Twins Asha and Ayanna Diaz, or the Wadada Sisters as they are known, are an unmistakable duo. Their free-spirited approach to life has not only birthed a fashion label but has also, over the past decade, inspired dozens of women to launch their own businesses and ideas built on authenticity and love.
Celebrating a decade of the Wadada fashion brand, the sisters launched both a new line called Wadada Basics in 2020 and a new platform, the Ladies of 420, in 2019. The latter initially was developed as an education and events idea to share knowledge on the value of the cannabis plant but has more recently led to their own CBD body care line of oils and lotions. Though neither sister initially set out to explore the worlds of fashion or beauty and skincare, they have been innovators and advocates for women-owned businesses since.
“This was all Ayanna’s master plan at the start,” Asha pointed out. “She was here in Trinidad and I was in London when she told me what she was thinking of doing.” Asha was, at that time, pursuing a master’s degree in human factors and safety in aviation and Ayanna had completed her studies in the culinary and hospitality field. Asha also holds a commercial pilot’s licence, at first having set her sights on becoming a pilot. But the sisters had a consistent personal challenge: they could never find clothing in their size both being too tall and too slim for the clothing available in 2010.
“There simply were not the extra small or extra tall options available that you find now, so Ayanna found a seamstress that she could work with and began receiving positive feedback for her outfits when she wore them out,” Asha added. As Asha was just completing her studies, she decided to return home and focus on the idea with her twin. The pair chose Wadada, which is an Amharic word/phrase for love or greetings of love and launched five pieces at the opening of an art exhibition in December 2010.
The decision to pivot to Wadada Basics in 2020 was a direct result of the impact of the pandemic as their designs were not everyday wear but were meant to be signature pieces for people going out. “No one was purchasing the usual dresses and skirts that we create as events and bars, restaurants were shut down, so we aimed to have something more affordable as people were concerned with their economics, but we also wanted pieces that you can wear comfortably at home or while doing your errands or if you wanted you could dress it up a bit and go out – entirely up to you,” Asha added. As a result the sisters made the Wadada brand more accessible to a whole new segment of their fans and followers.
Still the obstacles for such a simple idea were many. “It’s been a lot of trial and error with fabrics and production in Trinidad,” Ayanna noted. “We were limited by fabric options available here too. For instance, if we found one we loved, it may not be available in the quantities and the store likely was not ordering more. Or another designer was using it,” she added with a laugh tinged with the hint of a personal experience.
“We were able to meet someone who was able to facilitate production for our Basics line to ensure we had competitive prices outside of Trinidad which we could then ship back in at a competitive price. However, all Wadada Movement pieces are still very much made with love and care here in Trinidad by our seamstress and her team,” Ayanna advised.
Ladies of 420 is an extension of the Wadada brand, which Ayanna explained further, “It came about seeing the need to educate people on the cannabis plant and we initially used Instagram and Facebook for that and then when the laws changed in TT, we were able to have small events too. This may lead to a clothing line and other things in the future, but having lived outside of Trinidad for some time, for instance, seeing the amount of potential that exists in the cannabis industry in places like California, we want to ensure that we have a stake in it here, because it is something that we are very passionate about,” Ayanna added. Their CBD products are derived from cannabis and not hemp but comply with international laws to ensure that the level of THC in it is undetectable.
Both sisters contribute in full to all their designs and decisions, though Ayanna has more recently become the project lead for Ladies of 420. They also lean into their respective strengths with Asha taking the reins in terms of photography ideas and social media and Ayanna focusing on the more technical areas of the business. “We must both agree 100 per cent on anything that we do however,” Asha pointed out.
Neither sister ever saw themselves in traditional jobs with their mother doing that and their father having more of an entrepreneurial approach. The sisters note that their free-spiritedness is something they both work towards daily, and as Rastafarians credit their bohemian spirit and vibe with their faith. Both are parents, Asha to a two-year old daughter, Egypt, and Ayanna to an 11-year-old daughter, Israel. Asha is also a yoga instructor at One Yoga but Ayanna prefers her fitness through the gym. Ayanna also manages Buzz Rock, a reggae artiste who was touring up until the point of the pandemic. “It’s a challenge as we have seen the music industry take a serious cut-back this year as artistes can only generally earn an income and pay bills through events and going out to meet people – which is not happening,” Ayanna highlighted.
In November, the sisters opened their boutique at Green Yard on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain in which they hope to open a collective of like-minded businesses and an oasis downtown in the capital. They aim to add small events in the future, once allowed, and invite people to come in and escape with a spa day or through small yoga classes. And whether it is through their education on the positives of cannabis, or through wearing their signature pieces of body care line, the sisters are quietly sharing a small piece of their unique take on the world – one that is built on love and being at peace with the flow of life.
Make up: Jacqueline Arneaud
Stylists: Risanne Martin
Photo and Edit: Leah de Gannes
Clothing: Wadada Movement