How ReCreYASSION is Promoting a Circular Economy and Upcycled Fashion in Senegal
When Yacine Faye’s mother came to visit her daughter during her second year studying Law Engineering and Business Management at the Gaston Berger University of Saint Louis in Senegal, she found herself confused. “Can you please remind what it is you’re studying here?” she asked, upon finding Yacine’s desk piled high with jeans and a box full of threads and needles. It was far from what Yacine’s mother had imagined a typical law student’s room to like. Fortunately, she supported her daughter’s side-hustle, obviously recognizing her flair for selling, altering and creating clothes. Afterall, Yacine had been crafting since she was eight years old, so it hardly came as a surprise that she would one day find a way to make a business out of her talent.
“When I was a kid, my favourite activity was to go to the tailor shops to collect small scraps of fabric. I used them to make purses and would sell them to my neighbours. That’s how it all started. Twelve years later, I started my University Studies and my own second-hand clothing business. Within three months I had saved enough money to buy a sewing machine, but I never used it. Most of my clients asked me to alter the clothes they bought so, in addition to selling second-hand clothes, I also offered alteration services,” Yacine, the winner of our recent Fashionomics Africa survey, told us.
Eventually, Yacine decided to put the business on hold when it was starting to have a negative impact on her studies. She put all her focus into achieving her Master’s Degree in Business Law and a Professional Master’s Degree in Law Engineering and Business Management, and also earned a certificate in Civic Leadership from the University of Bloomington and the US Department of State as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. She then went on to work for Black Rhino Senegal – a company specializing in developing, financing, and constructing power plants in Africa – as an administrative and finance assistant. Currently working as an independent consultant for a French company in Senegal specialized in Human Resources, Yacine has also founded and is managing two businesses, namely Aywa Job and ReCreYASSION.
“Aywa Job is a Facebook platform that helps job seekers get access to complete, serious and updated job offers in Senegal. We also help companies in need of talent spread the information about their recruitment needs and assist them in the selection process. We are currently working on setting up a training program for high school students that includes CV and motivational letter writing, preparation of interviews, etc.,” she explains. Her real passionate project, however, is ReCreYASSION. “I started ReCreYASSion in June 2017 and decided to register my company by December. I knew I needed to be more structured and mentored and started taking online courses about fashion brand management and sustainable fashion, as I did not have any practical training in this area. I also attended a few events dedicated to entrepreneurship in general or fashion entrepreneurs in Dakar and France. I applied to a few incubation programs for entrepreneurs and was happy to be selected as part of Orange Corners Senegal and Teranga Tech Incub.”
“When I first started, it was quite a challenge to illustrate the importance of upcycling, as many people did not understand the need to use second-hand textiles to make new items instead of just buying new items. I always had to explain the reasons behind my concept: the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world and upcycling helps lower fashion's impact on our environment. In addition to that, upcycling helps save costs as it is a little bit like shopping in your own closet. Now, it is actually less complicated as more and more people are educated on this matter and fully understand why upcycling is important. I use my social networks to communicate the importance of upcycling for our environment and our finances and provide an on-demand upcycling service for my clients. My followers get a sense of the possibilities through the before and after pictures I post of the items I upcycle.”
ReCreYASSION initially focused on upcycling fashion items but has since branched out to designing decoration items as well. The products she most commonly works with are clothes – mainly dresses, jumpsuits and kimonos – tote bags, backpacks, purses, pillows, beanbags and wall art. “My favourite items are bags, kimonos and purses,” Yacine admits. She is continuously inspired by Senegal’s fashion scene, and all the amazing local designers she follows and works with. “I feel dressing well and with a bit of spice is part of our DNA. Therefore, Senegal’s fashion scene is very rich, active and diverse. Fashion Weeks have become a trend in almost all the big cities in the country and give more exposure to local designers while the renowned Dakar Fashion Week is turning 18 this year. Despite the lack of decent support from the government – mainly a lack of training – our designers are very creative, and their work is internationally recognized.”
Yacine genuinely believes collaboration is key and has built partnerships with entrepreneurs and organisations to learn, grow and support one another’s businesses. “I mainly collaborate with a designer and concept store owner called Murafa. I make decoration items for her to sell at her shop and I also have some of my products showcased and on sale. I work with a young entrepreneur who owns a small hotel in Dakar. He generously asked me to create a unique and local look for his nine hotel rooms. Colibri Solidaire is an association that collects second-hand clothes from individuals and organizes a clothing sale every month. The revenues generated from the sales are used to fund social projects. They have a stock of unsellable clothes. I design and create new items with the clothes they cannot sell, and they sell them during their events or through their online website.”
One thing that has always saddened Yacine, is the fact that Senegal does not have its own textile industry. “We tend to overuse the term "Made In Senegal" when we all know that our fabric comes from abroad. We do not even make buttons or zippers,” she explains. This is just another part of the reason why promoting a circular economy is so important to her and her brand, ReCreYASSION. “Through my brand, I advocate the need to rethink our way of consuming clothes, by working with the designers around me to develop a more sustainable fashion industry. We all need to be part of the movement and demonstrate that it is possible to create fashionable items made of second-hand textiles (mainly clothes and curtains) and scraps of fabric. We are working on a project to develop locally made fabric and natural dyes using plants or waste, and a mobile application – “Tikorik” – that allows people to buy, sell, swap, rent and donate preloved clothes.”
This year has taught the world a lot about how little we really need, and Yacine believes that, this recognition has the power to impact our approach to fashion too. “During this pandemic, almost the entire world’s population was on lockdown for weeks, months. One of the lessons learned from this experience is that we can survive without going to the shopping mall. On normal days, we tend to overbuy items we do not actually need. We learnt to focus on what matters the most. Instead of buying compulsively, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to use our creativity to create new items out of what we already have. As Vivienne Westwood said, we need to ‘buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity.’”
ReCreYASSION is preparing for a busy year ahead with various projects in the pipeline. Yacine is excited to announce that she is currently working on two new collections – one focused on clothing, the other on purses – and developing a sister brand for her decorative pieces, namely DecoYASSsion. Stay tuned!