Since 2010, Vivienne Westwood has been producing an accessory line in Kenya thanks to a collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation which currently supports the work of thousands of artisan micro-producers from marginalised African communities.
Since 2015, these handcrafted accessories have been manufactured through the EFI social enterprise in East Africa – Artisan Fashion, which specialises in the production of high-end accessories with community groups of artisans.
Originally an EFI project, Artisan Fashion is now a completely independent and successful business due in part to the continued workflow from Vivienne Westwood, which supports 1,270 artisans.
Secondhand market, Nairobi, Kenya
In East Africa, Kenya is the major importer of second-hand clothes – importing nearly 200,000 tons each year to be sold at dedicated Mitumba markets. The challenge is that much of the clothing or textile waste end up in dump sites or burnt on open fires, along riverbeds and washed out into the sea, with severe consequences on local people and the planet.
Developing the f/w 2022 Made in Kenya collection, Vivienne Westwood and Artisan Fashion started using as source of supply Mitumba markets in order to repurpose its second hand and textile waste as a raw material to be handcrafted into a patchwork.
Denim cutting before upcycling
The large rolls of patchwork denim are screen printed with the Vivienne Westwood monogram graphic and then constructed into the Westwood designed Worker Shopper bag. The bags are then hand-finished with upcycled metal hardware – creating a product that pioneers upcycling and supports artisanal skill development, in place of aid dependency.
Westwood x Made in Kenya bag
For the wider collection this season, there are many recycled or repurposed materials including; brass, aluminum, bottle caps, coffee sacks, wood and glass, and by-products, such as palm and cow horn. This fosters the creation of local supply chains of recycled and upcycled materials, and draws attention to the importance of recycling and reusing waste in the local community.
The hardware used to finish the Made in Kenya accessories are also handcrafted by Rangau Designers, a community team of brass artisans, based in Korogocho, Nairobi.
Together with the support of the main Artisan Fashion hub, they have produced over 13,000 pieces (up to 2021) for Vivienne Westwood. The community has been able to provide stable employment to 25 artisans throughout the year – all young adults, usually former fishermen from the north region of Kenya neighboring Uganda, now trained in metalwork. With this work, they are able to secure consistent income for their families.
The original mission of Artisan Fashion and the Ethical Fashion Initiative was to mobilise the value chain of international luxury fashion to create employment opportunities and economic development for marginalised communities.
Vivienne Westwood x Made in Kenya
Now, alongside Artisan Fashion, Vivienne Westwood aim to put upcycling and global textile waste on the agenda – moving this collection into a space where circularity informs design decisions.
Taking small steps, Westwood aims to create a collection in the most conscious way possible, cultivating circular economies that are vital for our industry to be truly responsible for its impact on the planet.
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