Connect with us

Life

Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’

Published

on

Fashion is about creating beauty, but its ugly side is the carbon emissions. Designers are now looking to play it safe, even if it means going to dangerous lengths for the sake of greener fashion.


In South Africa, the fashion industry is now starting to do its bit to negate the effects of climate change, with some designers going green, in interesting, creative and even lucrative ways.

Ayanda Nhlapo, a stylist and entrepreneur, is one of them.

She hosted and co-produced her own TV fashion show, Ayanda’s Fashion House, where she explored the work of some of South Africa’s most prolific designers and creatives in the fashion industry. The fashion aesthete says the influence of the industry is far-reaching, and therefore, must be more responsible about the environment and preservation of resources.

READ MORE: No Christmas cheer for fashion firms in never-ending sales

“I’ve always had a knack for creating, whether I’m creating from scratch or recreating something that already exists,” says Nhlapo. So, upcycling, or repurposing, is what she is into.

“However, recreating or upcycling has always given me much more excitement and a deeper sense of purpose.

“Upcycling can be challenging but rewarding in the sense that it’s not just about the creativity but it’s more so about contributing to solving the effects of fast fashion on the environment and the economy. It is very important that we preserve our culture, identity and resources,” she says.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES| The Business Of African Fashion: Nigeria Takes A Slice Of The Pie

Fascinated about culture as well as traditional wear, some of her design ideas are fairly unconventional, such as Zulu sandals made of tyres. Besides clothes, she also designs accessories, such as earrings and key-holders. One of her designs is earrings shaped like water droplets to highlight the importance of saving water, whilst also bringing forth the beauty and importance of recycling and upcycling.

Her market is largely young women, but the brand is also for those who love and consume fashion consciously. Nhlapo uses fashion as a tool to influence people and encourage them to think carefully about how they use it.

“Fortunately, through traditional media and social media, I am able to reach thousands and thousands of people, not just in South Africa but across the world. If we consume fashion correctly and consciously, we have the power to reverse certain cycles and change the direction of our future,” says Nhlapo.

 She goes on to say that the fashion industry is among the highest polluters  in the world, however, thankfully, it is gradually moving towards a more responsible way of operating.

“In fact, green fashion is the next big thing. Designers and consumers are finally becoming more and more aware of the damages and negative, rippling effects of fashion and are now beginning to take such issues seriously. We are starting to see more sustainable fabrics on the runway and more eco-friendly brands launching into the market, while well-established brands are also moving in the direction of going green. Before we know it, green fashion will be the only thing we know.”

READ MORE: Fashion, Fame and Finances With SA Designer, David Tlale

South African designer JJ Schoeman elaborates on ‘fast fashion’ and ‘green fashion’.

“I think we need to still go on a robust campaign on the implications of fast fashion, where we create more awareness around its consumption, as I feel that most consumers are still a little blasé about their purchase.

“There was a call for green fashion, because of the wasteful nature of production lines within our industry. This call was made to encourage designers like myself to use environmentally-friendly fabrics and methods in the production line.”

One of the ways he implements this in his production line is to cut material in a way there is less wastage.

“Over and above this, I also found ways in which to ‘get rid’ of the waste we accumulated over a season – these included donating to the trade, for reuse. I also try my absolute best to use fabrics that are more environment-friendly, but of course, I always need to take into consideration what the client wants.”

Schoeman opines the green fashion trend is growing.

“Absolutely, if we just take into consideration the amount of international names that have agreed to not using real fur in their collections. Recently, I read about the #G7Biarritz movement, which saw the Prada Group, Ralph Lauren and 30 other fashion industry brands sign the pact. The Fashion Pact is going to change the game in sustainable fashion all over the world.”

Yet another trend is ‘thrifting fashion’ that has become the cornerstone of shopping trends popular among the youth.

Vathiswa Yiba is an employee at a vintage thrift store in the lively Braamfontein area of Johannesburg. She has immersed herself in the culture of thrifting.

The store is one of several thrift stores in the city, and among the popular ones at the thrift market not far from Africa’s largest railway station, the Johannesburg Park Station.

“Thrifting is buying clothes that people think are not good enough anymore and those that they have discarded,” says 22-year-old Yiba.

“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things”

– Vathiswa Yiba

The lower prices also offer financial reprieve and more options for the buyer.

Yiba has been thrifting since her high school days when she started with her own clothes. 

