For the past month and a half we’ve looked at the good, the bad and the downright ugly when it comes to fashion and its environmental impact. I know, how something can be so pretty and so downright hideous underneath it all. But we also learnt that there are people out there striving to make a difference. They’re doing what they can to say ‘hey, we ALL can get along’. While it’s easier to find the international brands who are ethically aligned (such as here, and here, don’t forget this or this one… you get the drift) we’d like to shine the light on African designers who are making strides in making greener, cleaner clothes.
This South African fashion and lifestyle brand started in the mid 1990s and covers everything from bridal to lifestyle to ready-to-wear. Their mission is to create exceptional styles through the best possible craftsmanship policies, by observing Fairtrade, providing decent working environments for their employees and empowering local artists and crafters. But they also strive to keep the design and fabric as natural as possible. Wherever possible, they use natural fabrics such as linen, bamboo, silk, hemp and organic cotton, which have minimal human interference. As they mention on their website, “We are constantly inspired by nature and the African landscape and do our best to try to preserve it.”
Sindiso Khumalo started her eponymous label in early 2012 after receiving her Masters in Design for Textile Futures at Central St Martins College of Art Design in London. But it was reaching the finals in Elle Magazine (South Africa) New Talent Competition that helped push her label into the limelight. It’s not just the strong, complex graphic prints she creates that makes the brand stand out. It’s also the fact that she focuses on sustainable contemporary textiles. Her designs, which have been featured in Elle, Vogue and the Financial Times, came to life through her work with various NGOs in South Africa to develop sustainable textiles.
It’s safe to say TDS loves this Kenyan/South African brand, but who wouldn’t when they’ve managed to go zero-carbon. Proof that it can be done on this continent, and still be sustainable. As we mentioned earlier in the series, the carbon footprint in the fashion industry is a major issue that affects us all; fashion lover or not. And now more than ever, we need more designers and consumers to push for cleaner design. If you haven’t read on them just yet, click here to get the in-depth scoop.
South African, Craig Jacob’s label grabs the ethical, eco-friendly title by creating a clothing range that not only reflects the ideals of the environmental and social conscious consumer, but also uses organic fabrics. Ecologically, the label locally sources the wool material it uses from rural communities in Lesotho – nothing like the horrors of commercial fur farms we talked about earlier – and uses organic cotton, as well as bamboo.
Mozambique’s first upcycling clothing brand was started by twin sisters, Nela and Nelly Guambe. Their approach to sustainable fashion is to renew vintage clothes found in second-hand markets in Mozambique and giving them a second, unique life. By not creating clothes from scratch, the sisters are not only putting their creativity and design skills on display but they also help tackle the landfill issue fast fashion has created for the environment. Reminds me of the piece on circular fashion.
This Cape Town based brand recycles safety belts among other upcycled materials and upholstery to make bags. To ensure that the bags remain as green as possible, brand founder – Zaid Philander – works with organic cotton as well. To reduce their carbon footprint the company made the decision to source all its materials in Cape Town and as close to their production site as possible. That means a reduced level of carbon emissions they would have emitted importing or travelling.
For those who love yoga, or just the snazzy pants, Cape Town based brand helps its consumers find their Om without the pollution. These custom designed pants are made by using spandex and recycled plastic bottles to make their comfortable, breathable designs that have the wick moisture factor other brands have in the market as well. They also embedded 50% UV protection material in the designs to ensure the pants don’t fade too easily. Oh, and they work just as well for active swimmers too.
This list is in no way exhaustive. As we’ve come to learn throughout the year, there are so many designers who are doing great things on the DL. If you are that designer, or you know someone who is, share with us through the comments section below or even simply tag us on social media. We’d love to keep publishing new lists of designers who are taking the steps in the right direction. However small.
PS: 4 days to Christmas!