Alongside Artisan Fashion, Vivienne Westwood aim to put upcycling and global textile waste on the agenda – moving this accessories collection into a space where circularity informs design.
Since 2010, Vivienne Westwood has been producing an accessories line in Kenya thanks to a collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) of the International Trade Centre – a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation – which currently supports the work of thousands of artisan micro-producers from marginalised African communities.
Since 2015, these handcrafted accessories have been manufactured through the EFI social enterprise in East Africa – Artisan Fashion, which specialises in the production of high-end accessories with community groups of artisans. Originally an EFI project, Artisan Fashion is now a completely independent and successful business due in part to the continued workflow from Vivienne Westwood, which supports 1,270 artisans. This season (AW22), 74% of all the artisans employed by Artisan Fashion are women and 42% of artisans invested their income in education, training and skills development.
In East Africa, Kenya is the major importer of second-hand clothes – importing nearly 200,000 tons each year to be sold at dedicated Mitumba markets. The challenge is that much of the clothing or textile waste end up in dump sites or burnt on open fires, along riverbeds and washed out into the sea, with severe consequences on local people and the planet.
Developing the Autumn-Winter 2022 Made in Kenya collection, Vivienne Westwood and Artisan Fashion delved into material sourcing and how this could shape the design of the collection for the future. Looking at supply from Mitumba markets, that so often end up as waste, and approaching the collection design to repurpose them as a raw material. The collection aims to grow more circular economies, that are necessary for our industry to reduce its environmental footprint.
For this season we have began working to upcycle denim from the second-hand garment ‘mitumba’ markets- which is then handcrafted into a patchwork. The large rolls of patchwork denim are screen printed with the Vivienne Westwood monogram graphic and then constructed into the Westwood designed Worker Shopper bag. The bags are then hand-finished with upcycled metal hardware – creating a product that pioneers upcycling and supports artisanal skill development, in place of aid dependency.
For the wider collection this season, there are many recycled or repurposed materials including; brass, aluminium, bottle caps, coffee sacks, wood and glass, and by-products, such as palm and cow horn. This fosters the creation of local supply chains of recycled and upcycled materials, and draws attention to the importance of recycling and reusing waste in the local community.