“I don’t step into retail stores unless I am buying shoes,” she says.

“My first thrift was buying from people who sold from their bags, then from their car boots, then I leveled up and started going to the biggest market in the  Johannesburg Central Business District; MTN Taxi Rank, known for its pavement crimes, despite the danger in that part of town, they have the best clothes.”

The street-savvy Yiba offers advice to those who are novices in the industry. 

“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things, and here is a tip when you are going thrifting – make sure you have loose change and put it in safe pockets, away from pick-pocketers. That way you will be able to shop safely. However, you can find good-looking items but it’s not in your size; which is where the community comes in.

“We have tailors to alter the garments for you and it will be exclusive because it’s thrifted, no one has the same clothes. There is so much more you can do with discarded clothes. With the littlest things, you can make an amazing thing and you’ll be the only one who has it.”

Of course, there is a tinge of stigma associated with thrifting. Yiba says people think the clothes could also have belonged to those who have passed away, but she’s of the view that thrifting creates other opportunities.

“The [thrift clothing] may look messy and seem dusty, but once cleaned or altered, they will look retail. So it’s not just the connotations, it can be something perfect and the next person wouldn’t even know.”

These are sentiments also echoed by Leago Nhlapo, a content creator for fashion brands like Adidas, Sportscene and Skechers, who began his journey as thrifter.

“It started with thrifting because it makes you unique; there is no similar garment, every single garment is different from the next. So, I jumped from really cheap clothes [recycled clothes] to really expensive clothes,” he says.

However, Leago encourages green fashion because he says the fast fashion industry is the second-highest contributor to carbon emissions. 

“The more people buy clothes, the more we contribute to global warming and we all know the global crisis, so if we recycle clothes, there will not be a need to make clothes, there are enough clothes for everyone existing. I am proof that second-hand clothes are cool and look better than people paying tons of cash.”

Seventy kilometers south of Johannesburg’s Central Business District is Nokwakha Qobo, who was born in the squatter camps of Phuma Zibethane in Sharpeville. And in the garbage dumps of these camps, the fashion designer in her emerged.

Qobo currently has a clothing line with an international reach. She fashions garments out of wastepaper she collects from rubbish dumps. 

“I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything

– Nokwakha Qobo

As a young girl, Qobo had to walk to school, and through the course of her journey home, she would pass a garbage site where old fashion magazines and newspapers were discarded.

It is often said that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. This adage was not lost on her because she took inspiration from the articles in those magazines and now creates pieces that are sought after.

“That’s where I learned about fashion trends, that’s where I learned about different colors for different seasons, that’s where I learned about the body structure of a woman, actually, I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything,” she says.

Inadvertently, she too is contributing towards a shift in culture based on conscious consumption.

Perhaps, with the benefit of time, green fashion will be the norm as many believe we already have all we need.

Motlabana Monnakgotla

Billionaires

Quote Of The Day

Published

on

We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

Continue Reading

Life

Quote Of The Day

Published

on

“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”

– Unknown

Continue Reading

Life

Covid-19 In Kenya: ‘We Are No Longer Dreaming’

Published

on

Kamweti wa Mutu with his two children; Charlie, 11, and Adia, 8, with their Golden Retriever, Nalia, pictured at their home in Nairobi; image supplied

Kenya is perhaps one of the quieter domains of the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, as its hold intensifies across the country, Kenyans, from all walks of life, have found themselves not only preparing for the worst but also taking stock of the impact it has already had on their lives.

By his own admission, Musa Esevwe, a 49-year-old sculptor and entrepreneur, had never, in his life, experienced trouble with his sleep. That is until Covid-19 arrived in his hometown, Nairobi, in mid-March.

Within the space of a week, a national curfew was announced via Presidential address. Not long after, as confirmed cases jumped to 91, a partial lockdown was imposed around the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, restricting the movement of people in to, and out of, the city.

Travel was tightly regulated and international flights temporarily suspended. The few who do manage to make it to the country, by road or sea, must endure a mandatory two-week quarantine, at the border, before they can obtain official approval to proceed to their final destination.

Meanwhile, inside Kenya’s borders, lives changed overnight. Intensive lockdown measures severely hampered trading for both informal vendors and businesses, causing upheaval in some areas. In April, small business owners clashed with police over the forced closure of their establishments, in Nyeri, a busy provincial hub in Central Kenya.

