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February 3rd, 2021

THREE KENYAN DESIGNERS SELECTED TO JOIN PRESTIGIOUS ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE’S ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME

Geneva, 2nd February 2021: The Ethical Fashion Initiative – a joint venture of the UN and WTO’s International Trade Centre, has selected three Kenyan designers to participate in the second Ethical Fashion Initiative Accelerator programme; Katush by Katungulu Mwendwa, SUAVE and HAMAJI.
 
The chosen designers all share a commitment to sustainability, using reclaimed and organic fabrics to create their collections, whilst noting their country and upbringing in Kenya as heavily inspiring their work.
 
The launch of the EFI Kenya Fashion Accelerator highlights the distinct design talent within Kenya and follows the organisation’s successful launch of their nationwide accelerator search in 2019. Selected designers benefit from mentoring and brand development from the EFI team and industry experts.
 
“I feel hugely honoured and extremely excited to be a part of the EFI accelerator programme, to have this opportunity to expand my knowledge and be mentored in the development of my brand in a sustainable approach with international and local expertise in Kenya” says selected brand HAMAJI.

Hamaji; meaning Nomad in coastal Swahili is an African designer collection created around preserving ancient textile traditions and nomadic craftsmanship whilst empowering local small scale artisans in Africa. Reigning from the East coast of Africa, Hamaji was born in Kenya in 2017 by designer Louise Sommerlatte. Creating a narrative of sustainability and conscious consumerism their collections are made up of natural fibres, botanical dyes, hand craft, embroidery and up-cycled collected vintage textiles. Hamaji is inspired by East African charm and embodies a spirit of nomadic femininity in pastel hues, free flowing silhouettes and a delightful sense of elegance.

Being sustainable is at the forefront of our ethos. Hamaji is a small scale production, we create designs that are mostly made from up-cycled collected vintage textiles that would have otherwise been thrown away, or else natural fibres. Some collections are made to order avoiding mass production and waste. We work with local artisans in rural Kenya paying fair wages and providing income to local communities. Textile production research and natural dyeing processes are an important part of our creations. (see @hamaji_studio)

Katush by Katungulu Mwendwa says of being selected to join the programme: “This is completely surreal! There have been times where it has felt completely overwhelming to have to learn to wear a thousand hats with limited guidance, and like an answer to a prayer often said, this comes as a strong statement of encouragement.”

Katush by Katungulu Mwendwa is Your go to “Everyday Superhero” Leisure Lifestyle brand created for the Self aware, Confident & Compassionate individual. Designing timeless, transcendent casual and semi-formal wear that extends beyond any season, the brand experiments with modern techniques, innovative fabrics and traditional methods. Born and raised in Nairobi Kenya, Katungulu is heavily influenced by her upbringing and surroundings. An active curiosity driven by the concept of identity paired with an early introduction into the artisanal crafts world by her late grandmother, has seen her working with community groups within the region to make contemporary interpretations of traditional aesthetics.

Sustainability to the brand mean’s having compassion to themselves, compassion towards the people around them, and their relationship with the environment. The brand believes in working with materials that are organic and or as sustainable as possible, such as Tencel and Cupro. They are keen on working with cooperatives and businesses that have a greater impact on the lives of those within a given society. (see @katushnairobi)

Whilst Mohammed Awale of SUAVE says of their selection: “I’m really overjoyed to be selected for the EFI Kenya accelerator program. Looking forward to learning from the vast EFI network.”

Suave Kenya was founded in 2013 by Mohammed Awale from an idea sparked by numerous trips to a local thrift market (Gikomba Market), also the largest open air market in East Africa. Rummaging among heaps of oversized and discarded denim outfits, the source material for most of the bags the brand makes came about. What started as a tiny operation with two staff members slowly blossomed into a fully fledged brand that is attempting to end the cycle of unwanted garments ending up in landfills. The bags made by Suave Kenya are made with practicality in mind, and their biggest proponents are young people who are conscious about their environmental footprint.

Approximately 100,000 tonnes of used clothing streams into Kenya every year, mostly from the USA. Clothing donated to charities like goodwill, that have already been picked out by thrift enthusiasts and dollar stores and the rest is exported to Africa, which is considered the final dumping site. This is where we come in. Over the years, we have established contacts with numerous vendors who notify us whenever they have an excess of items that haven’t been purchased in a while. These clothes would normally end up in a landfill, but they can still fulfill a purpose when they’re repurposed and given a new lease of life. Our bags are usually the perfect fit. (see @suave_ke)

Simone Cipriani, Head and Founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative at the UN’s International Trade Centre says: “The continued development of our designer accelerator programmes in Africa, provide a new generation of African design talent the opportunity to engage with the international market. Through education and mentoring we seek to equalise the playing field, giving exposure to the incredible talent that exists on the continent. Each region in Africa has its own unique creative voice. Being able to launch a programme dedicated to Kenya – the country where EFI began its journey and where it has some of the most beautiful collaborations – is a wonderful opportunity to spotlight the creative visionaries that set this country apart.”

The EFI Accelerator programme focuses on the specific needs of African fashion brands, with a business development approach that prepares its beneficiaries to become investment ready. The accelerator targets existing fashion brands producing in Africa, who require additional support to accelerate their business in the global marketplace.

The EFI has been helping to bring African Fashion Design to the world stage since 2013. Having previously mentored a number of African fashion brands and brought designers to events such as Vogue’s Fashion Night Out, Pitti Uomo and Altaroma. The EFI is a flagship program of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. 

Production Support

The programme will help the selected brands expand their supply chain and scale up their production, source new products and develop their production team. Brands will be assigned a production mentor, with whom one-to-one support meetings will take place.

The accelerator will support the management and production of the key designs of the first collection, which will be manufactured through experienced companies selected within the EFI network.

Acceleration of the Business Process 

The Accelerator will fast track emerging African designer labels, identifying and strategizing areas for growth and funding towards developing a new product process or service. A diagnostic review of the business takes place every season in order to assess progress and tailor the programme to best suit and benefit the business. The programme will provide a set of one-on-one mentoring sessions and expert workshops.

Building Brand Value

The programme will help businesses understand investment, develop strategies for maximising brand equity, build a funding proposition and market themselves as an attractive investment proposition to angel investors or VC funds. The programme concludes with an opportunity to pitch to investors at a networking event. The programme includes workshops and 1-1 mentoring sessions delivered by industry experts.







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