Honouring artisanal supply chains
We link the Athi River Production Facility with our Community Office to bring together an array of artisan skills from community groups and women’s cooperatives throughout Africa.
We give our socially-conscious clients the opportunity to design with African artisans and use their production to generate a positive impact. Our transparent partnerships provide a fair and stable wage for expert artisans, making a lasting economic impact in their communities.
In East Africa – our home region – we work with 50 artisan communities engaging 2,693 artisans, 95% of which are women. Through our network, we provide over 7,500 hours of training each year and we reach 13,000 beneficiaries.
Through our partnership with the UN’s Ethical Fashion Initiative, we are connected to over 98 artisan communities throughout East and West Africa and we collaborate with a further 2,000 artisans.
FROM USING ARTISANAL METHODS TO DESIGNING TIMELESS PIECES WITH MINIMAL RESOURCES: CRAFTSMANSHIP IS THE KEY TO CREATING SUSTAINABLE FASHION.
CRAFTSMANSHIP HELPS US CREATE SOMETHING UNIQUE, ENTIRELY BY HAND. IT INVOLVES THOUGHTFUL CONSTRUCTION AND LABOUR THAT CAN BE PASSED DOWN FROM ONE GENERATION TO THE NEXT. WHEN SOMETHING IS CRAFTED, IT IS TRULY ONE OF A KIND AND IT CAN PROVIDE US WITH A SENSE OF CONNECTION TO OUR INDIVIDUAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Our tribe comes from a marginalised area deep in the forest around Nairobi, and our primary source of livelihood is cattle farming. Kajiado receives little to no rainfall hence our husbands are forced to be nomadic pastors, moving around in search of pasture. Us, the women, are left behind to guard the houses. As part of our culture, women are taught beadwork from an early age! We use beadwork as an alternative source of income especially in times of drought like this. For us beadwork is more than just work – it’s an expression of our cultural beliefs and practices.
– Teriano Mpaake, Oldanyati Beading Group
Weaving is a traditional skill for us, women of the Kamba tribe. This ancient skills has been passed down generation to generation, I learnt from my grandmother when I was just 8! I didn’t have a formal education, because my parents struggle to make ends meet. Learning how to weave was a survival strategy allowing me to provide for my family. For over four decades, I perfected the art of weaving and learnt how to make a living out of it collaborating with company like Artisan Fashion, and selling my own creation at the local market.
– Eunice Munani, Shalom Pride Weaving Group
I joined Artisan Fashion in 2015 as embroidery expert, and I have been perfecting my skills ever since coordinating production for Karen Walker, Vivienne Westwood and Mimco. Working hard to learn different types of stitching, I was promoted and joined the Product Development team in 2022! Artisan Fashion helped me to improve my skills, but also to save enough to send my 2 children to school… and now they are in college! I continue to work hard to become supervisor.
– Assumpta Musau, Artisan Fashion
TRANSPARENT ARTISANAL PARTNESHIPS
INNOVATION, COLLABORATION AND SHARED INSPIRATION
We emphasise the potential and importance of capacity building frameworks for trade opportunities on behalf of marginalised communities. Through the enhancement of artisanal creativity and production capacity, we create employment opportunities and economic development
MEET some of our ARTISAn community partners
BEGA KWA BEGA
Bega Kwa Bega is women group from Korogocho, a major slum in Nairobi. Bega Kwa Bega, meaning ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in Swahili, is a group of single mothers who have come together to work for a better future for their families. The group’s skills are in beading and weaving. Through Artisan Fashion, their creations have been sold in luxury stores in London, New York, Sydney…the list goes on!
The group was started in 1992 under the auspices of the Catholic Church as a social program for single mothers. Back then, the women came together to discuss and share their problems and to find resolutions to them.
Eventually, the group expanded and, in recent years, it has developed into a fair trade enterprise with skills in weaving, screen printing, and beading. But whilst the organisation values its autonomy, the women value their solidarity too: “We learn from each other. We have that spirit, so we can achieve our goal”.
Artisan Fashion has been working with Bega Kwa Bega since 2009. Over these years, we have engaged with the women to make beautiful bags, accessories, and jewellery for Vivienne Westwood, Adidas, Karen Walker, United Arrows, Chan Luu and many more!
Macrame handles for the SDG bag, a collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative
Big smiles while sorting the raffia under the Kenyan sun in Kitui
Traditional weaving communities across Kenya are mostly familiar with the sisal fibre – a plant that grows perfectly in the arid areas of Kenya. With the support of orders from our international partners, we have been developing new value weaving chains for banana, raffia, palm and pineapple. This provides an exciting number of employment opportunities for women marginalised communities.
To familiarise the Kenyan communities with the new fibres, we embarked on a long-term capacity-building program. One of the community groups involved in the program is Shalom Pride, based in the Kitui county of Kenya. The weaving group can reach up to 600 women with about 3,000 further beneficiaries.
The women are from the Kamba tribe, renowned all over the world for their exquisite basketry skills. Farming is the mainstay of most Kamba weavers’ domestic lives. Once married, a Kamba woman is gifted a piece of land from which to sustain her husband and her family. Rainy seasons and hard work in the fields traditionally bring food to the table. But as drought persists, these women must increasingly look to alternative ways of providing for their families and paying school fees.
And new value-chains such as these created by Artisan Fashion, provide the communities with just that.
RANGAU BRASS DESIGNERS
Our journey began in 2009 in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum. Simply, our mission has always been: to use the value chain of international luxury fashion to create employment opportunities and economic development for marginalised communities. The poorest of the poor.
One of the first people we met was Anthony – a metal worker upcycling scraps of metal from the Dandora dumpsite. We spent a couple of years building Anthony’s skills. At first, he would provide us with basic hardware for our bags. Now, he provides us with accessories and jewellery too.
And in the process, he and his wife, Benta, have built a very successful community of artisans and they provide job opportunities and reliable incomes for young people from nearby villages.
“The 13-years collaboration with Artisan Fashion has changed my life for good! In addition to my 4 biological children, I adopted 6 new ones, put them through school as well as provided them with basic needs”.
Anthony and Benta in their Tuala workshop, Nairobi
Beading tradition at this best at Lewa Conservancy!
BeadWORKS is a handicraft business that harnesses the rich beading tradition of women living in conservancies across northern Kenya. They currently empower 1,190 women in 9 conservancies. With the support of social enterprises as Artisan Fashion, their products are sold to customers across the world!
When a woman understands how BeadWORKS functions as a business, she can apply the same principles to other parts of her life. BeadWORKS develops women who can speak for themselves, have savings, can think about the future, and can plan for their kids. Empowered women have the confidence to stand for Board seats in their Conservancies, advocate for conservation and promote investments that improve livelihoods. BeadWORKS not only empowers women, but it is helping to diversify family income in rural areas – income that would otherwise come from livestock rearing, charcoal burning, and other unsustainable means.
Many of our artisans are former charcoal sellers – an industry that is devastating the last remaining forested areas of northern Kenya. It creates opportunities for pastoralist women in northern Kenya to translate their traditional skills into much-needed income. By promoting peaceful community partnerships, we are committed to conserving natural resources and wildlife through self-governed, community-owned conservancies and sustainable, social, and ethical enterprise.
Artisan Fashion proudly supports these courageous women that are challenging norms, inspiring others, and becoming entrepreneurs in their own right. We started the collaboration with BeadWORKS in 2022 as part of a wider collaboration on an Emporio Armani Olimpia Milano order.