Ricci was, is, and forever will remain a true design visionary in the culture and tourism space of our motherland Ghana.
Proud to have ridden in his jalopy and debated him, worked, walked and talked endlessly about everything that matters and everything that’s pointless with him, written advertising copy for him, recorded commercials for him, help select and train models for him and, most importantly, learn from him.
On his arrival in Ghana from his foray into fashion abroad, Ricci was horrified at the state of the cultural and industrial edifice for exposition called the Ghana Trade Fair Centre.
He took it upon himself to weed and clear the filth that had taken over the vast conference and exhibition facilities built under the direction of Ghana’s 1st President.
After labouring alone for days, and the authorities refusing to do the needful, he went on a hunger strike for Government to restore the Trade Fair to its former glory.
In years to come, citizens came to understand his passion and that curious willingness to put his life at stake for the elected to be minded to do their work, not sit idly and watch huge investments made with the public purse waste away.
From 1987, our dear nation and her numerous tourists made their way in crowds to the Ghana Trade Fair Centre to catch a glimpse of Ricci Ossei’s fabulous wearable art elegantly donned by live mannequins frozen in time. St Ossei had become the main attraction that drew a new youthful market and fashion-conscious crowd to trade fairs.
Whether at make-shift stands freshly decorated by his team for the teeming crowds, on the beach with larger-than-life concepts for the young and young at heart or at well appointed venues with the crème de la crème in business, diplomacy, culture and statesmanship, his fashion revues were very well attended. His ticket designs and brochures were as unique as the studied elegance that he designed with a bow to regal African dress tampered with the relaxed insouciance of a cosmopolitan arty type.
The Diplomatic Community, arbiters of good taste and the cognoscenti with as much elegance and style as money filled every seat if it was a St Ossei event.
And on each occasion as I changed into my outfit to welcome dignitaries and present the outstanding spectacles that were decidedly St Ossei, he would come look and say “eiii Kwasi Tuntum. Wo be ku y3n.” I remember so clearly the last thing Opanin Ricci Ossei, who insisted I just call him Ricci would tell me before I got onstage. “Go and do your thing. Be yourself.” These words to me, a starry-eyed youth making his way in Radio & Television, Brand Management, Culture & Tourism Promotion, were so simple yet so encouraging and empowering. Never underestimate the power of words from those you look up to nor to those who look up to you.
His foray with his diffusion line Brass (A Concept from St Ossei Studio) into what has now come to be known in the global clothing trade as fast fashion was a pleasure for the cool youth with an eye for the trend and cash to spend.
Oh! If only any folk in government understood what reliefs could be given to help expand his idea, Africa perhaps might not be queuing online to order clothes from abroad that can be made much better for less in production enclaves all across our villages.
Like the one person he spoke highly of to me and many others who sought to drink from his well of knowledge and idiosyncrasies, Ricci was, himself, one of a kind.
His creation of platforms to mentor, instruct build confidence in, and thrust gorgeous African models into the limelight remain note-worthy and has paved the way for melanin-rich as well as caramel-sweet strutters of catwalks and posers in campaigns internationally. Ricci found beauty in all colours and cultures yet placed none above his own.
I remember like only yesterday how Ricci said in a manner that only he can, that there is only one Kwame Nkrumah. Some will deride him, some will praise him but all will know after seeing many other leaders that vision is not something you can buy. Some have it, some don’t.
Ricci is quick to give praise to others; never himself.
But like the visionary he spoke ever so highly of, there is only one Ricci Ossei. Those premium-priced jeans he designed from waistbands of used denims took the fashion world by storm and showed us a glimpse of a future of deconstruction and recycling. He spoke eloquently through his work. I wonder how many in authority who should have made it their business to mine and expand the talent and efforts of the up and doing really understood what he along with his trusted collaborators Anna Mary Grant who joined him for a rigorous aesthetic-defining year in 1986, Kweku Opoku and Fadi Hamoui were spearheading for Ghana and Africa.
After the lone, arduous and sustained efforts of designers Nancy Tsiboe and the stylish Paris-trained Chez Julie (whose birthday anniversary is on the same date on which Ricci departed), Dan Morton, Gyamfi Brothers and J C Williams who were men’s custom clothiers, it was St Ossei who brought a strong awareness of fashion in Ghana and her diaspora like never before.
A lover of pared down ethnic art, Ricci also had a penchant for fabrics that flowed with softness. Little wonder why most of his high-end designs came in custom-made silk, muslin, linen and lightweight cool wool designed in his studio in Ghana and made in select fabric mills and factories internationally. He made sure to use locally sourced Ghanaian fabrics for his extensive collection for Brass to stimulate business for Ghanaian cloth producers too.
18 years since you’ve been gone, Ricci.
I doff my hat with respect to a creative spirit, an inspirer, a fashion designer, a free thinker and a senior I call my dear friend.
Your children REGGIE (Rockstone), ROZANNE, NZMA, SASHA, KEITTA, NIKITA and MIMI are all grown and doing great, Ricci.
You are a star. I miss you.
May your soul rest in power.❤?