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