Africa + Fashion + Love – turning waste into Fashion

Posted on January 8, 2012


Fashion. love, Africa was founded in June 2010, by designer Ryan Clements traveled to Nakuru, Kenya. Whist there he met people living in extreme poverty on a visit to the Gioto Garbage Slum, most of them being single mothers with children. It became a desire and a drawing on his heart to help these women. He aimed to help make real changes in the lives of the women and children living in the Gioto Garbage Slum by working with them to produce a line of bags that would provide a lifeline for these residents.

Gioto Garbage slum is home to an estimated 140 families and 300 children whose livelihoods are literally built on top of the garbage where they reside. Shelter in the slum is a big problem as most people resort to using discarded clothes as a means of housing, leading to sickness in the rainy summer months. Even if the people living here could afford to build proper housing, the government refuses to allow any permanent structures, even toilets, to be built on the land.

Food is another major problem in the slum, as people resort to eating the scraps delivered to the site daily. Water at the slum is an equally challenging dilemma, as there are no possibilities for water pipes on the dump site. The desperation of poverty these people face has left them with no sense of hygiene or health care.

Nearly half of the slum’s population is HIV positive and this disease has left a large number of children orphaned. Abuse of drugs and alcohol is another issue within the slum, as they are very cheap and easy to acquire. Children tend to be introduced to these substances at a very young age and end up being addicted to them by the time they reach their teens. Young girls see prostitution as their only means of making money, and rape is rampant for all women in the slum.

Kenya, like many African countries,  has an almost non-existent social security system causing many citizens left to fend for themselves. Huge numbers of the population moved to urban areas with the hope to pursue a better life; but once there, they discovered that jobs were scarce and housing is extremely inadequate.

Over 95% of the people living in the Gioto Garbage slum are unemployed. This is due to lack of education, or in many cases, the demands placed on single mothers. Residents rely on trash vans to deliver them with fresh garbage, in which they find their food, clothes and shelter. Recycling is the main method of income at the slum, as people will collect plastic bottles, metals, and wood to sell for some cash.

Ryan was initially inspired by a group of women he saw crocheting bags out of discarded plastics with the aim to sell them on the streets. He spoke with them about creating more fashion bags with the same outlook that was directed to consumers in the western markets and so they began to work on creating what became eight unique bag designs which subsequently were named after the woman who designed it.

So now Fashion. love, Africa designs and purchases hand knitted bags directly from the woman, living in the garbage slum, who constructed it from post consumer plastic bags. This therefore goes on to allow her a consistent source of income.They are sold online to ensure that they received the majority of the revenue from the bag sales as this avoids an other costs involved. Ten dollars of the profits from each bag, sold at $50 each, is deposited into a fund benefiting the entire slum community to aid in relocation, child sponsorship, medical assistance, and savings/ loans programs. By helping the women of the Gioto Garbage Slum to design and to sell their hand-woven bags, Fashion. love, Africa is generating a steady source of income and opportunity for families to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

These bags are definitely unique and beautifully hand-woven bags entirely from materials recovered by these women in their communities. They not only gather together the materials, but  also clean and disinfect the plastic bags before hand weaving them into vibrant totes with a variety of designs ranging from tweed effect, stripes to even a faux zebra print. I am loving the blue and white checker bag below.

For summer 2011 Fashion. love, Africa worked towards purchasing a 500 square foot piece of land to relocate an estimated 25 families (roughly 100 people). NEEMA Child Care International would help them to purchase the land that is located within 2km of the dump site. By doing this Fashion. love, Africa’s will be working closely to their mission to empower impoverished people whilst embracing and enhancing an individual’s skills and abilities. Fashion. love, Africa is an opportunity for the women in the Gioto Garbage Slum to use their skills to provide income for their families, as well as to gain a feeling of self-worth and purpose. Unfortunately, the garbage will still remain a source of livelihood for these people and it is not yet clear how they will react to being relocated.

In our opinion ethical fashion is about People, Planet and Profit and above all making a difference to the lives of those who are firsthand affected by it. So using locally sourced materials and ensuring that workers receive a fair wage for their labour is a great foundation for any project and initiative. If that is what encompasses the phrase ‘ethical fashion’ then this project is definitely an example of such blueprint. Its foundation is based on materials being sourced literally from the backyard of the People who make the finished product, this then helps to improve their environment on the Planet, so providing a sustainable income and Profit for them and overall creates a very contribution towards the development of their society.
To learn more about the work of Clements and the women in the Gioto Garbage Slum in Kenya and this rather chic bags then check out the site and make a purchase. This Ruth bag is another personal favourite – such a beautiful pastel jade colour.
All images are courtesy of Fashion. love, Africa

Author: Jacqueline Shaw

Posted in: Fashion