CiiE Luxuries: Innovators Upcycling for Sustainability
The consciousness for sustainability is growing, and customers are adopting responsible purchasing practices. Positively, more fashion businesses are also making an effort to mitigate the environmental impact of their operations, and consequently investing in more sustainable methods in their product design and production processes. This week, we showcase CiiE Luxuries, a finalist of Fashionomics Africa’s first contest, and learn more about how sustainability has shaped its entrepreneurship journey.
CiiE Luxuries’ is a female-owned business founded by Nigerian, Chisom Ihebuzo Nwankwo. The business is focused on creating new fashion accessories from up-cycled textiles and leather waste, collected from local tailors, furniture makers, and local residents. CiiE was birthed through an initiative called the CiiE Waste to Style (W2S) – a project that helped CiiE Luxuries collect over 500kg of textile and leather waste. Since then, W2S has become CiiE Luxuries’ in-house process for encouraging local tailors, furniture makers and local residents to sell their waste fabric and leather off-cuts to the business at a given price. The local workmen and residents also benefit through waste fabric collection baskets, fabric shopping bags and more, which they receive as tokens of appreciation for the waste they sell to the business. In line with the sustainability mantra, each of CiiE Luxuries’ accessories is made from at least 70% up-cycled textile or leather, and other natural fibres such as sinamay and paper mat. As such, the business’ target customer is a middle-aged working class woman, who is not only fashion savvy and chic, but environmentally conscious.
Chisom noted that going green and focusing on climate friendly practices was a decision the business made intentionally, and the decision to do that has made CiiE Luxuries a unique brand. Contrary to most entrepreneurs’ sentiments, CiiE Luxuries highlighted that going green has helped it save on unnecessary expenditure, and created opportunities for brand awareness, product development and specialization. As a result, its business model is highly scalable given the right timing and necessary business inputs. CiiE Luxuries also shared news that it will be opening its first official flagship store in Nigeria in a few months. The business also has plans to do the same in 3 other African countries before the year 2025.
As a business, the most important part of CiiE Luxuries’ fashion journey was deciding to focus on accessory design and production. The decision to use up-cycled textile and leather also helped define what CiiE Luxuries wanted to achieve as a brand. Since its inception, the business has learnt that the process of building a business is complex, takes time and a lot of dedication anywhere in the world. “Some days you wake up confused, overwhelmed and some days you can jump over a mountain, but the most important thing is to always show up no matter how you feel” –Chisom, founder at CiiE Luxuries. The team at CiiE Luxuries also acknowledged that the entrepreneurial journey taught them the importance of focusing on customer service, employee welfare and networking in business. As one of the finalists of the Fashionomics Africa contest, CiiE Luxuries has many achievements to boast of, having remained resilient in its quest for both sustainability and profitability. However, it still faces many challenges. For instance, the business has difficulties in finding skilled workers to hire for the business’ expansion. This is not a case that is unique to CiiE Luxuries only, but a phenomenon that is common across Africa’s fashion industry. CiiE also faces challenges in terms of its e-commerce and sales channels. More can, and still needs to be done for the improvement of the continent’s digital infrastructure to enable it to effectively support businesses to increase sales.
To address these challenges, CiiE Luxuries intends to hire people with little or no knowledge of the industry, train them for a minimum of six months and then offer them employment. This has always been its hiring principle. However, the company intends to do this on a larger scale going forward. With regards to the e-commerce challenges, CiiE Luxuries is focusing on making its website www.ciieluxurie.com more accessible; creating more awareness with online shopping platforms like Fashionomics Africa and other fashion brand hosting websites.
CiiE Luxuries’ Views on the African Fashion Industry and Sustainability
CiiE Luxuries is of the view that more needs to be done in terms of fashion sustainability awareness in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The business believes that consumers need to know about the products that they purchase, especially for imported fashion items. Moreover, Africans need to prioritize purchasing from local brands first before considering fashion items from other parts of the world. CiiE Luxuries believes that by promoting local brands, the industry will eventually live up to its potential. “The drive to promote the African Fashion Industry also needs to be backed by an effort from African brands, through focusing and finding ways to use indigenous materials that can be sourced and produced locally. There is a fashion industry charter for Climate action headed by the UNFCCC and I can say that very few African fashion brands are aware of this charter. Africa needs to be part of this global movement to create awareness on the harmful effect that some of our fashion processes have on the environment.” –Chisom, founder at CiiE Luxuries.