1. Most African print fabric isn't made by Africans. It's made in Switzerland, China, and other parts of Europe. Africans are buying African print fabric from Europe and Asia!! This is terrible for the African economy and means that Africans still do not own their own fashion culture!
2. Most African print fabric is toxic and carcinogenic. This is simply because a lot of fabric dyes are toxic and carcinogenic.
By preserving and encouraging local traditions, and improving local economies, this fashion line helps out in the fight against poverty- specifically, African poverty and underdevelopment.
It's a small step, but the hope is that this small step grows and makes real change happen.
I'm working with small-scale artisans and craftspeople in sub-Saharan Africa to produce a beautiful silk patterned bralette-and-brief set.
Meet one of our planned collaborators:
We'll be using traditional African printmaking and dyeing processes and fair trade silk. This will help these artisans keep making a living, bring money into their communities, and protect their ancient arts. Using these traditional processes will also protect the environment.
I met and talked at length with traditional African textile artists to learn about their work. They use leaves found in the forest and mud gathered from the river to create fabric dyes.
They create patterns in the cloth by tying parts of it up before dipping it in their dyes and by drawing and stamping patterns on the cloth. The process is laborious and requires a familiarity with different plant species and clays. It makes for gorgeous, unique fabric.
Usually, cotton is used. To give a luxurious feel, for this project, we will be using fair trade silk.
Because these craftspeople work on the small scale, their materials are completely sustainable. But it's a catch-22. Because they work on the small scale, they cannot compete with larger manufacturers in other parts of the world who can produce more stuff more quickly. So, they are in an unfortunate situation where their economies are collapsing and their traditions are dying out.
Aware that we perform ourselves, our identities and our beliefs through our clothing, I've collaborated with other artists to design wearable clothing art in the past.
I love using African fabrics in my designs.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that the majority of African print fabric on the market is made using harmful dyes that are not only toxic but are totally destroying the environment and causing cancer!
Additionally, most "African" print fabric isn't even made in Africa or by Africans. The textile economy that was once booming in Africa decades ago, is nearly dead and many of those communities now live in poverty.
Poverty, according to the World Bank, is the number one issue on earth.
Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life. (World Bank)
Fundamentally, poverty is the inability of getting choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments. (United Nations)
Research on the topic of poverty made evident the extreme and urgent importance of the issue. Most striking to me is the fact that poverty is also the inability of getting choices and opportunities and also exclusion.
It makes sense. Small-scale African artisans are not even getting an opportunity to better their lives. The natural opportunities that exist in their ecosystems for trade are not being used because there is no demand. It's the very definition of underdevelopment.
Twenty-one percent of people in the developing world live at or below $1.25 a day. This project joins the fight to change that while making useable wearable art.
The African Silk bralette and brief set is premiering authentic traditional African fabric art instead of toxic environmentally-destructive fabrics made by a factory in Europe or Asia to look or seem African. We'll be using the same processes Africans have used for thousands of years to create a product that is beautiful to look at and you can be sure that you made a difference to someone's life!
We've made a choice to start slowly with our project, meaning, we are only producing one look to start, and manufacturing a small quantity. We are seeking funds to:
- purchase fair trade silk
- pay fairly for fabric dyeing and decorating
- pay fairly for manufacturing
- pay for shipping
We are putting a lot of love into this to make sure all goes well before we try to make more things. My greatest hope is to preserve something beautiful by making something beautiful.
It's also about foundations. Underwear is the first thing we put on. As a representation of ourselves, our identities and our beliefs, it should be non-toxic, made with care, created without harm, and protecting our bodies and our world.
Thank you for your time and your support!
Risks and challenges
There are lots of challenges that arise with a manufacturing project. There could be delays in receiving our supplies but we are dealing with that possibility by manufacturing a small quantity to start. We'll purchase insurance in case anything gets lost. Most importantly, we will stay positive and keep working hard!
My prior experiences designing and manufacturing clothes using African fabrics will be helpful here, as will my having worked in Operations Management and Business Management since 2003. I've planned so that I'll be able to keep my operations going and I will be self-sufficient next year and the year after that. I'll keep being able to make art for people to wear while helping people in the developing world fight poverty.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)