News And Projects
10 Years of Artisan Fashion
16/10/2020 — Vivienne Westwood
This Autumn- Winter, Vivienne Westwood celebrate 10 years of working side by side with the Ethical Fashion Initiative of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and World Trade Organization. The Vivienne Westwood collaboration with the EFI through Artisan.Fashion, the first of its kind and a ground-breaking social enterprise, has facilitated collaborations with local artisans, initially in the Kibera slum, and now across Kenya, Nepal, Burkina Faso & Mali, with the aim to provide a sustainable stream of work, in place of charity.
Over the past 10 years Artisan.Fashion in Kenya has engaged 28 artisan groups and employed over 2,600 craftsmen with meaningful work and fair pay, 78% of which are women. In Kenya, Vivienne Westwood has worked with various skills and materials such as metalwork from scrap metal, screen-printing, upcycled dhow sails, and many more. Through Artisan.Fashion, artisan communities in Nepal (cashmere weaving), Burkina Faso (cotton weaving) and Mali (natural dyes) have also been able to gain dignified work with a direct impact on their livelihoods. The project has also meant that many rural populations, engaged by EFI, who previously relied on the sale of charcoal and firewood which has a direct consequence on the environment, have been able to support themselves and their families through the programme without having to deplete their natural resources.
“We joined the scheme in 2010, making bags in Africa, training and improving skills through dignified work. We began in 2010 with a pilot project of 30 people. Now in 2020 there are 2,600, lifting people out of poverty. The aim is high artisan products and a world-wide network of greatly skilled artisans.
Tailor made, handcrafted products are in fashion. I really want to thank the Ethical Fashion Initiative and the team in Africa. It’s been, and still is, such a gratifying experience to know the opportunities we are able to give to people. And the bags we make in Africa are still my favourite!” -Vivienne Westwood
Through development and education within the programme, many of the artisans involved are now aware of the importance of their natural environment and are involved in activities aimed at improving, restoring or conserving the environment through tree planting and reforestation. The recycling of waste is also a key element to the project with the bag linings made from recycled second-hand clothes known as mitumba, and the hard elements and orb logos featured on the designer bags created from melted down and recycled metal found in the slums. This design element not only adds to the sustainability of the product, but also sparks education around the importance of recycling and reusing waste.
“Long before sustainability became a buzzword, Vivienne — a visionary and innovator — realized that exploring new ways to make fashion was a necessity. EFI’s collaboration with her has not been a one-off marketing campaign, but a long-lasting commitment based on mutual learning and a shared experience. According to our assessments on the ground, the Vivienne Westwood orders have provided work to over 2,600 people, and a direct positive impacted on over 10,000 people from their respective communities. Ten consecutive years of creating jobs and paying artisans a fair wage, and contributing solidly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; this is something to celebrate!”
-Simone Cipriani, Head and Founder of ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative
To mark this special milestone, a limited-edition tote bag and bucket hat have been created by the artisans in Kenya, with each piece screen printed by hand with the Westwood art and culture manifesto graphic Mirror the World. The graphic features doves and hearts in white, on vibrant scarlet 100% East African cotton canvas and is finished with a special 10 Year Anniversary Westwood postal stamp.
The ‘Made in Kenya’ accessories collections now form a fundamental piece of the Westwood DNA, having appeared in the brands global campaigns and seminal runway shows over the past decade.