Fashion • Africa

Duchess of Sussex Highlights Sustainable African Fashion Brands during her Trip to Southern Africa

09 Oct, 2019 • by Fashionomics Africa
Duchess of Sussex Highlights Sustainable African Fashion Brands during her Trip to Southern Africa
Fashionomics Africa

Meghan Markle has been spotlighting ethical fashion brands during southern Africa tour. Few fashion choices receive as much public attention as those made by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, whose outfits frequently sell out after being identified online. She appears to be using this attention to powerful ends by highlighting ethical brands and consumption habits.

During her and Prince Harry's royal tour of southern Africa, which concluded Wednesday last week, Meghan wore a series of outfits by designers who prioritize the social and environmental impact of their clothing.

For the royal couple's first public engagement, in Cape Town's Nyanga township, the Duchess wore a printed wrap dress from Mayamiko, a fair-trade brand working in Malawi. The label, which uses textiles from local fabric markets and runs its workshop on solar power, said on Instagram that the item has already sold out. Established by Paola Masperi, Mayamiko The Label is an ethical and sustainable woman's wear and life style brand, producing clothes, accessories and homeware, lovingly made in Malawi by our team of tailors, pattern cutters and seamstresses. Their collections are cross-seasonal and are inspired by African artisanal traditions and prints, with ethical trading and sustainability at our core. Their collections are designed for the global modern woman, while giving ode to their birthplace through the use of traditional African techniques and local printed fabrics, locally referred to as Chitenje. As they continue to grow, their vision is to bring to their customers a lovingly designed selection of unique products, made by handpicked artisans all over the globe. At the moment their customers can choose from embroidery from Sri Lanka, handloom from Myanmar, reclaimed jewellery from Laos and upcycled silk from Italy. Mayamiko strongly believes that ethical and sustainable production is the only acceptable way of producing, and feel that shopping ethically should not compromise the quality or design of the product but rather enhance and add value to it.

Mayamiko works in partnership with Mayamiko Trust, a charity set up by Paola in 2008 after her extensive travels in Africa. Mayamiko aims to help the most disadvantaged people in Malawi by nurturing their creative talents and turning them in to sustainable activities that could be transferable to trade practices. Lifting people out of poverty and towards a better future. The Charity and brand work together through the Mayamiko Fashion Lab where their garments are made. The Mayamiko Fashion Lab was designed to provide training, education, nutrition, sanitation and fairer trade practices to all of those involved. The project currently provides training in sewing and tailoring as well as financial and business skills to local, disadvantaged women, many of whom are affected by the HIV pandemic or who are careers of HIV orphans. After their training all trainees receive a recognized qualification as well as mentoring, guidance and access to a micro-finance scheme, enabling them to start their own business.

Ticking all the boxes for originality, buying local whilst keeping the sustainable message strong, Meghan wore a pair of leaf-shaped handcrafted porcelain earrings on tour. Taking up to one week to craft each pair, South African jeweler Nina Bosch, finishes each pair in 18-karat gold. “I love what she is doing and I love her vibe,” says the jeweler, who has since received orders from all over the world. “It’s exciting that fashion can be part of the whole sustainable movement and it’s amazing that she is doing this — she is making people aware, and she’s inspiring others.” Born and raised in a family of ceramic artists, Nina creates fine, porcelain jewellery. Drawing inspiration from geometric and organic shapes found in nature, she started her business with the desire of finding a way to merge surrounding together creatively. Her creations are made from porcelain where she further incorporates a variety of different materials such as glazes, pigments, 18 karat gold luster and sterling silver. Every piece is handmade with care, given special attention to detail while embracing natural imperfections of the hand at work. Jewellery undergoes an intricate firing process which leads to different finished effects, and ultimately individuality. Nina focusses on creating timeless, statement, wearable art jewellery pieces.

To close out the final day of the 2019 royal tour, Markle selected a white Tencel shirt dress from Cape Town-founded label Hannah Lavery. A focus on classic-yet-contemporary basics in neutral colors like black, white and grey underpins the practical-yet-stylish flat shoes, trousers, blouses and dresses that make up the Hannah Lavery brand. A female-led team embraces a slow fashion approach, with a focus on locally made, elevated staples for every woman. Hannah Lavery is a designer based in Cape Town who produces, alongside a team of known and skilled makers, a subtly innovative and locally grounded line of clothing for women. This lifestyle brand celebrates the clean lines of the body and the intrinsic movement of the materials used.  The range features natural fabrics, genuine leather bags and shoes, and softly tailored pieces - providing a complete aesthetic offering to customers.  The brand is dedicated to ethical production that is transparent and relational, feeding opportunity where possible into the local industry.

Meghan Markle routinely speaks out about causes that are close to her heart, but the Duchess of Sussex is also able to savvy and subtly use her platform to support her favorite issues without saying a word. Take her recent royal tour of Africa, for example. Meghan used the high-profile series of engagements to champion one of the many causes she cares dearly about—sustainable fashion.

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