Sustainable Fashions from Africa and their Designers

Companies with a conscious are always rare, but appreciated. With disturbing news about the conditions in third world countries where workers earn excessively low wages, it is refreshing to learn about companies that celebrate the heritage of their country and ensure that workers are compensated for their labor.

One of the few clothing lines that originate in South Africa,  466/64 takes its inspiration from Nelson Mandela, 94 years old, the civil rights leader who was imprisoned for 27 years before his release.  When the end of apartheid brought political and social instability, he was elected the first black president where he worked hard to bring a sense of equality to all South Africans.  The name of the company reflect the number he was assigned in prison.  466/64 is pronounced “four, double six, six four.”

The company wants to spread Mandela’s message of social “upliftment”.  The market is to young people to encourage them to work for social change and improvement.  The line is designed in South Africa and 60% of the line is produced in South Africa as well.  A portion of the proceeds go to charities that Mandela supports, such as building libraries in impoverished schools and supporting the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Hospital.

Christie Brown, a designer based in Ghana created bold fashions using crisp white and deep colors to produce stunning, unforgettable prints that have movement and energy.  Both her men’s and  women’s wear lines have styles are well-crafted and comfortable.  She uses the wax print fabrics that are traditional in her country.  The prints have a vibrancy that reflects the culture they capture.  Batik creates  a unique layered look that cannot be captured in the manufacturing process. Using her stunning fabrics, each of her pieces have the one of a kind look that discerning fashionistas appreciate.

At just 23 years old, another African designer, Innocente Messy, is making waves.  She was born in theDemocratic Republic of Congo before moving to England when she was a teenager.  Her clothing is infused with the long flowing lines of traditional African clothings.  The colors are bold and the discipline of crisp lines and perfect construction make each garment a work of art.  She is also very conscious of the environment and strives to have a small environmental footprint. Her pallet includes white, black, bright, deep yellow and cobalt blue. These colors carry a natural optimism that reflects the strength of the garment lines.  Buyers who desire high end fabrics and clothing that makes an individual statement that cannot be replicated will appreciate this clothing line.

When Michelle Obama went to Africa in 2011, she wore clothing designed by Nigerian designer Duro Olowu.  Raised in Lagos, Nigeria Olowu first moved to Britain and then New York.  He weaves his two culturess, British and African together into prints of his own creating a truly unique look. He was influenced by his mother who would talk local tailors to create unusual patchwork garments from a mixture of fabrics and textures.  The generational link between his heritage and the techniques he developed results in intimate beautiful  designs.

As dramatic tribal and ethnic colors bleed into willing fabrics, these handcrafted and couture designs have permeated the fashion scene changing it forever.  Each season their influence subtle and not so subtle can be seen in the patterns, colors and shapes of new clothing lines.



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