African Designers Make Business Case for Ethical Fashion

South Africa’s Sindiso Khumalo is one of many designers who have had the chance to showcase at Milan Fashion Week this season. Khumalo is currently in Milan making contacts and finding buyers all thanks to The Ethical Fashion Initiative. This successful initiative aims to forge non-exploitative and fair connections between the high fashion world and highly-skilled individuals who are often disadvantaged through being isolated in the developing world.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative is run by the Geneva-based International Trade Centre and seeks to mentor up-and-coming designers from developing countries in hope of making the global fashion industry more fair in partnership with the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.

Sindiso Khumalo has revealed that her clothes are produced in Cape Town through a “sweatshop free” process, preventing exploitation of labourers. However Khumalo explains that she hopes consumers purchase her clothing for the appearance of the clothes featuring her signature graphic prints inspired by her origin. She states that “I think people should buy into my stuff because it is good, not just because it is African.”

American-Ghanaian Mimi Plange explains that the recent movement of African designers gaining more global recognition through opportunities alike this is extremely beneficial for the transition of a fairer fashion industry with their clothing being hand made in Africa, diminishing capitalism.

“You can only have that exquisite work when it is done by hand and it is done in a slow way with a lot of meaning and thought” Plange stated.

Simone Cipriani, founder and head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative states that the project desires to “bring authenticity back to fashion and bring work to Africa”.

“I would like to have many more people involved in this, many more artisans all over Africa, many more designers.

“I’d like to see the whole fashion sector change. I’m not sure I am going to see that in my life but you have got have an objective and a horizon to work towards.

Caitlin Gorman