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Since 2010, Vivienne Westwood has celebrated the work of thousands of micro-producers from marginalised African communities in collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) of the International Trade Centre and Artisan.Fashion. The ‘Made in Kenya’ collections make up a significant part of the Westwood DNA, featuring in global campaigns and seminal runway shows.
EFI creates and strengthens social enterprises in emerging economies to connect international fashion houses and brands with talented local designers, artisans, and micro-producers. They promote value in a virtuous circle that creates not just premium products, but also stable, dignified work, and creative and resilient women, men, and communities.
Artisan.Fashion was born in 2009 and became an independent social enterprise in 2015. The project endeavours to support the local supply chain in aid of Kenya’s growing economy. Specialising in the production of jewellery, designer bags, homeware, and accessories, they marry artisan creativity with a first-class production hub, offering brands the opportunity to improve, trace and report on the fortunes of those involved in their production.
“This ongoing collaboration makes perfect sense due to our alignment. Vivienne Westwood is a value-driven brand. Artisan Fashion is a value-driven producer. We collaborate for the creation of shared value for every member of our value chain.” – Robin MacAndrew (Managing Director of Artisan.Fashion)
MADE IN KENYA SS22
With each collection, we track the socio-economic impact the collaboration has on our producers. There were 66 artisans working on the Spring-Summer 2022 collection, 60% of whom were women, and as a result, these artisans were able to support 429 dependants. Of these artisans, 84% were then able to use their savings to pay for educational fees.
The inspiration behind the ‘Made in Kenya’ Spring-Summer 2022 range began with the iconic Autumn-Winter 1995 ‘Vive la Cocotte’ collection that combined earthy browns, dusty sky blues, and navy for a more muted collection.
With this collection, we aim to highlight the talents and traditions of the various African communities, showcasing the beauty of their craftsmanship, by fusing them with our heritage designs. The ‘Made in Kenya’ Spring-Summer 2022 accessories collection combines specialist techniques and traditional materials. These include; leatherwork, beading, hand screen printing, embroidery, horn crafting, brass casting, and weaving.
“The handmade nature of our work brings a natural variation to each and every product. All of them are carrying the stories of Joan, Sajero, Wanyama and our entire team of artisans.” – Robin MacAndrew (Managing Director of Artisan.Fashion)
The bold Acrylic Shuka tartan, otherwise known as the “African Blanket’, is traditionally worn by the semi-nomadic Maasai tribes in East Africa and appears in several styles this season, including the Worker Runner holdall and Highland Backpack.
Spring-Summer 2022 marks the first time we have explored the possibilities of palm leaf. The designers combined our signature embroidery with a long-standing, traditional basket weaving technique. To do this, the Kenyan artisans collaborated with community groups in Uganda. The palm leaves were weaved by the Ugandan communities before arriving in Kenya, where the artisans produced the final Shopper and Bucket silhouettes.
Key artwork for this season is the ‘100 Million’ print, using a special Kenyan hand screen printing technique. It was originally hand-painted/drawn by Vivienne for ‘DIY Do It Yourself’ Spring-Summer 2009 to represent ‘100 million (pounds) to save the rainforest’ – a figure that charity Cool Earth provided over five years ago, which they then required to save the three main equatorial rainforests, under their approach. This number has since increased. The printed Halfpenny Crossbody and the Worker Small Runner Holdall are made from high-quality cotton canvas that’s locally farmed in East Africa, requiring less transportation and therefore less Co2 emissions. The Studio Leather Shopper comes in baby blue and neutral colourways and is made from locally sourced smooth leather. Hand-braided leather straps also feature heavily throughout this collection. This season the locally sourced cow leather has been audited against the LWG Environmental Auditing Protocol and has been awarded a GOLD certification. The standards taken into consideration include raw materials traceability, environmental management systems, energy and water consumption, air and noise emissions, restricted substances, waste management, manufacturing post tanning, and finishing processes. Over the years, education has become central to the Made in Kenya project, and artisans have learned the importance of protecting our natural world. For Spring-Summer 2022, recycled materials, such as aluminium and glass, and by-products, such as palm and cow horn were used. This fosters the creation of local supply chains of recycled and upcycled materials, and it draws attention to the importance of recycling and reusing waste. This season we involved five artisanal groups, three in Kenya and two in Uganda. One of the Kenyan groups, specialising in wood carving, was founded by Rwandan refugees that fled their country during the war.
“I have been a woodcarver for the past 17 years. I was born in Rwanda, but I had to leave my country during the war. Wood is not only my passion but my life support. It allows my six children to attend school and eat regularly. I am very thankful for this order, and I pray to receive more orders in the future to improve the quality and quantity of our work.’’
— Oliver Mbundu.
The ‘Gadgets’ collection features a selection of charms and keyrings, that can swing from a bag or belt buckle. Made of recycled iron, wood, and gold standard leather, motifs include penises, acorns, hearts, orbs, and a dagger. Crafted by hand, they each have their own unique identity of texture and rawness including intricate beading, engraved buttons, organic knots, waxed cotton cord, and brushed, imperfect metals.
“More recently, we have been asking ourselves: “How can we continue to grow our social impact whilst reducing our environmental footprint?”. We feel the answer lies in discarded clothing. We have 140,000 tonnes of unwanted clothes entering Kenya, every year. We could use this clothing as our raw material for the creation of upcycled collections. We see a future with Vivienne Westwood that includes circular collaborations.” – Robin MacAndrew (Managing Director of Artisan.Fashion)
The Spring-Summer 2022 ‘Made in Kenya’ collection is available in all boutiques and online now.