Monday 4th of December 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

Kolade Bobby A Ugandan Fashion Designer Is Repurposing Donated Clothing And Reselling It In The Country Of Origin.

Posted On : May 13, 2022

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Bobby Kolade (Kolade) A Ugandan fashion designer is upcycling donated clothing and reselling it in the country of origin.
Bobby Kolade is upcycling donated clothes into new products and attempting to resell them in an effort to combat a culture of excess that he claims has infected and damaged Ugandan culture and fashion.

“It’s very difficult for a designer like myself, and for my peers, to manufacture competitive clothing in Uganda because the second-hand garments that flood our markets are so inexpensive,” Kolade told The Current presenter Matt Galloway.

“Not only are we importing used clothing from the global north. We’ve also brought in a culture of excessive consumption and cheapness.”

With a concept dubbed Return To Sender, Kolade, a designer and entrepreneur, is attempting to reverse the flow of clothing.

According to Kolade, over 80% of all garment sales in Uganda are of secondhand things discarded in wealthier countries where fast-fashion reigns supreme. It has its own market in Kampala, where Kolade lives, named Owino Market. While some of the apparel on the market is functional, products such as ski jackets and wool suits are inappropriate for Ugandan conditions.

“The items that are shipped here are not always the items that we require,  As a result, many people simply adapt “Kolade stated.

“I once told a trader at Owino Market that I couldn’t afford this jacket. It’s simply too thick… And he added, “You know, style doesn’t care about the weather.”

While the market is a pleasant place to uncover some hidden treasures and bargains, it is also incredibly harmful to the country’s apparel designers, according to Kolade.

The Second-hand Market
In North America, when someone contributes clothing, the best of it is sold in a local store. Other items are then sold to countries in the developing world.

“Originally, they were sent as a gift. People might also pick up garments at various locations throughout the city. But it swiftly transformed into a highly profitable enterprise “Kolade remarked.

“That means our local industries never recovered from the early 1970s industrial downturn.”

Many charity stores and clothing organizations in wealthier nations are now selling excess inventory abroad, which frequently ends up in African countries, he explained.
This makes financial competition difficult for Kolade and other designers.

“People in this market now believe that clothing should be… as inexpensive as second-hand clothing. People have discovered this “Kolade said.

“So if you come out with something fresh as a designer and the pricing is a little higher than what they’re used to, they won’t buy our clothes.

No way!”
This second-hand method might be a double-edged sword, according to Annamma Joy, a marketing lecturer at the University of British Columbia.

While it presents issues for designers, she believes that donating clothing and providing affordable solutions for those in need is more sustainable.

“The government is boosting the number of job openings. People become hired in this company therefore it has an influence that is good for the economy,” stated Joy.

“Those garments, on the other hand, are not what consumers in those countries want. It’s also more costly. Because secondhand clothes undercut the industry, it closes.”

Return To Sender
Return to Sender, Kolade’s endeavor fills this gap. Kolade takes clothing that has been sent to Uganda and gives it his own personal touch.

One of his items, for example, is what he refers to as a four-panel T-shirt. He takes four different shirts and chops them up into fascinating combinations.
“It’s a metaphor for what we’re attempting to do because we’re trying to give these clothes a new identity,” Kolade explained.

He then sells them to individuals all around the world through his website.
The clothing also comes with a “clothes passport,” which outlines where the items utilized for the outfit came from.
“Hopefully, it’ll be a way of interacting with… individuals who see this item of apparel and wonder, “What is it?” ‘Where did it come from?’ And the wearer only needs to present his or her passport “Kolade stated.


He claims he isn’t bothered by individuals donating their garments since he realizes they believe it is a charitable deed and are unaware of the wider consequences. Instead, he believes that consumers would aid businesses by purchasing his sustainable inventions.

“‘Hey, listen, we can make something exciting, something new, something extremely innovative and resourceful,’ we’re trying to convey.
Smaller industry can be developed here,  Take a look at what we did with your trash.
If you want to help the industry in our country, please buy it back.’ “Kolade stated.

Content couretsy of CBC Canada, Buziga Hill & NFH


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