UniquEco is a brand that seeks to collect old flip-flops, unwanted pieces of plastic or tyres, and recycle them into unique handmade pieces. Local artisans cut beads or shapes out of the material to create the artwork. These products are then sold at a variety of places; to tourists, residents at local shops, craft fairs and 80% of their orders are exported to private individuals, wholesalers and distributed.
The project started in a small island on the northern Kenyan coastline and was founded by Julie Johnston who was born in Narobi, and Tahreni Bwanaali who was born and raised in Kenya. Here women and young people in the island of Lamu Archipelago would collect washed up flip-flops on the shore and use them for toys and cushion stuffing as part of The FlipFlop Project. Potential in the project was seen and in an effort to extend the success, the UniquEco brand emerged. So far UniquEco has collected and recycled over 150,000 flip-flops and will continue to make a difference!
They were various reasons as to why they business of flip-flop recycling started up, from marine protection to environmental preservation. The ones that strike our attention the most are human development and sustainable assistance. Women who live in remote areas of Kenya have very few sources of income and their income, if any, is hard to survive on. With thanks to the UniquEco program, providing job opportunities, women’s roles in such villages have grown and as a result they are able to pay for proper housing, food and education for their children.
As well as art and sculpture projects, UniquEco also have ethical fashion projects, which aim to ‘inform the general public about the environmental harm of pure high-street fashion’ and further promote ethical fashion to build bridges between the environment, the people and the fashion world in general. One of the ways in which they raised awareness about ethical fashion was by constructing Twiga, an innovative 5 meter high giraffe made entirely out of recycled products. Representing UniquEco at Rome fashion week in 2008, Twiga raised awareness and the possibilities of using recycled and alternative products in the fashion industry to reduce environmental destruction.
Please find more info at http://www.uniqueco-designs.com/
All images courtesy of UniquEco Designs
Author: Natalie Nartey