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African Production Techniques

Production Techniques from Africa
Woman wearing a beaded Maasai headband and necklace.

An ethical and sustainable fashion revolution is demanding better of it’s producers and manufacturers and encouraging local production, sustainably sourced natural materials and dye processes, and one that supports a slower more circular economy.

The African continent has naturally always followed a more sustainable model of production using high-quality blends of natural materials like bamboo, hemp, tree bark, and silk and dye processes that follow the lifecycle of raw materials and seasons. Artisanal, small scale local production models did not suit a fast fashion sector but as tides turn and mindsets shift, and with the growing infrastructure and investment in the sector across many African countries, it is now a viable alternative with a growing demand for artisanal luxury.

Just a brief visit to the websites if Industrie Africa and the Ethical Fashion Initiative, it immediately becomes clear that it is impossible to list the diverse production techniques practiced across the continent, both traditional and new innovations abound. What is evident is the rapid growth and demand and the incredible resourcefulness of designers and artisan to pivot to the demands of a flourishing industry.

Labels like MaXhosa and Naked Ape in South Africa, Nigeria’s Nkwo and Awa Meité in Mali promote local production and made-to-order models. Watch the video below of Awa Meité: The Healing Cotton, produced for #WovenThreads by #AwaMeite and takes us through the work Awa Meite currently does in Mali, from hand-picking cotton to spinning and other multi-step cotton process done by hand to designing her collections and the recent production of face masks for her local community.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Adire is one of the many Nigerian textiles also being embraced by designers. One of its most high-profile proponents is Amaka Osakwe, fashion designer of label Maki Oh, founded in 2010 and worn by Michelle Obama and Lupita Nyong’o. Adire is the ancient art of indigo tie and dye process using candle wax.

Nike Akundaye is an Adire artist and working to pass on the ancient tradition to the next generation. Nigerian Artists Keeping the Tie & Dye Technique Alive is a video introducing Nike and her Adire workshop in Osogbo, Nigeria.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) can accelerate fashion production as it establishes a single market for made in Africa goods and services, eliminates tariffs by 90 per cent and tackles non-tariff barriers such as customs delays. A unified market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $3 trillion is potentially a strong foundation for industrialisation.

“If the agreement achieves its aims, trade in textiles, leather, clothing, art and cosmetics, supported by online sales platforms, could provide Africa’s abundance of creative talent with the market it needs to achieve scale”, says Ms Léautier of the Trade and Development Bank. With the removal of barriers and increased investment, Africa has the potential to dominate in the production of luxury goods.

Task

  • Research a particular sustainable technique and share a description of the process in the comments box below.

References:

  1. https://awa-meite.com/about-us/
  2. https://fashionafricanow.com/2020/04/a-transformed-vision-the-shekudo-fashion-house/
  3. http://www.nkwo.design
  4. https://www.shekudo.com
  5. https://www.voguebusiness.com/fashion/artisan-luxurys-new-focus-nigeria
  6. https://ethicalfashioninitiative.org
  7. https://www.globalcosmeticsnews.com/africa-anticipating-beauty-and-fashion-boom-as-trade-agreement-comes-into-force/
  8. https://www.ft.com/content/ad21101c-9363-11e9-aea1-2b1d33ac3271
  9. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-55334345
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Africa to the World: Analysing the Global Appeal for African Luxury Fashion

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