solutions she could proffer. When she was done with the paper, she showed it to her Dad, who proofread it. He referred her to her godmother, the Reverend Minister’s wife, who mentored and taught her what she needed to know about changing the behaviours of girls.
After her vacation, she resumed school and took her letter to the school authority. They were happy that someone else observed this prevalent behaviour and wanted to change it. From there, she found the Millennium Ladies’ Club named so because she was a student of the millennium. Sally Torpey aimed to change views on girl-child education, morality and sexuality. The Millenium Club brought junior and senior students together.
Sally Torpey engaged parents, nurses and doctors from the University of Cape Coast to have thought-provoking sessions with girls after school, especially on Fridays. These sessions allowed them to listen to various panellists who spoke about the topics of interest. Handling the club became her job, and she perfectly juggled it with schoolwork.
The positive responses that Sally Torpey got from her activities at school led her to want to replicate in the Ola Community in Cape Coast. She noticed that women in that area faced many social injustices, deprivation, poverty and diseases. Ms Sally started her office there and used this to reach women and young girls who lived there. At the time, HIV/AIDS was prevalent at a 7.3% rate, and she wanted to join the force in making noise and campaigning against it. While setting up the office, she listed several programs to help women and girls change their behaviours to avoid HIV/AIDS. She engaged people in those communities one-on-one, and she was the youngest teen to receive a grant from the Ghana Aids Commission. Sally Torpey made films that showed HIV/AIDS situations and how medical practitioners could not cure it. She showed these videos to many people in the communities, and she even did free testing for them. She had to take her testing first to open the ground for others to get tested. This experience helped her teach and learn.
Her work in the Central Region of Ghana transitioned into Sympathy International in 2003. She combats disease, deprivation, and poverty while propagating information about reproductive health education and the importance of academic education work for young schoolgirls.
This foundation has seen several health workers and career counsellors gathering to educate students on how to lead better and responsible lives when they become independent.
Her fashion story started when she was a child. Her mother is a German-trained seamstress who had big catalogues of fashion shows from the UK, Germany and the US. This built her interest, and she started playing with needles, threads, fabrics, and everything related to sewing as she watched the catalogues while joining her mum to sew.
Not only did Sally Torpey want to do fashion, but she also did not want to leave her social work career, so she fused them. In 2010, she established the Sallet Fashion House with the Sallet Foundation. The foundation fostered capacity building, training and production centres to reduce the unemployment rate in Ghana and make people more self-sustained and sufficient. Her custom-made cloth line also caters to the needs of travellers who spend some days in Ghana.
This foundation led to her reception of support from the Ghana Ministry of Trade. To Ms Sally, fashion is about giving back to society. She uses fashion events to generate medical funds for children who need serious healthcare. The cloth displays are always used to raise funds, and the fashion training is used to empower girls and women.
Her projects also show how much she wants to develop Women and Africa as she recently concluded a show at the High Commissioner Residence in Ghana with South African Designers David Tlale, Tule Sindy, Duaba Serwaa and Harmony Trends to put Ghana and South Africa together. In her future project, she intends to bring Miami International Fashion Week to Africa and power the Education program for Global Fashion Business Alliance-USA in Africa to prepare African designers for export and Intra-African Business.
It would be a better world if everyone used their skills and means to help others live better lives. Sally Torpey aims to show that fashion is not just a show. It can be a force for development and empowerment. She believed we should educate women as the nation’s change lies with them.
Written By: Joyce C. Nwezeh Obi-Akejelu (Writer, Social media manager and graphic designer with Africa4AfricaWomen/Assert/PAWES).