Monday 11th of December 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenyan Fashion Designers Protest Textile Waste With Their Designs

Nairobi’s secondhand clothing market serves as both an inspiration and a backdrop for the fashion industry.
When vendors at Gikomba, the biggest flea market in East Africa, begin setting up their goods on low wooden stalls, dawn has barely begun to paint the sky with a gentle gray tinge.
They carefully organize the secondhand clothing they purchase by weight into enormous sealed plastic bundles by category. a heap of denim.
Tennis shoes stacked high. Bras of all colors and sizes are neatly arranged in a row.
Despite the early hour, throngs of people pack the cramped Kenyan market lanes as vendors shout over one another to promote their wares.

When a trader opens a fresh shipment, the tension increases. Shoppers swarm the area looking for “cameras”. “Items that resemble clothing you would see in a magazine or on television. Isichy Shanicky, a 21-year-old designer at the Maisha by Nisria Collective, said, “That needs to be captured on camera.
She effortlessly maneuvers through Gikomba’s mazes by adhering to its unspoken norms, just like millions of other Kenyans do.

“Arrive early. When a fresh product is opened, you should be present, she advised. “Strip off. The vendor will assess your price by looking at you.
Hold onto a piece you like if you see one. Or someone person will seize your priceless discovery.
Because secondhand shopping is so common, it has its own terminology and manners.

A significant portion of the Kenyan economy is devoted to used clothing imported from overseas. They cost the nation $169 million to import in 2021.
Sixty-five thousand individuals are employed by the Gikomba market alone. The environment and the struggling home textile industry, according to critics, are sacrificed in the process.
At Gikomba, Nicholas Kilonzi began his professional life. Following the passing of his father in 2009, the family was unable to support Kilonzi’s tuition costs.
After landing his first job assisting a dealer in used shoes, he eventually saved enough cash to launch his own company, which presently has three employees.

Kilonzi’s profitability has decreased over time along with the quality of the clothing that is imported from abroad.

We find maybe 10 cameras when we open a 62kg (137lb) package, he claimed. “Five years ago, there would have been 40 or 35.”
The non-camera items, which include cheap, torn, or worn-out clothing, are sold for 50 shillings ($0.35) each.
The leftovers are either turned into commercial rugs or dumped along the banks of the Nairobi River, which flows close to Gikomba.
A third of all clothing is made of plastic garbage, which will degrade into contaminating particles for the earth and the ocean.

One effect of the fast fashion business is the colorful mountains of discarded apparel that line the river’s banks. Such scenes are now commonplace in the Global South, far from the glitzy catwalks and brightly lit storefronts of the world’s fashion capitals.

Nairobi Fashion Week’s creative team planned a photo shoot near the trash to expose the social and environmental crimes of the industry. Its Just Fashion campaign, which runs from April to November, includes the photo session.

“We are not attempting to combat used. It gives millions of people access to affordable apparel and work.
To make fashion sustainable, we support informed consumer decisions and legislative regulations.
Idah Garette, an environmental activist and shot participant, remarked that what people buy has an impact.

Idah is wearing an organic silk dress by Deepa Dosaja, a high-end Kenyan designer who is at the forefront of advocating ethical fashion choices, in marketing photographs. The outfit has hand-painted sustainability slogans.
Dosaja declared, “I have noticed a positive shift. “People who once shopped in Dubai or London now take pride in wearing Kenyan clothing.
Not only is ethical fashion better for the environment.
It generates respectable and worthwhile jobs.
Young designers are already reshaping Kenya’s fashion industry and its long-standing, contentious relationship with discarded clothing.
A new fashion house is called Maisha by Nisria. Its designers, who range in age from 21 to 28, produce unique creations using recycled clothing and leftover textiles.

Shopping at places like Gikomba helps them express their creativity and lessens the negative effects of their industry on the environment.

Conde Tausi, a 28-year-old designer, believes that using secondhand began as a need and later evolved into a goal. “You touch a piece, and it speaks to you,” she says. “I didn’t have the funds to purchase materials when I first experimented with my designs.  leftover clothing from her wardrobe. I eventually realized that the wardrobe was cleaner.
And I pondered whether we would be able to accomplish this on a global basis.

Content courtesy Al Jazeera & NFH 

According To A Greenpeace Analysis, The Majority Of Clothing Delivered To East Africa Is Garbage.

According to a Greenpeace analysis, the circularity advertised by global fashion firms is “still a fantasy,” with the majority of apparel delivered to East Africa ending up in landfills.
Greenpeace Germany traveled to Kenya and Tanzania to learn about the problem of imported textile waste in these countries and to learn about some of the numerous local efforts working to combat it.

