Folk Art, Heritage, Visual
Contact: Ansumana Gbembo
Phone: (814) 413-3694
--Mend damaged clothing
--Alter a garment so you get an excellent fit
--Create a garment of your choice that is fit to your exact measurements.
If you want a custom-made garment:
--You can provide the material or he can sell you cloth from his inventory.
--You can provide him with a shirt, dress, jacket that you like, or a photo or sketch of what you want and he will use that to create your piece of clothing.
Suits start at $150.
Shirts and dresses start at $40.
Ansumana also loves to teach! Contact him if you would like private sewing lessons.
Ansumana fled his homeland of Sierra Leone during the civil war in 1995. While living in a refugee camp in Guinea, he took a vocational course to be a tailor and devoted himself to the creativity and craft of African fashion. In 2009 the United Nations resettled him in Erie. The Multicultural Community Resource Center noticed his work ethic and talent and had him teaching other former refugees how to sew. In 2017 and he was the recipient of a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts where, as a master artist, he passed his tradition on to a young man from Somalia. He earned another apprenticeship grant in 2018 and he is currently mentoring a young woman from Cameroon. In 2017 he was one of four artists featured in a documentary, Pennsylvania Folklore: Woven Together about textile artists across the Commonwealth produced by WPSU.
He speaks of his art form, “In West Africa, it is very important to look good. The kings and queens had people grow their own cotton to make their own clothes a long time ago. It was very expensive and only the kings and queens could afford it. The cotton fabric was very thick and very heavy, but they felt superior because it was very beautiful, expensive, and different from what others could wear. Even today the way you dress means you get respect. People will not take you seriously if you dress casually in jeans and a t-shirt. It is also how you show respect to others by looking good for them. People pay tailors for well-fitting clothes, and because they want to feel special for ceremonies, holidays, and festivals. West African people like clothing that fits them. When they buy from a store, it is not to their fit, so they take their clothes to a tailor anyway. Poor people work hard to have good clothes because they will not be respected if they do not look good.
“I am not just a tailor; I am a designer. I mix colors and can look at someone and know what will look good on them. I can tell someone what design is good for them. I do not need a pattern when I sew. I do what my customers want, but I can create my own pieces. My art is combining patterns, colors and different fashions together. It is very important to me to bring back the tradition of a custom-made fit. Many people in Erie are only used to buying ready-made clothes. There is nothing like wearing something made just for you. The Africans and Arabs living in Erie understand this. I now have many customers from these people.”
Call Ansumana for a consultation. He can do alterations, mend ripped garments, or sew you the garment of your choice!
Video about Ansumana in honor of World Refugee Day 2020
Profile on Ansumana written by McDowell High School journalism student
Pennsylvania Folklore: Woven Together a documentary featuring Ansumana