Meet the Ghanaian fashion designer, Papa Oppong, who made history with his commencement speech at New York’s FIT


Renowned Ghanaian fashion designer and illustrator, Papa Oppong Bediako made history as the first Ghanaian to deliver the commencement speech at the 2023 School of Graduate Studies graduation ceremony of his alma mater, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in a momentous occasion that marked the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.

Papa Oppong, known for his distinctive style and creative prowess, stood before the graduating class as a testament to the possibilities that await those who chase their dreams relentlessly.

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Reflecting on his journey, he shared, “Ever since I started living life with the intention of relishing in all the experiences the universe has to offer, I have found that the universe has willingly ushered me to some of the most incredible moments of my life… moments I could only dream of.”

For Papa Oppong, the pinnacle of this incredible experience came in the form of a surprise honorary hooding during the ceremony.

Having previously missed the opportunity to be hooded for his undergraduate degree in Ghana in 2015 and his graduate degree in 2021 due to travel and COVID-19 restrictions, respectively, the unexpected recognition left him speechless and filled with gratitude.

“I’m so new to hooding that I didn’t even know I had to sit for it! Lol!” Papa Oppong humorously recounted, emphasizing the serendipity of the moment. It served as a powerful reminder of the unpredictable paths life can take and the rewards that come with perseverance.

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Addressing the new graduates, the stylist and fashion designer extended his heartfelt congratulations and acknowledged the significance of their achievements.

“YOU did it! YOU have earned this degree from a very well-respected institution that has produced some of your biggest inspirations in your field of study,” he affirmed. Encouraging the graduates to embrace their accomplishments, he urged them to flaunt their hard-earned degrees and embrace the challenges that lie ahead.

As he concluded his speech, Papa Oppong shared a quote from his favourite artist, Rihanna, that encapsulated his own philosophy: “Never a failure, always a lesson!” With these empowering words, he reminded the graduates that setbacks are merely stepping stones to success and that every experience, whether positive or negative, holds valuable lessons.

Papa Oppong’s unique perspective and creative vision continue to captivate audiences worldwide; it is a testament to the impact of Ghanaian talent in the fashion industry.

As Papa Oppong bid farewell to the new graduates, he left them with a final message: “You’ve Got This!” With his words of encouragement and his own remarkable journey as inspiration, the graduating class of FIT is poised to make their mark on the world of fashion and beyond.

Papa Oppong is the 2017 PANAFEST Youth Festival winner for his work promoting creativity and has partnered with MAC Cosmetics, Woodin, Swarovski, and Adidas on projects in the past.

He also provided illustration, concept, and styling services to several homegrown design brands such as Studio 189, Christie Brown, Pistis Ghana, and Ophelia Crossland


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