However, according to the campaigners’ most recent study, ‘Poisoned Gifts: From Donations to the Dumpsite: Textiles Waste Disguised as Second-Hand Clothes Exported to East Africa,’ issued last week, the majority of the apparel is of such low quality that it ends up at the dumpsite.

“The failure of the fast-fashion linear business model is more visible than in the countries where many of these cheap clothes end up once their short lives are over, on huge dumpsites, burned on open fires, washed out into the sea, with severe consequences for people and the planet,” Greenpeace said in a statement on its website.

According to the report, almost one million tonnes of worn clothing are collected annually in Germany, with the volume increasing by 20% year on year. According to the report, only a small percentage of worn clothing is resold in the country where it was collected: around 10%–30% in the UK, and similar percentages in the US and Canada.

According to Greenpeace, the majority of the worn clothing is sent overseas to join worldwide second-hand commerce in which billions of old garments are bought and sold each year.

However, the non-profit claims that this report demonstrates how textile waste is frequently “disguised” as second-hand clothing and exported from the Global North to the Global South in order to avoid the responsibility and costs of dealing with the problem of disposable clothing, with these used clothes, as well as new ‘overproduced’ clothes, frequently reported and recorded as “reused.” Greenpeace estimates that over half of them wind up in landfills, rivers, or are openly burned.

Greenpeace Germany said it recently campaigned for a ban on the destruction of unsold and returned goods to be included in the German circular economy law in 2020, as well as a transparency requirement for large companies to publicly disclose the number of products they discard and destroy, including textiles.

Following pressure from a number of environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, The EU announced a new textile strategy in March 2022, which recommends a ban on product destruction and a transparency mandate.

The widespread idea that donating clothes is a circular way of dealing with garment waste, according to the Greenpeace analysis, is generating concerns.

“The trade has been labeled “charity,” “recycling,” and “diversion,” and now many people call it “circular,” according to the research, although none of these names are accurate. Circularity is not achieved by simply transferring garments from one location to another. Previously, these clothes would have ended up discarded in dumpsites in the West, but now they end up in African dumpsites.”

African countries that have taken a position against this trade have also run into difficulties, according to the report. The East African Community (EAC) agreed in 2016 to restrict used clothing imports entirely by 2019.

The reason for the prohibition was that it would improve the economy by boosting the local textile industry.

The US, on the other hand, challenged the restriction as a trade barrier and threatened trade penalties, including the loss of duty-free apparel export eligibility to the US market, under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Import tax increases have also caused complications. Consignments of old clothing were left uncollected at the port of Mombasa after importers failed to comply with new duty rules, according to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

According to Greenpeace, 150–200 tonnes of textiles are dumped in African countries every day, and because up to 69 percent of the fibers used in clothing are synthetic (mostly polyester), they are oil-based and non-biodegradable. Greenpeace alleges that discarded microplastic fibers seep into the environment and end up in the human food chain.

According to the report, because there is insufficient infrastructure to dispose of these vast amounts of textile waste and official dumpsites are overburdened, textile waste is dumped along rivers or at settlement borders.

Some of it is burned openly, causing health problems for those who live nearby and clogging rivers and drains, which can cause flooding.

Methane can be released by decomposing clothing, and synthetic materials like polyester and lycra can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Furthermore, many clothing contains harmful compounds, according to the survey.

According to Greenpeace, it is no longer sufficient for firms to focus solely on cleaning up their supply chains, and they are encouraging global fashion brands to increase their efforts to prevent their goods’ massive end-of-life impacts.
Furthermore, according to Greenpeace, the EU must ensure that its proposal to prohibit the export of textile waste and encourage long-lasting, durable, and repairable clothes of high quality is properly implemented through various rules, which must be accepted as a global treaty as soon as possible.

Greenpeace called for control of fashion supply chains in its Self-Regulation: A Fashion Fairytale report in November (2021), claiming that self-regulation was “failed to fix the problem.”

Content courtesy of Greenpeace & NFH

Ethical Clothing, A Sustainable Fashion Search Engine, Has Launched In The United States And Canada, With Thousands Of Searchable, Ethically Produced Clothes.

Hundreds of sustainable North American fashion labels have been added to the catalog of Ethical Clothing, a Spanish-based sustainable fashion search engine, making it easier for conscious shoppers to identify responsibly made fashion that meets their style and budget.

Due to a rise in the importance of brand values and consumer awareness, not just huge high-street businesses, but also a significant growth in new smaller firms with sustainability built into their DNA are taking sustainable fashion seriously.

More than two-thirds of Americans are willing to spend more for sustainable items, according to studies, yet the majority (74 percent) are unsure how to identify them. This challenge is being addressed with the debut of Ethical Clothing’s sustainable fashion search engine in North America.