Schools have been shut since March and, while official numbers are yet to be published, thousands have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Those, still fortunate to be in employment, have had to transform their homes into offices.

“It is like a very bad dream that we are living in now. The happiness and security we once had has gone… we are no longer dreaming, even for those who can still sleep,” says Esevwe whose own business, which was heavily dependent on the disposable income of the middle class and occasional tourists, has been destroyed by the pandemic.

Along with Esevwe, among the hardest hit are the nation’s families, who, for months now, have been confined to their houses.

The lockdown period has been particularly difficult for Kamweti wa Mutu, an international development professional and amateur nature photographer, living in Nairobi. Currently out of work, and with his wife, now the family’s sole breadwinner, stationed in Tanzania, he’s had to play multiple roles to keep his household afloat.

“The quarantine order [on March 13] was sudden, but commendably prompt, meaning it was a somewhat tough transition getting our two children; Charlie, 11, and Adia, 8, settled into home-schooling routines. After a week, we [had to] put our house-help on leave, with some pay, so as not to place [any] undue risk on either her or us,” he says.

Prior to the pandemic, Mutu was actively looking for work. However, the economic turmoil set off by the virus is now a cause for concern.

“I have struggled to find full-time employment for a while [now] but my family has been very supportive with understanding and prayers. The kids have a good grasp of this, in light of the pandemic, but it’s not [yet] getting them anxious. As a household currently on one income, this aspect is a grave one. Most worrisome is my wife losing her post [because of the pandemic], or worse, one of our family members falling ill,” he continues.

Perhaps the most traumatic impact of Covid-19 on the family is their separation. With travel into Kenya currently restricted, Mutu’s wife won’t be able to return until her consultancy with an environmental organization in Tanzania concludes.

When she does, it will probably have to be by road as international flights are suspended. After crossing the border, she’ll have to spend 14 days at a quarantine center, receiving a special permit to enter Nairobi only once she tests negative for the virus.

While this has added an extra layer of anxiety to their situation, the family is choosing to focus on the bigger picture, insists Mutu.

“We have talked a bit about this, and what it would mean for a normal life, even beyond the current situation. However, we have not delved deeply into worst-case scenarios other than how Covid-19 is devastating other families and societies. We have stocked up on enough essentials including non-perishable foodstuffs, water, face-masks, and power to last us a while.”

Elsewhere in the city, Sophie O, who asked that we change her name for this report, is also finding life under lockdown a challenge. The 30-year-old Marketing Manager works for a major multinational in Nairobi and is doing her best to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of being based from home.

“It’s been quite difficult especially because I have three children; a nine-month old, a two-year-old and a six-year-old. It’s been hard for the two-year-old to understand that I am ‘at work’, he keeps barging into [work] calls and expecting us to play. Now, I have to keep my camera off during conference calls although ideally, as a standard, it would have to be on,” she says.

With schools now closed, and most students across the country taking classes virtually, many parents, especially those with younger children, are burdened with the added responsibility of home-schooling. In this, Ms O admits that she is struggling.

“Personally, I’ve really done my best just keeping track with all the lessons they have to do. I think probably if I didn’t have to be ‘at work’, I could have done a better job in terms of being there for my daughter but it’s quite a challenge. You have to work because work pays the bills and work also pays the school fees,” she says.

Factors, firmly out of her control, are also impacting her productivity.

“The practicalities of working from home, like having a workstation, I have had to figure out. But with the internet… some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, and some days you have a blackout and there’s nothing you can do!” she laments.

The experience of both these families hints at the wider setbacks being faced by businesses and the Kenyan economy, as a whole. From Nairobi, Edwin Macharia, Global Managing Partner at multinational advisory firm, Dalberg Advisors, has been leading a fortnightly webinar series advising African leaders and policymakers on how best to respond to the ongoing crisis. He insists that they must appreciate the severity of the pandemic’s impact and act accordingly.

“Our job [on the webinar] is to make sure that [leaders] are sufficiently shaken and begin acting appropriately. China bought the world a couple of weeks to prepare and get ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of intervention but, unfortunately, that jolt wasn’t hard enough in some places. This is very quickly moving from being a health concern to actually being an economic concern,” Macharia warned attendees in early April.

At the time, despite relatively low levels of confirmed cases, African economies were already feeling the pinch with stock markets plummeting and currencies devalued. A few weeks later, as the threat escalated, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) declared that a funding gap of $100 billion needed to be filled in order for governments to battle the pandemic, and its consequences, across the continent.

