Africa is a continent bursting with local skills and materials: we offer a vibrant environment to explore local materials and partner with local artisans.
All our collections are unique collaborations between brand design and our traditional Kenyan handcraft.
Our materials are locally sourced to promote and support local supply chains and to minimise transportation emissions.
We work with international luxury brands to integrate artisanal community skills and local materials with their unique design. From our 18,000 ft2 factory in Nairobi, we combine artisanal skills and local materials with professional management and production capacity to consistently and successfully deliver collections for some of the most recognisable brands in the world.
Each new collection starts with a mock-up of every bag to assess dimensions and refine the design before making the final pattern and starting the cutting process.
We use Kenyan materials whenever we can, or we import them from the neighboring region, to support the creation of stable local supply chains.
Beautiful hand-made hardware such as buckles, clips, and handles can make all the difference to a bag. We love to work with our brand partners to combine: artisan creativity, production capability, and social impact!
Artisan Fashion’s factory
PATTER MAKING and cutting
We design and create templates that guide the first stages of production, ensuring the final product is following our clients’ requirements
We apply this traditional technique using a woven mesh to support a stencil through which we press ink onto cotton or leather. All our labels are beautifully screen-printed on the lining of our bags. Our skilled team makes the screens in-house reaching any requested design!
Our skilled artisans can stitch on each material: from the lighter twill to the thick upcycled pneumatic inner tube! They also use the machines to create beautiful embroideries
The semi-finished bag goes from the Stitching team to the Preparation team multiple times until it become ready for the Quality Control
Nickson proudly showing a sample of the SDG bag, a collaboration between Artisan Fashion and the UN’s Ethical Fashion Initiatives. The bag features: West African fabric, beaded logo, hand-made hardware and a macrame handles. Social impact and employment opportunities
Some of our Vivienne Westwood’s favourite:
Leather shopper from the Spring-Summer 2023 collection. It features Kenyan cow leather, in-house screen printing and recycled metal logo
Shuka and upcycled bottle caps shopper from the Spring-Summer 2022 collection. It features Maasai shuka, Kenyan cotton canvas, in-house screen printing, upcycled bottle caps and recycled metal logo
Macrame bag from the Spring-Summer 2023 collection. It features Kenyan nylon cord and community-made hardware
LOCAL SUPPLY CHAIN
By using Kenyan materials whenever we can, or importing them from neighboring regions, not only do we support our economy, but we promote intra-Africa trade, critical for our continent’s economic development and growth, and the corresponding poverty reduction.
We support the creation of a local robust supply chain while reducing our impact on the environmental and promoting the people behind it
Mimco Tsavo 2021 sisal collection
Stella McCartney Summer Loving 2023 high summer capsule collection
Mimco Unite Basket 2017 collection
Read the story of how a sisal leave is transformed into beautiful basket!
Sisal is a favourite Kenyan plant, that grows very well in our harsh climate. Additionally, it is environmentally friendly because no chemicals are needed in sisal agriculture.
The first step in obtaining a fibre suitable for weaving is to decorticate the leaves until only a fibre of about 1m long remains.
If required, the fibres are then coloured by adding them to the desired dye and bringing them up to the boil. Next, they are left out in the sun to dry.
Using sisal fibres, the women roll the fibres into twines. This process is highly-skilled as the women roll consistent amounts of fibre upon their bare legs to obtain high-quality twines that have the same thickness all over! This is by far the most time-consuming part of the process.
Finally the women can start weaving the basket, starting at the centre of the bottom of the basket. Weaving baskets is a tradition in Kenyan culture and, with our help, selling the vyondo (baskets) has become an important income-generating activity that empowers the women all over the country.
Artisan Fashion has been coordinating basketry production for international partners since its beginning. Originally the material used was only sisal, but we built capacity in Kenya to use palm, banana, pineapple and – more recently – raffia.Artisan Fashion has been coordinating basketry production for international partners since our beginning. Originally, the material used was only sisal but have we built the capacity in Kenya to weave: palm, banana, pineapple and – more recently – raffia.
Smily Margaret in Kitui country, Kenya
The first step is decortication of sisal (used as thread): leaves are crushed and beaten by a rotating wheel set with blunt knives, so that only fibres remain
Using a natural dye obtained from ashes, our artisans dye the sisal fibres to match the colour of the raffia
Ashes are added to boiling water, and the sisal fibres are soaked into it and left to dry under the sun
While the sisal fibres are drying, the women prepare the raffia for weaving
Using sisal fibres as threads, requires the women to roll the fibres to produce a twine. The process needs amazing skiils since it necessitates to women to roll – upn their bare legs – consistent amount of sisal fibers into each other to obtain a good quality twine that has the same thickness all over. This is a very time consuming process: it takes 1 to 2 days for each basket!
The weaving starts from the centre of the bottom of the basket: our artisans weave the thin raffia fibres around the sturdy sisal twine bringing out the unique fine weave effect
And then procede with the sides, making sure that the sisal remains underneath.
Then, the basket is ready for the finishing step: the women add a firm upper rim and trim off the last extra bits of sisal with scissors… now the basket is completed!
Vivienne Westwood iconic orb logo
Jewellery and hardware
Artisan Fashion collaborates with metalworker communities to produce recycled jewellery collections and hardware for bags and accessories.
The production process starts with material gathering. Our artisan partners get their metal from old fridge parts, padlocks, car parts, etc.
Then the model to cast is done following the physical sample or its specification, and the molds are created. To create a mold, the artisans mix sand and water. At that point, the desired metal is melted and poured into the molds for casting.
The air-cooling of the mold takes place and – after the solidification of the metal – the artisan removes the piece and applies the desired finishing. We provide different types of finishing depending on the level of polishing, such as: hammered, marble texture, polished or unpolished).
Depending on the required specification, our artisans can emboss and engrave on metal.
To further our mission to use the value chain of international luxury fashion to create employment opportunities and economic development for marginalised communities: all our bags and accessories feature recycled hardware pieces.
The first step is molding – when available our artisans use samples provided by our international partners
While waiting for the brass to liquifie, our artisan prepares as many mould as necessary and leave them to rest
Checking the status of the brass…
When the mould is dried, our artisan slightly cut its edge to allow for an easy extraction.
After that, he pours the liquid brass into mould…
…it takes just few minutes for it to become solid again!
And voila! The piece is ready for the finishing stage
Our artisan polish the product to meet the customer requirements
To enhance the look and wearability of our jewellery, brass is gold plated (12 to 24 K). The plating workshop is based in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, and has been part of our community network since the very beginning of our journey.
The plating process starts with the cleaning of the surface of the brass. This is necessary to improve adherence and to keep the plating containers free of contaminants. The jewellery is then rinsed thoroughly with water to remove any cleaning agents.
With time, temperature, and voltage carefully controlled, the jewellery is submerged into the plating solution to attract ions of gold or the final metal that will show on the surface. After that, the artisan rinses off the piece with water and hangs it out to dry.
Since 2009, Artisan Fashion has been producing jewellery for Mimco, Vivienne Westwood, Chan Luu, and many more clients!