Towards a circular world

Working with more than 50 communities across the region, Artisan Fashion builds regional capacities for circular economies locally and seeks markets for these economies internationally – upcycling. With an Export Processing Zone production hub, Artisan Fashion has access to the industry’s rejects and end-of-line stock – post-industrial waste. And based in Nairobi, Artisan Fashion has access to 180,000 tons of the West’s discarded clothing that is dumped in the mitumba markets – post-consumer waste. Hapa ni kazi tu (swahili for “here is also work”). 

As a B2B supplier to some of the most recognisable brands in the world, Artisan Fashion is already promoting circularity by: repurposing industry waste and upcycling post-consumer waste to make bags, recycling old metal scraps to produce accessories, and coordinating local circular basketry production.

Macrame applique realised with jersey offcuts

Deconstructing men’s shirt for a new exciting project!

Vivienne Westwood 2022 gift capsule realised with repurposed canvas and Maasai shuka

In East Africa, Kenya is the major importer of second-hand clothes importing approximately 180,000 tons each year to be sold at dedicated Mitumba (“bundles” in Swahili) markets. The challenge is that much of the clothing or textile waste ends up in dump sites.  

Whilst countries such as Rwanda have recently banned imports of second-hand clothing to protect local producers: in Kenya, there is the opportunity to develop a more creative intervention policy. A policy perspective with the potential for replication throughout the African continent, home to the majority of the world’s discarded clothing.

As an EPZ entity, Artisan Fashion is ideally located and licensed to work with surrounding factories and international producers to take delivery of and pioneer the repurposing end-of-line stock. We will create collections by using those materials that are already available.

Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2023 capsule collection realised with repurposed canvas and upcycled denim from the local Mitumba market

Fibres such as sisal, pineapple and banana used to be very popular in East Africa until the much cheaper fabrics from Asia undermined their production. 

In Kenya, small-scale farmers are reviving these old skills to: mitigate air pollution avoiding plant waste incineration, reduce water-waste and, above all, generate job opportunities in the rural regions of the country. 

With its wide network of communities, Artisan Fashion is able to build these circular capacities for reintroduction to the wider international market.

Circular banana baskets in the making!