Co-founders Ben Heinkel and Jack Hesketh, both entrepreneurs with a deep interest in environmental issues, created the sustainable clothes search engine in Barcelona, Spain, in 2019. They noted a substantial increase in the number of sustainable apparel manufacturers as tech-aware consumers who want to shop ethically.

These same brands, however, were frequently difficult to find online, as they competed with larger fashion brands’ massive advertising budgets. With this problem of access in mind, the concept of a single point of discovery for ethically and sustainably manufactured clothes was conceived.

Initially, the portal featured over a hundred European products that met sustainability standards such as using organic certified or recycled materials, having transparent supply chains, and using non-toxic dyes. The search engine provides for speedy product discovery using a variety of eCommerce filters (such as gender, price, and product type), as well as the type of material utilized (such as organic cotton, bamboo, and recycled synthetics like Tencel).

But this is only the beginning; the team is now working on a sustainability grading system as well as a variety of smart filters to make selecting the correct ethical goods a breeze.

“Our objective is to be able to assimilate all of the data that the brands provide about their materials, methods, and supply chains and present our visitors with a grading system that allows them to choose how stringent they want to be in their sustainable clothing criteria.” Ben Heinkel is a writer and entrepreneur who lives in the United States (Co-founder of Ethical Clothing)

The team has now introduced a North American section, offering hundreds of labels from the United States and Canada, after fast validating their strategy in Europe with thousands of consumers successfully using their service each month to find sustainable apparel that suits their style and budget.

“Regardless of their size, we are continuously searching for new ethical brands to partner with.” We’d like to provide brands that go above and beyond in terms of sustainability more attention.” Jack Hesketh is a writer who has written for a variety of publications (Co-founder Ethical Clothing)

The amount of ethical and sustainable fashion firms in the United States and Canada is large, and the team hopes that their launch will assist smaller brands to acquire attention and make sustainable product discovery easier for buyers.

Ethical Apparel has developed additional tools to assist consumers and brands in the ethical clothing industry, in addition to their main service. They intended to dispel the myth that ethical and ecological apparel is out of reach for the average person. As a result, they established a price drop alert service that keeps users fully informed about all of the deals available throughout their whole brand portfolio.

In addition, they’ve also launched the most comprehensive fashion footprint calculator, which will help shoppers understand how their fashion choices influence the environment across a variety of parameters.

The tool gathers twelve data points ranging from fashion consumption to washing habits to sustainability knowledge, with the goal of informing users about their own impact and providing practical action steps to assist everyone lessens their impact in the future.

Today’s shoppers are becoming more conscious of the causes and ideals that they support with their dollars. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are among the behemoths that have taken notice and have lately announced new enhancements to their existing goods in an attempt to meet new, more ethical consumer demands.

Google will launch an eco-certified hotel filter in 2021, Amazon already has a climate pledge-friendly search filter, and Microsoft’s Bing recently added an ‘Ethical Hub’ to their search engine (UK only at the time of this writing), all confirming that the Ethical Clothing team has stumbled upon a problem worth solving.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about this release.

The founding members are as follows:
Ben Heinkel is a serial entrepreneur who has previously co-founded both bootstrapped and VC-backed eCommerce firms, and has experience in all aspects of developing a software company from zero to millions of dollars in revenue. He intends to use his experience with ethical goods to link sustainable manufacturers with conscientious fashion consumers all across the world.

Jack Hesketh is an ethical-clothing.com co-founder, developer, researcher, and writer.

He develops code as well as articles on the fashion and textile industry environmental challenges. After transitioning away from Evolutionary Genetics research, the goal has always been to create fascinating projects like Ethical Clothing, with the purpose of distilling complex topics to assist individuals to make better decisions about aspects that affect the environment as a whole.

Ben Heinkel and Jack Hesketh created Ethical Clothing in Barcelona, Spain, in 2019.

Contact Information:

Content courtesy of PRWeb & NFH

Textile and Fashion Value Chains: Opportunities For The Private Sector in Kenya in 2021

The Textile and Fashion Value Chains Conversation looking at Opportunities in Kenya’s Private Sector happened on 25th March 2021 online. The African Development Bank, iMC Worldwide and Fashionomics Africa supported it.


Emmanuela Gregorio from African Development Bank opened the session and Jacqueline Shaw from Africa Fashion Guide moderated the event. The panellists included Oscar Alochi (Nairobi Fashion Hub), Jason Musyoka (Viktoria Ventures), Chebet Mutai (Waziwazi), Olivia Awuour (Pine Kazi) and Akinyi Odongo.


Emmanuela Gregorio: This event seeks to understand how businesses have positioned themselves in the fashion market. Consumer trends and country reports with detailed information that can be used by investors.  

