Sunday, 29 September 2013

Fairtrade Fashion // The African Shirt Company

I, like many i'm sure, was both stunned, shocked and appalled by Monday's Panorama - 'Dying for a Bargain'. The thought of sweat shops and their horrific conditions always lingers at the back of my mind as i walk into my local Primark, but i still can't resist the bargains, as guilty as it makes me feel! 
I have such a dilemma in my head - sweat shops are known for their inhumane conditions and minimal pay, but alternatively, without said sweat shops where would the workers get their income? Would they be unemployed? Would they be able to feed their families? 
But despite what i think, the rest of the world is still desperate for a bargain, and i have a feeling that they will be for a long time. As long as we are not directly faced with the sweat shop troubles, i think that the general public will continue to turn a blind eye.
But, in my eyes, this is so wrong! I feel that it is our duty to make our views known and stand up for those individuals whose lives are being affected every day by the cruelty of the overseas garment industry. If we don't start to make a change, who will? We can't just go alone forever turning our backs on those in need, all for our own selfishness and greed. 

It makes me respect high-end designers much more, because of their commitment to creating quality items in a fair and professional manner, without even a whiff of the sweat shops cruelty. But the prices can make designer items inaccessible, and as a student, i can most definitely empathise with that!

So i am on a mission to sniff out the bestest and greatest items, garments and everything in between, that have been created in a safe and fair way - bring on the Fairtrade Fashion! 

So i introduce to you....

The African Shirt Company

A little bit about the company from the founders themselves:

 "The African Shirt Company is the brainchild of Joan Hughes and Lindi Campbell-Cause - two friends who both studied Art & Design at University and share a passion for conservation & sustainability. After Joan’s visit to see Lindi in the Mt Kasigau area in South-Western Kenya in the Summer of 2009, she was moved by the daily hardships faced by the people there - and it sparked the idea between the both of them to create a company that would help lift the local community out of poverty by increasing sustainable living and giving people access to international trade whilst keeping the uplifting spirit in the village alive and true.
The African Shirt Company teaches local people how to pattern, cut and sew. This gives them new skills and provides them with an alternative way to create an income. Additionally, by providing a different revenue stream, the locals now do not need to cut down the trees in the area as a means for survival, meaning that the fragile ecosystem in the region can be conserved and protected.
We believe lifes too short to wear boring clothes. Our aim is to make fun easy products that have a positive impact. The idea is simple. We wanted to create an easy standard shirt using beautiful fabric, which also makes a positive impact to the people of Africa. So the The African Shirt Company was born. What makes these shirts unique is the fact that every shirt is hand made on a foot pedalled machine by local women in Kiteghe. Currently our shirts are made without electricity, without running water and we iron them with a charcoal iron. And of course, it is the beautiful, colourful designs which make our shirts one-of-a-kind. The kanga is a traditional East African fabric which dates back to the 19th century.
The kangas used by The Africa Shirt Company are usually in short supply, meaning that once the fabric is used up, there will be no more made from the same pattern. This means that each shirt is truly a unique work of art. "
Sorry for the lengthy quote there, i just felt it was necessary to tell you guys exactly what this organisation is about and how they help the smaller, poorer African communities. And now for the fun bit - the GORGEOUS printed shirts! 
Here's my pick of the gorgeous prints and patterns!


//images courtesy of The African Shirt Company //

Aren't they great?! The patterns and prints are so original and exciting, right up the street of anyone has has a bit of a 'quirky' style or who just fancies injecting a bit of colour into their wardrobe! I especially like how only a few shirts were made of each pattern, giving them an air of mystique and bespoke qualities - you'd never have the awkward moment of wearing the same thing as a stranger! 

So i am sold, not only because the colours and prints are right up my street, but also because of the background of the company; the work they do with African communities to better their lives and because each shirt has love and care stitched into it, rather than being one of 3 million going through a cramped sweat shop.

I'd love, one day after my uni days perhaps, to travel around the globe and help promote and raise awareness for fairtrade fashion, do my bit, y'know!

What are your views on this sensitive but very current issue?!

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