AFRICA DESIGNS: THE SUSTAINABILITY OF ETHICAL AFRICAN FASHION
Be it blazers, jackets, kimono, dresses, tops or any kind of designs, African fashion today has some of the most innovative and exciting contemporary designs in the global fashion industry. Drawing inspiration from the rich heritage of the African culture, African creative designers seek to not only showcase their pride in the black race which they represent in their apparels but also in the value system they place on the African continent.
The slow and human (as oppose to machines) approach given to the designs, sourcing and manufacturing of African fabrics is of great benefit to the people and communities, resulting in minimal impact in the environment and thereby promoting the sustainability of fashion.
One of the positives of preserving the African culture of indigenous techniques in the creation of fashion products is of course the ethical and sustainable outcome. Yet another positive is that these techniques often take their roots from age old practices and way of life. It is also a celebration of the rich history, tradition and plethora of African culture that exists. A typical example of such techniques is the making of traditional 'Adire', also known as Tie and die or Batik. The production of these fabrics and designs is widely associated with the Southern parts of Nigeria (West Africa). The local artisans tend to use traditional fibres and dye which are less toxic.
If only more eco-friendly brands will shift their focus to the growing African population, this question will be answered. It is no news that ethical African fashion brands are positively disrupting the supposed narrative that products made in Africa are inferior or mean low revenue. Dame Vivienne Westwood's visited East Africa in a collaborative effort with Yoox.com and the International Trade Centre, a United Nations Agency to produce a collection of handbags and Ethical Fashion Africa Collection for the e-tailer Yoox.com comprises handbags and totes created with from all sorts of refuse, from flip flops to old tent fabric, and transformed into covetable accessories by impoverished people in Kenya, through fair labour conditions.
The possibilities of a truly ethical and sustainable fashion industry in Africa is endless. However, limited resources and lack of proper infrastructure hampers its growth and popularity. We know that there is a profitable market for ethical fashion in Africa, waiting to be explored and utilised. If there are investors looking to make investments in ethical fashion and there are several countries on the continent of Africa- South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria to name a few, ready to partner with luxury brands, then there can be a tip in the scale of producing sustainably and the way the world views production in Africa.
Local artisans should be encouraged through consistent training to enhance their skills and the quality of their work to keep up with the latest trend of the fashion world while sustaining the ethical African fashion style. This can only do some good for the lives of people and their communities, for the international fashion giants, for us as consumers and for our big blue planet.