Last month, our founder Virginia Bruce travelled to Nairobi, Kenya to meet with some of the inspirational people behind the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) and Ethical Fashion Africa Ltd (EFAL). A part of the International Trade Centre, the EFI has been a key player in poverty alleviation by using the fashion industry as a vehicle for some of Africa’s most disenfranchised communities.
Through the Hands That Shape Humanity social enterprise, the REAL Group has already collaborated with EFAL on a range of summer tote bags designed by prominent Australian designers and produced by a small team of Massai artisans.
From walking through a slum in Nairobi to visiting the EFI workshops and the people she met along the way, Virginia shares some of the highlights – and surprises – from her journey.
05.05.14 – Ethical Fashion Africa Ltd : Not Charity, Just Work.
I had only been to Africa once – and that was to Cape Town to meet with the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and our partner and founder of Hands – Garth McIntosh. So flying to Kenya to meet with Simone Cipriani from EFI and to witness first hand the social enterprise that they have developed was something I was very much looking forward to but nothing would prepare me for how I was received.
On entering the office of EFAL in the Art Go Down in Nairobi, one of the supervisors started to sing a traditional welcome song, and then the whole hub joined in – I was blown away – it was incredibly humbling and beautiful.
The Ethical Fashion Initiative is part of the ITC (International Trade Centre). It is lead by Simone Cipriani, a very passionate and visionary man. His team Chloe, Lisa, Aysylu, Jeremy, Vincent, Jane and all of the communities involved are equally inspiring.
EFI is evidence of how social impact business should and can work. EFI bridges the world of luxury fashion with the poorest of the poor marginalized communities creating a quality business to business economic partnership that truly delivers remarkable social impact where it is most needed.
07.05.14 – Three Degrees of Separation : a Rwanda Refugee story.
Beginning on April 6, 1994, Hutus began slaughtering the Tutsis in the African country of Rwanda. As the brutal killings continued, the world stood idly by and just watched the slaughter. Lasting 100 days, the Rwanda genocide left approximately 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers dead.
In 2014, Nairobi, Kenya – I met a group of Rwanda refugees – 20 years on who still had no recognised rights. This community was recognized by Ethical Fashion Africa Ltd. who :
- Established them in their own Registered Self Help Group.
- Provided United Nations Refugee Identity status.
- Provided contract work from luxury brands such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Sass & Bide.
- Trained the women in high quality artisan tailoring.
- Provided capital for machinery to be acquired by the group.
- Trained community supervisors in management skills, processes, work Culture.
This woman smiling, now empowered, humble and grateful, has educated her four daughters through the work she has learnt and be able to do for the Ethical Fashion Initiative.