Browse Tag

Artisan

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Expedition Subsahara: Empowering Girls To Rise From Poverty

Expedition Subsahara is on a mission to translate beautiful home décor and jewelry into education for girls in poverty. They are doing this by working with artisans in Senegal and Uganda to produce amazing handcrafted goods. We spoke with Rosebell Komugisha, one of the two founders. This is what she had to say:

SB: What inspired the creation of your Expedition Subsahara?

ES: We know some of the obstacles to development in the rural areas in Sub-saharan Africa, having always been action oriented, we wanted to take responsibility by doing something for the women in the underdeveloped communities back home.

Expedition Subsahara
Founders: Safietou Seck and Rosebell Komugisha

We focused on women specifically because United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) studies have shown that women will invest their income in the development of their families and communities, but men tend to use their income to indulge in selfish vices. Literally, when you educate a girl, you educate a village.

On the U.S. side, we were sensing a need for people to connect, embrace, and understand cultures beyond their own. By introducing African goods into the American market, we would be able to share our rich Sub-Saharan culture with people in the United States while elevating women back home.


SB: What makes Expedition Subsahara a “conscious” business?

ES: Our goal is to add value to our societies and not to exploit the environment or consumers and producers for the sake of profit. The intention is to foster social change through education, to provide economic emancipation to women with few opportunities in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the U.S., our purpose is to expose Americans to unique forms of home decor and link African and American cultures.

All of our goods are handmade by local Sub-saharan artisans. We have noticed that handmade African baskets and clothing are now being mass-produced in China and have been solicited by those wholesalers.

Our response is always no, we are not here to maximize profit, but to elevate each stakeholder, the producer, consumer, environment, and the communities where we intend to build the trade schools.

SB: Why is conscious economics or conscious consumerism important to you?

ES: It is important that we move away from the market model that pushes profit for the sake of profit without trying to build people or the environment. It dehumanizes producers and consumers, keeps people trapped in cycles of poverty and encourages the over consumption.

But it doesn’t just end there for us, we are very much aware that African markets are saturated with western goods that are mass-produced in China.

Through conscious consumerism, we have an avenue to hand some selling power back to African artisans by creating a space in the western market.


SB: What have been the most interesting and challenging parts of running your business?

ES: The most interesting part about running our business is witnessing African products being wholeheartedly embraced in the western world.

The challenge is remembering to keep the vision of our company woven in all of work even with the demand of the smaller daily task.

SB: What are some pros and some cons of using artisans to produce your products?

ES: Sub-sahran artisans are very dedicated, patient, and take great pride in their work. They also want to maintain business partnership, so they make sure to always deliver well made products. The only disadvantage is the very high cost of shipping from Africa to the united States.

SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

ES: We’ll be running or first trade school in Senegal and equipping women with the skills necessary for them to be economically independent and build their communities.

We will also have systems in place to track the impact of our graduates on their local communities. Lastly, in addition to our online store, we have a brick and mortar location.

SB: What advice do you have for those who want to work with artisans that reside abroad?

ES: Be fair to the artists that you are purchasing your products from and keep in mind that for many of them, this is their main source of income.

Find a great shipping company, international shipping costs can be obnoxious. Partner with local organizations whose goal is to develop the community. Any time they are already working with local artisans, this give you a reliable and fair source for your goods.

Find out more about Expedition Subsahara by visiting their website here.

-Tony O. Lawson


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African Fashion Brands to Keep An Eye On

This month, Fashion Week events will be taking place in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Now more than ever, you can expect the presence of dope African Fashion brands or designs influenced by African culture.

Here are just a few established and up and coming fashion brands on the Continent that you should get into:

African Fashion Brands

MONAA  (Ghana) is a luxury footwear label that pays homage to the founders regal Ashanti heritage.

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Galago (South Africa) sources beautiful leathers and vibrant fabrics and allows you to combine them to make your own bespoke sandal.

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Uzuri K&Y Designs (Rwanda) is a shoe and bag brand based in the country of a thousand hills.

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ENZI (Ethiopia) is a footwear brand committed to the highest levels of quality in production, design and materials while maintaining a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

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Hesey Designs (Nigeria) is a fashion brand that specializes in the designing and production of handcrafted bags, shoes, fashion accessories, corporate gift items with African, continental and a variety of materials.