“The long-term economic effects will become more apparent in the coming months. Inputs not available locally will be inaccessible due to tighter border controls, while markets, for producers serving several industries, will be diminished, leaving many households without a sustainable income,” predicts Macharia.

If they are to have any hope of success, Macharia emphasizes that responses to Covid-19 in Africa will have to be a collaborative effort.

“Flattening the curve demands that governments, institutions, and business leaders are intentional in how they implement their response strategies. Organizations will need to go beyond [their] usual business continuity planning while the public sector needs to re-model institutions in order to slow down the current trajectory of infections while ensuring long-term resilience.”

An example of these wider response strategies are already at work in a number of Kenyan hospitals. Dr Michael Mwachiro, Secretary-General at the Surgical Society of Kenya, is currently stationed at Tenwek Hospital, a faith-based teaching and referral hospital in Bomet County, 230 kilometers west of Nairobi. On May 13, the county recorded its first Covid-19 fatality, at Longisa Hospital, the only public referral hospital in the area.

“We’re now seeing more community-transferred cases in Kenya. I think the advantage that we may have had [compared to] other parts of the world is that we were watching as things were unfolding and, because of that, we had a bit more time to prepare [as a country], and put some measures in place. But if you read the news, or listen to the radio, you’ll hear people complaining that we should have intervened earlier but that’s a difficult thing [to do] if you look at how many stakeholders are involved along with the nature of our economy and public health system,” he says.

Part of these preparations, Mwachiro says, included immediately training the country’s health workers on Covid-19 procedures along with introducing measures preventing the movement of people from hotspots in major cities into rural Kenya, where a bulk of the population lives.

“Nairobi and Mombasa already have containment measures in place. The bigger concern is that, if Covid-19 moves out of the cities to other parts of the country, the effects would be much scarier. These [rural] areas are where the older people are, who are much more vulnerable.”

In addition to the supplementary training for medical personnel, some elective procedures and non-essential surgeries have been put on hold so that all available resources can be committed to fighting the virus at hospitals. However, besides preparedness, maintaining the morale of doctors and nurses will continue to be an ongoing concern throughout the crisis.

“We’ll have to deal with the levels of anxiety and motivation experienced by healthcare workers and first responders taking care of these patients. Doctors and nurses are human, too, and they are experiencing the same emotions as everyone else. You can imagine that, in as much as [their] families are worried about them, they, too, are also worried about their families, and themselves, as well,” he says.

Some medical professionals responding to the crisis, in parts of the country, have had to make the difficult decision to live apart from their families as they work to contain the virus. But the taxing nature of their work, coupled with extended periods of isolation, means that counseling and support services will need to be made available to them as the cases continue to rise.

“We’ll have to deal with the levels of anxiety and motivation experienced by healthcare workers and first responders taking care of these patients. Doctors and nurses are human, too, and they are experiencing the same emotions as everyone else. You can imagine that, in as much as [their] families are worried about them, they, too, are also worried about their families, and themselves, as well.”

As it stands, Kenya, like most of the continent, has not been as badly hit when compared to epicenters in Europe or North America. However, this may be due to the fact that the worst is still on its way. In May, the World Health Organization estimated that up to 190,000 Africans may be killed by the pandemic, at its peak.

With Covid-19 due to exert immense pressure on our public health systems, it does offer some important lessons for the future, explains Mwachiro.

“What this outbreak has brought about, for us in Africa, is [the fact] that we need to invest more in our healthcare systems. This has been said so many times… there have even been a number of strikes [in Kenya] by various stakeholders, all of them trying to highlight these issues. This is a good wake up call. I honestly believe that, if we had spent more on health [before the crisis], it would have gone a long way in helping us to be better prepared. Hopefully, once this [pandemic] resolves, we can keep the momentum going and we can continue looking inwardly for solutions.”

Naturally, Covid-19, with its grim predictions and disruption of lives, has many Kenyans worried about the future. Nevertheless, the challenges of the moment are being met in stride. Families have quickly adjusted to new ways of living while their leaders seek sage advice on how best to address the crisis, and doctors continue to make sacrifices, day in and day out, as they brace for the worst.

Perhaps, most important of all is that, in the pandemic’s wake, hope has become an obstinate presence in all quarters of Kenyan society.

– Marie Shabaya

Continue Reading

Trending