Plus, looking at the environmental and social impact,e.g. It takes 2.7 litres of water to manufacture a cotton t-shirt. Lastly, Kenyan is a growing fashion sector in Africa, and the garment industry is a promising investment.


Oscar Alochi: The 1960s – 1980s was very successful at marketing clothes for local use & export. It was impacted negatively by the entrance of second-hand clothes. The Kenyan textile and fashion market has been negatively affected by high production costs, including raw materials and marketing issues.


What’s the best way to bring back the Kenyan fashion textile industry?

Chebet Mutai: The private sector needs to work hand in hand with the government through fashion policies. The local consumption and creation by Kenyans are creating a grassroots momentum. That’s pushing the Buy Kenya, Build Kenya ecosystem. Take advantage of AGOA and focus on preferential trade agreements to access international/American markets.


How can we improve locally made fashion?

Chebet Mutai: Have a good brand story because consumers are becoming highly conscious. A strong brand story needs to weave into the marketing strategy. Adopt new technology, push the made in Africa brand and think about how to penetrate new markets.

Jacqueline Shaw: Many eyes are on the African continent, so Africans need to grab this opportunity by telling their own stories. You don’t want Kenya to be known only as an artisan-driven fashion place, yet there’s also knitting, basket weaving, leather shoes, like a strong leather industry. 

Kenyan can be known for high-class quality and luxury items. So people can buy from us and not just admire us.


How did you start Waziwazi, a luxury leather business? Can Kenya be a leading luxury leather import on the content? 

Chebet Mutai: You need to have the design conversation, who do I want to sell this product to… its quality lifts the product from this jurisdiction to the next. A commitment to a design-driven process centred on what the customer wants.


What is being done to improve the textile industry in Kenya?

Chebet Mutai: A lot is being done to improve the fashion textile industry. Some people already use local cotton and breed silkworm. The fashion line is more on an international level but, there’s an opportunity in other things like bedsheets. KEBS care about standardization. 


Olivia Awuour: Green Nettle has sustainable textiles made from stinging nettle and they have won a fashion award. 


Akinyi Odongo:  We need to engage with farmers to grow organic content and upcycling mitumba pieces into fashion designs. It includes training students to look into sustainable fashion because that’s where the future is. We need to impart skills that will outlive us. 


Are there Copyright Issues in the Textile and Fashion Value Chains?

Chebet Mutai: A particular designer copied one of my designs. So as designers, you need to have legal ownership of fashion products, copyright and trademark. Don’t walk away from people that infringe on your rights. You can go to KIPI for more information.


What are the finances like in the Textile and Fashion Scene?

Jason Musyoka: The more we understand the value chain, the more we can see opportunities. Blended finance can fund the creative sector.


Chebet Mutai: People are wary of sending money from abroad. Paypal is good for abroad buyers. The best way to do it is to integrate it on the site. It’s not fair that it’s easy to purchase products abroad. Yet, it’s hard for others to buy products from Kenyan designers.


What skills do you need to export fashion products?

Chebet Mutai: Making sure that the product you have is what the market wants. It needs good value and, that’s why the brand story really matters. There needs to be more guidance because you take time trying to figure things out.


What are the opportunities in the retail sector, the local market? The domestic consumer market in Kenya? Do you have an idea? 

Oscar Alochi: It isn’t easy knowing estimating Kenyans using local luxury brands, but the numbers are still rising. 


Chebet Mutai: You can access duty-free items if you can prove that your textile can’t be sourced locally as a fashion designer. Designers need to walk into spaces and take part in conversations and keep pushing for opportunities. Understand terms of trade that apply to countries and utilise KEPROBA.


Hilda Ogada: KEBROBA is a product development initiative. It handholds SMEs to make sure that their products meet the international guidelines. So, any exporter can easily access information about any documentation that they need.


Anne Wamae: We’re waiting for guidance to implement fashion policies.


Ann McCreath: There’s huge potential in the Kenyan fashion industry around alternative fashion textiles. Quality textiles with high-quality designs and correct branding plus transparency and storytelling.  The price goes up and, everyone benefits in the value chain. 


New designers should start small and think through designs and experiment since it’s a difficult time. It’s always a rollercoaster. Always be ready to adapt, apply for all training opportunities and learn from as many people as possible.


Closing Remarks about the Textile and Fashion Value Chain in Kenya

Emmanuela Gregorio: Kenya has an ecosystem that the government is working with so things can thrive. It’s important to have high-quality garments, look and feel, understand the market, pricing and market intelligence. Fashionomics wants to put its masterclasses online, better online payment systems, the importance of producing fashion sustainably.