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A fashion line preserving and encouraging local African textile arts traditions to help fight African poverty and underdevelopment.
A fashion line preserving and encouraging local African textile arts traditions to help fight African poverty and underdevelopment.
44 backers pledged $5,244 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

AFRICAN SILK Fashion Line. Saving Culture, Fighting Poverty. project video thumbnail
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$5,244

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THE PROBLEM:

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.

THE SOLUTION:

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.

Fashion illustrations I did of 3 possible looks.
Fashion illustrations I did of 3 possible looks.

Meet one of our planned collaborators:

One of our planned collaborators, Le Ndomo, gives young people — particularly those who may not have had a chance to go to school — a chance to build some technical expertise, learn valuable life skills, and how to run a business.
One of our planned collaborators, Le Ndomo, gives young people — particularly those who may not have had a chance to go to school — a chance to build some technical expertise, learn valuable life skills, and how to run a business.

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.

A photo of the hands of Aboubakar Fofana working with the indigo-producing leaf. A textile artist from Mali, Mr. Fofana explained the traditional process of making indigo dye to me.
A photo of the hands of Aboubakar Fofana working with the indigo-producing leaf. A textile artist from Mali, Mr. Fofana explained the traditional process of making indigo dye to me.

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. 

Bogolan cloth in the market of Endé, Mali made using traditional African dyeing techniques.
Bogolan cloth in the market of Endé, Mali made using traditional African dyeing techniques.

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.

Shirt and pants I designed in collaboration with Angela Sweet using African fabrics, photo by Taro Yamasaki.
Shirt and pants I designed in collaboration with Angela Sweet using African fabrics, photo by Taro Yamasaki.

I love using African fabrics in my designs.

A set I collaboratively designed with Angela Sweet using African textiles, photo by Amir Ebrahimi.
A set I collaboratively designed with Angela Sweet using African textiles, photo by Amir Ebrahimi.

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)

From a story on child labor in Africa I worked on with photographer Patrick Amanama, photo taken by him in Nigeria.
From a story on child labor in Africa I worked on with photographer Patrick Amanama, photo taken by him in Nigeria.

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.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    I'll email you a poem I've written using an African writing system. And I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    I'll mail you a limited edition The Style Diaspora art magnet. And I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    I'll mail you a limited edition print on archival paper of a poem I've written using an African writing system. And I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    You'll get an original Eseohe Arhebamen-Yamasaki woodblock print on silk cloth, a thank you on The Style Diaspora website, and I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    You'll get a limited edition The Style Diaspora African print t-shirt of a size of your choosing, a limited edition 4" x 6" Eseohe Arhebamen-Yamasaki watercolor, a thank you on our website, and I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You'll get a traditional African outfit made specifically for you, a thank you on The Style Diaspora website, and I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    You'll get a traditional African outfit made specifically for you, a limited edition 4" x 6" Eseohe Arhebamen-Yamasaki watercolor, an original Eseohe Arhebamen-Yamasaki woodblock print on silk cloth, a limited edition print on archival paper of a poem I've written using an African writing system, a limited edition The Style Diaspora art magnet, a thank you on our website, and I'll send you updates and photos as the project progresses.

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Funding period

- (40 days)