Crafting an artisanal journey

THE BEGINNING

In 2009: the United Nations’ Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) launched a social project in Nairobi. Named Artisan Fashion, it coordinated production for the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Adidas, and Stella McCartney with marginalised communities in the East Africa region.

Artisan Fashion was the first project launched by EFI to connect artisans living in urban and rural poverty with the global fashion chain. 

We became EFI’s successful story, and the business model has been replicated in other developing countries such as Burkina Faso. The logic of ethical production and consumption is one that generates value for all parties involved, from the very beginning of the supply chain right up to consumers.

Vivienne Westwood Spring Summer 2014 collection

“What I do, making bags, can make a difference. This project gives people control over their lives – charity doesn’t give control, it does the opposite, it makes them dependant. It’s quite incredible to think that we might be able to save the world through fashion.”

– Dame Vivienne Westwood during her visit in Kenya in 2011

Karen Walker Spring Summer 2017 Babou collection 

SOCIAL ENTERPISE

By 2015: Artisan Fashion evolved into an independent social enterprise. Today, we are still driven by the same desire to support the development of local traditional skills providing artisans with a global market for their handmade products and investing in their education. And most importantly, as we do this, we have been creating: employment opportunities and economic development.

Over the years, we have produced collections of jewellery, homeware, bags and accessories for brands right across the world: from Chan Luu in Los Angeles and Karen Walker in Auckland to United Arrows in Tokyo and Mimco in Victoria. 

Our social supply chain grew with us. In 2015, we partnered with 23 artisanal groups in Kenya to create beautifully handcrafted  products, providing work to over 570 artisans. Today, we engage 67 communities in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) supporting over 1,200 artisans.

Mimco Unite Basket 2017 collection

OUR FUTURE

In 2021: we entered a Public Private Partnership with the EFI and a collaboration with La Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana for the co-creation of a Due Diligence System that allows producers and brands to manage Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) risks and facilitate corporate sustainability reporting.

Artisan Fashion is the first producer in Africa to adopt this ESG Due Diligence System. By working with us, brands are welcomed into the EFI Public Private Partnership whereby they have the opportunity to: better achieve their ESG goals and be a part of sustainability conversations for the future.

More recently: motivated by a desire to further our sustainable mission, we have started promoting circular production practices for upcycled collections, and we launched our own sustainable collection in 2022 . To do this, we are using the 140,000 tonnes of post-consumer waste that enters Kenya every year and the post-industrial waste from international fashion brands.

Endelea Beaded Hat 2022 collection made entirely with repurposed East African cotton

Mimco Tsavo Twist 2021 Collection

Sass and Bide 2013 limited edition collection

Karen Walker Fall Winter 2015 collection

Vivienne Westwood Fall Winter 2022 collection

OUR GLOBAL TEAM

We promote value in a virtuous circle that creates not just premium products, but also stable, dignified work, and creative and resilient women, men, and communities. Today, we employee 42 people and engage with over 67 communities in East Africa. The handmade nature of our work brings a natural variation to each and every product. All of them are carrying the stories our entire team of artisans. 

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Artisan Fashion is part of a Public Private Partnership with the UN’s Ethical Fashion Initiative

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