What does Ethical Fashion mean for African artisans?
Players of several industries were shocked to see that fast fashion labels such as H&M, Asos and Zara listed among the top 10 most transparent companies. Whereas more high contemporary fashion brands like Versace, Chanel, Anthropologie and many others were exposed to be not as transparent.
Per Fashion Revolution, transparency means that companies have a public disclosure of their policies, procedures, goals and commitments, performance, progress and real-world impacts on workers, communities and the environment. This is more widely known as Ethical Fashion, which has become a fashion industry trend. With this, transparency has become an important factor for fashion labels that want to be stamped as ethical.
Ethical, per Collins English dictionary, represents an approach were something is morally right or accepted. In ethical fashion, it is expected that approaches in sourcing, design and clothing manufacturing are set to benefit communities while minimizing harm towards the environment. Zooming in on the practice of ethical fashion that is sourced and produced on the African continent, we at AfroCraze believe that the true embodiment of ethical fashion goes beyond not doing harm. We emphasize the importance on sustainable/conscious lifestyles, alleviating poverty and empowering communities while helping local artisans to bring their work to the world.
Sunset – Yevu.com
When thinking of admirable African brands that embody ethical fashion and sustainable approaches, we often times hear of brands like Brother Vellies, Edun, Osei-Duro, Soko Kenya and Yevu. All very ethical fashion brands as presented and widely accepted in society – doing no harm to the environment, while building local communities through fair trade, and tackling unemployment.
Tulip Dress – oseiduro.com
Osei-Duro was founded by two girl-bosses, Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh, from British Columbia and Los Angeles respectively. Both ladies once took a trip to Ghana and instantly fell in love with the culture, fabrics and lifestyles of the communities they visited. For them it was only right to create employment opportunities and build a brand to enable a wide range of artisans, designers and fine artists to work collaboratively. Further analyzing the business models of Osei-Duro and the above mentioned ethical fashion brands, we found that their retail prices range from $110 to $450, which clearly targets an audience of mid-to-upper class working citizens of “first-world” countries.
The workers of Osei-Duro are especially skilled at batik printing and tailoring. Impressively, many of their skills-sets are self taught, or learned trades from family members. However, it is important to note that even though employment opportunities are created and the environment is not harmed, local artisans will not benefit longterm unless they acquire a sustainable and scalable skillset. For these locals, it is important to learn how to run a business on their own and foster their skillsets and passions to create profitable entrepreneurial projects for themselves over time. This is to say, what would happen tomorrow if brands such as Yevu, Osei-Duro etc. were to take away their factory mills and offices from these communities? Most likely, all local workers would be back to square zero and unable to turn their skills into the type of global businesses that these companies run. As the saying goes, give a person fish and you feed them for a day but teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.
A.A.K.S. purse available at select UrbanOutfitters and Anthropologie stores
African owned labels such as A.A.KS, Henri Uduku, Kennethize, Fashpa, Wana Sambo and many more take ethical and conscious efforts to push forward the fashion industries in across the continent. Unlike similar brands, their retail prices range from $16 to $250, still not the definition of cheap but somewhat affordable for anyone who wants to shop without breaking the bank. Very interesting is that in the Western world these brands are rarely mentioned when discussing amazing African fashion labels. The struggle of not getting as much exposure and have a global reach is still a dooming fact.
Wana Sambo Mustard wrap. Shipped worldwide from wanasambo.com
Labels like Fashpa, Wana Sambo and others ship globally using technology and the Internet to service individuals all over the world; an effort worth appreciation and support. As Africans, the AfroCraze team sees the African ethical fashion stance as an opportunity to unite to send a message to the world. One way to do this is by creating brand awareness of African-owned ethical businesses and local artisans by wearing, talking-about and involving ourselves through social interactions.
Brother Vellies, Edun, Soko, Oseiduro and Yevu are amazing brands and mimicked as leaders who showcase the richness in fabrics and beauty in design of African culture through fashion.
The aspects of timeless aesthetics, vibrant silhouettes, and colors, represented in the African owned ethical fashion brands, even more so expose the youthfulness of the continent of Africa.
Follow us on Instagram @theafrocraze and use the hastag #ethicalfashionisgoodfashion to share stories on how you are taking ethical actions or impacting local artisans and other Africans, to push for an intentional and transparent lifestyle.