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MaXhosa Knitwear (South Africa) celebrates the rich heritage of the Xhosa culture through providing traditional clothing for Xhosa initiation rituals.

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Lukhanyo Mdingi (South Africa)aims to show a sense of cross cultural influences of traditional designs; reflecting on a contemporary outlook of African aesthetics and heritage.

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Lanre da Silva Ajayi Couture (Nigeria) creates clothing for the woman who is naturally classy but doesn’t shy away from her sensual side.

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Loza Maléombho (Côte d’Ivoire) is a fusion between traditional cultures/ sub-cultures and contemporary fashion.

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Taibo Bacar (Mozambique) is a burst of wholesome energy for all women who identify themselves with eclectic style where the silhouette plays a central role.

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Christie Brown (Ghana) is a women’s apparel and accessories line with pieces ranging from bespoke gowns, practical yet statement pieces to innovative accessories all inspired by the African culture and art.

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JZO (Nigeria) is a menswear brand with a distinct taste for style and details for the simple and Elegant man.

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Thula Sindi (South Africa) is a clothing brand that cuts across the vast discrepancy that exists between unrealistic high-end designer haute couture, and everyday retail chain/bargain bin clothing.

African Fashion Brands

 

-Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Ethical Fashion Brands from Across the Globe

A growing number of consumers worldwide are becoming more conscious of which businesses they spend their money with.

Whether it’s with a Black owned business, an eco-friendly business or a business that creates jobs in developing countries, consumers want to create positive change by supporting brands that know how to “act right”.

This practice is commonly referred to as conscious consumerism, social consumerism or ethical consumerism.

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Ninety percent of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.

Forty-two percent of North American consumers reported they would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.

One third of U.K. consumers claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products.

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One organization that is committed to the creation of jobs, ethical products, and profits is The Ethical Fashion Initiative. Through their network, fashion brands can manufacture ethical fashion items produced by some of the most talented artisans in the world.

According to the EEFI, “Artisans are the key to a fashion industry that has ethics and aesthetics. Sweatshops and workers trapped in an endless cycle of creating cheap fast-fashion is not true fashion.”

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Artisans

“If you’re looking for innovative ways to help developing countries flourish, artisans are a terrific place to begin,” stated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Although the artisan industry is not recognized as a major influencer on economic growth, artisan activity is the second largest employer in the developing world, only behind agriculture.

Globally, artisan production is a $34 billion industry. Even during the 2008 economic crisis, when most markets fell, the demand for artisan crafts continued to grow.

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Supporting these craftsmen and craftswomen is a proven way to create employment opportunities and pull families out of poverty.

Our support also provides them with the means to educate and feed their children. It can revive entire communities by stabilizing local economies.

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There are several Black owned businesses that use artisans to create dope products. Here are a few that are based across East Africa, West Africa, the U.S. and the U.K.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Brother Vellies is based in Brooklyn. Aurora James created the brand with the goal of creating artisanal jobs within Africa while introducing the rest of the world to her favorite traditional African footwear.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Sole rebels was created by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. This is a sustainable footwear company that offers ethical, eco-friendly & vegan shoes handcrafted by Ethiopian artisans.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

FOMI was created by Afomia Tesfayeo. They offer handbags and shoes that are handcrafted in Ethiopia.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

A A K S is a Ghana and U.K. based brand created by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. The pieces incorporate the use of raffia and leather to create bags hand crafted by the best artisanal local weavers in Ghana.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Coins were used as jewelry in ancient times. They were passed from generation to generation as a special memory from loved ones. The Coins Shop is a family owned business in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Sindiso Khumalo founded her fashion label with a  focus on creating modern sustainable textiles.  Sustainability, craft and empowerment lie at the heart of the label.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

 

Alaffia’s goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Their Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, Eyeglasses and Reforestation.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Lemlem offers hand-woven cotton scarves, women’s clothing and children’s dresses made by traditional artisans in Ethiopia.

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Kenya-based Adèle Dejak creates handmade luxury fashion accessories for the modern woman.

Adèle’s collection expresses her appreciation for African-made fabrics and a dedication to using recycled materials including rice and cement sacks, brass, and glass.

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There you have it. 10 Black Owned Ethical Fashion Brands. Get your Shoppe on!

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)