Alongside Artisan Fashion, Vivienne Westwood aims to put upcycling and the issue of global textile waste front and center with a collection of accessories in which circularity is the design inspiration.
Since 2010, Vivienne Westwood has been producing a line of accessories in Kenya through a partnership with the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), an agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, which currently supports the work of thousands of artisanal micro-producers from marginalized African communities.
Since 2015, these handcrafted accessories have been made by hand through Artisan Fashion, EFI’s social enterprise in East Africa that specializes in producing high-end accessories with community artisan groups. Started as a project of EFI, Artisan Fashion has become a fully independent and successful business, in part due to the continuous workflow given by Vivienne Westwood, which supports 1,270 artisans. 74 percent of all artisans employed by Artisan Fashion for this season (AW22) are women, and 42 percent of the total have invested their income in education, training, and skill development.
In East Africa, Kenya is the largest importer of second-hand clothes, with a volume of nearly 200,000 tons of clothes each year, which are sold in Mitumba Markets (the local name for second-hand markets).
Sajero, Screen Printing Manager. Here she is printing denim for the production of the Worker Shopper bag.In developing the Made in Kenya Fall-Winter 2022 collection, Vivienne Westwood Artisan Fashion have done extensive research on material sourcing and how this might shape the collection’s design for the future. Mitumba Market goods, which so often end up in the trash, were reused as raw materials. The collection aims to grow increasingly circular economies, which our industry needs to reduce its environmental impact.
For this season, we have begun upcycling second hand denim, which is handcrafted using the patchwork technique. The resulting large rolls are then printed with Vivienne Westwood monogram graphics and used to construct the signature Westwood Worker Shopper. The bags are hand-finished with recycled metal details, creating a product that paves the way for upcycling and supports the development of craft skills, counteracting dependence on aid.
Many recycled or reused materials were used for this season’s collection, including: brass, aluminum, bottle caps, coffee bags, wood, glass, and by-products such as palm and cow horn. This encourages the creation of local supply chains of recycled materials and draws attention to the importance of waste reuse in the local community.
The metal elements used to finish the Made in Kenya accessories are handcrafted by Rangau Designers: a community of brass-working artisans based in Korogocho, Nairobi. The journey with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) began, in 2010, with founder Anthony and his wife Benta. Anthony was one of the first people to work on the Westwood collection, the team invested several years in developing their skills, and within 12 years, Anthony and his wife have built a successful craft business. The metal elements they create are made from old recycled faucets, padlocks, scrap cars and refrigerator parts. Materials that would otherwise become waste are transformed into Westwood Orbs, pendants, carabiners and sliders.
With the support of Artisan Fashion‘s main hub, they have produced over 13,000 pieces (updated figure to 2021) for Vivienne Westwood. The community has been able to provide stable year-round employment for 25 artisans: all young adults, mostly former fishermen from Kenya’s northern region near Uganda, now trained in metalworking. Work that provides a steady income for their families.