Alongside her family, Rhoda Abena Klomega made the 5,477 mile journey across west Africa and the Atlantic Ocean to Saline, Michigan. The transition was difficult for Klomega who was faced with having to adjust to a new place, language, customs and traditions when she immigrated to the United States at eleven years of age. Experiencing challenges fitting in and acculturating to her new environment, Klomega began dealing with depression
For immigrants, the process of coming to a new country can lead to increase in stress and anxiety
as they try to wrestle with understanding and being a part of a new culture while respecting and holding on their own customs and traditions from home. Amidst all the tumultuous changes, Klomega found solace through a sewing machine.
“One day in high school I decided to walk into my teacher’s room and ask for a sewing machine. My teacher told me I couldn’t take the one from school home, so the very next day she gave me her own sewing machine,” shares Klomega.
The very first time Klomega attempted to make an outfit, she asked her brother to trace her out on a piece of paper while she laid on the floor. Although the outfit did not come out the way Klomega wanted it to—this experience gave her the courage to keep on.
“It became my escape. It became my release,” says Klomega.
As a young Klomega developed her sewing skills throughout high school, her reputation as a fashion designer followed her later on as a student of computer and information systems at Grand Valley State University. Gaining so much notoriety among her peers, Klomega took the leap and launched the brand “Delasie
” under which she began selling clothes two years ago at different pop-up shops around town.
“Delasie means ‘the savior heard me’ in my father’s native dialect, ” explains Klomega.
Now Delasie has become much more than just a brand of clothes, it has become a tool of empowerment and education for Klomega, who wants to design clothing that can fit anybody.
“I want everybody to feel good, wearing my clothing, any ethnicity, age or size. I sew for everybody. If you have a body we can measure it and fit you in something,” shares the fashion-designer.
The patterns Klomega uses in the clothing she crafts are purchased directly from textile and supply companies from her home country of Ghana.
“I inquire about the naming of the fabric and I then get to decide if that’s the meaning that I want my clients to have when I create the clothing. I then educate my clients on what they are wearing,” shares Klomega.
After completing Spring GR Business Academy winning second place and winning the grand prize of $5000 at the Start Garden 5x5 competition in April, Klomega has been using the funds to help grow her business. As Delasie has grown, Klomega sees opportunity in using her brand to benefit mental health services for immigrant women in the community of Grand Rapids. In the fashion launch of “Nsubra,” a Ghanaian graphic fabric pattern that represents the ripple effect of a stone thrown in a water well, Klomega decided to donate a portion of the proceeds received at the fashion event this past Friday, July 28, to Arbor Circle’s programming.
“Arbor Circle has an art therapy program specifically benefitting immigrant women—which is exactly what I am,” states Klomega.
As a woman, and an immigrant to this community, Klomega hopes other women create their own ripple effects as their pursue their passions despite any obstacles faced.
“The ripple effect was my teacher giving me the sewing machine – I want my clients to create a positive ripple effect. I want others to believe that challenges do not hold you down,” says Klomega.
Michelle Jokisch Polo is Rapid Growth's On The Ground Editor. To connect with Michelle, you can email her at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.