Sustainable Fashion Brands in Africa
The fashion industry of the modern day is shifting from simply producing beautiful and trendy garments, to also looking at the impact of production on the planet. Various brands across the world, the African continent included, are being progressive by embracing ethical and environmentally sustainable practices in their businesses. Here is a look at some sustainable African fashion brands, that are proving that one doesn’t need to destroy the planet in order to look good!
Mima-Te is a sustainable fashion brand based in Mozambique. It was started by twins Nelsa and Nelly Guambe, in an effort to disrupt the fashion cycle in Mozambique. Mima-Te is focused on up-cycling unwanted clothes from Europe, which are sold to South and East African countries. The business renews old dresses found in local markets in Maputo, turning them into fashionable, modern and affordable clothing. By repurposing unwanted and out of season clothes, Mima-Te contributes to reducing pollution that is caused by used clothes thrown away in landfills. Rather than making garments from scratch, the duo found a way to repurpose old clothes. In this way, their business reduces the carbon footprint, water waste and land pollution that could have otherwise resulted from unnecessary production of new garments.
Studio 189 is a Ghanaian sustainable fashion brand co-founded by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah. The business produces gorgeous African and African-inspired fashion pieces. Much of their craft is grounded in hand-batiking, recycled glass beading, kente, weaving, basket weaving, and indigo dyeing. The team at Studio 189 embraces sustainable and ethical fashion by using recycled material in their crafts, and working with sustainable natural fibres such as organic cotton grown in Burkina Faso, and dried grass from Ghana. The sustainable business also opts to use pineapple Piñatex leather made from pineapple fibres, in place of animal leather so as to reduce the environmental pollution. Currently, Studio 189 operates a store in Ghana, an e-commerce site and a manufacturing facility in Accra. It also supports various community-led projects.
Spirit Girl is a Cape Town brand that epitomises their passion for design, nature in their activewear brands. Founded by two active South Africans Leigh and Rochelle, the brand reflects the founders’ sense of adventure and eco awareness for the world they live in. The fashion line makes a variety of active wear from recycled PET (post-consumer-plastic) bottles. The beauty of the recycled plastic they use is that it has a performance similar to virgin polyester fabrics. After recycling, the tights are woven with 20% spandex, which results in less pollution and more energy saving. In addition to reducing pollution caused by plastics, it cuts the demand for dyes and fixing agents and decreases carbon dioxide emissions. As a bonus, the tights have 50% UV protection which makes their colour durable. The brand has therefore found a way to combine bold and vibrant design, with eco-friendliness.
Nkwo is an artisanal brand that is at the forefront of the sustainable fashion movement in Nigeria. The brand was launched in 2012, by fashion designer Nkwo Onwuka. Its thrust is to conserve natural resources and the environment by focusing on waste reduction, creating artisanal and limited-edition pieces from up-cycled denim, end-of-line fabrics and cutting table waste. Nkwo focuses on preservation of traditional craft while curbing the damaging effects of textile waste. The pieces produced by Nkwo are crafted using traditional West African techniques such as weaving, beading, hand-dyeing, and embroidery. The designer behind the brand has also created their own fabric called Dakala, using a modern strip weaving technique. Working closely with artisans and local makers, the label aims to create meaningful change on the continent by involving the many parts of the expanding fashion ecosystem, in a new way of working that is more mindful as it celebrates and preserves the art of creation.
I Scream Red is a South African-based company founded by entrepreneur Zaid Philander. The company creates stylish and compact bags from recycled seatbelts, reused car or homestead upholstery, and rejected fabric sample books. One of the company’s main goals is to save the planet by creating planet-friendly items, and cultivating an eco-society that facilitates planet-friendly change within the fashion industry. The resources that I Scream Red uses are sourced within the vicinity of production, to minimize carbon emissions on each product. In an effort to reduce carbon print, the company buys fabrics from upholsterers who rework old furniture, before the fabric reaches landfills. At I Scream Red, all products are bound with natural or organic cotton that is green approved, ensuring that it adheres to principles of sustainability. The company also has a community upliftment component which deals with empowerment of vulnerable people within the community. Through this initiative, I Scream Red trains different people from disadvantaged backgrounds, with the skills to create the company’s products. It also creates employment for people with disabilities, teaching them how to design and start businesses of their own within their spaces.
Suave is a Kenyan sustainable brand that produces a variety of bags and other fashion accessories. Its range of products include, backpacks, messenger bags, totes, pouches, and wallets. Suave was started by entrepreneur Mohamed Awale in 2012. The business was born from Mohamed’s passion for bags. As he developed the model for his business, he was determined to change the narrative of fashion by up-cycling used garments from a local thrift market. Suave gives new life to old garments, thereby reducing the number of clothes that end up in landfills as textile waste. The team at Suave primarily uses denim, but experiments with a wide array of fabrics. They destroy the used garments they collect, before rebuilding them creatively to make beautiful bags.