5 Fashion Brands Inspired by (and Supporting) African Women

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Thanks to the hard work of activist entrepreneurs, and the vast receiving and connective nature of the internet, we fashion admirers can now use our consumer power to support communities globally. For the myriad ways which we benefit from the immense resources of Africa’s diverse continent (over-mining the land for precious stones like diamonds and minerals; killing elephants for ivory) it’s important to find ways to support local and regional African communities. Below are 5 eco-friendly fashion brands that give back to Africa.  Whether it’s providing jobs, or donating free yoga services, this list can help you connect with ethical companies that aim to help make our world a better, and more fashionable place.

FashionAble 

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Providing women with a sustainable way to make a living is a challenging and noble goal and FashionAble is taking it on.  Having orchestrated the very successful philanthropic project, Mocha Club—a program which asks that westerners forgo a few cups of mocha every month to fund development projects in Africa, FashionAble’s founder, Barrett Ward, is dedicated to finding sustainable ways of giving by fostering a culture of Slow Fashion. FashionAble champions the idea that “who makes our stuff matters.”  Their business is based on the innovative production model of women owned cooperatives that craft all of the beautiful accessories.

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FashionAble’s goal is to help Ethiopian women find alternative ways to support themselves that do not involve the sex trade. Each scarf that is purchased is named after one of the women in the program, and is attached with a handwritten note of gratitude by the weaver.

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My favorite of FashionAble’s items is the Mamuye leather tote bag. Handcrafted by Mamuye herself, this tote is a rich, and luscious toffee brown color. Rich neutrals blend seamlessly into outfits, but have the added benefit of being able to stand their own sartorial ground.

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You may be thinking, “It’s summer. Why would I need a scarf, Chrislande?” Well, the scarves are lightweight and whimsical which is great for keeping the heat off your hair and the sweat from dripping down into your eyes. Personally, I need to carry a scarf with me on the subway (Those express trains are wicked cold in the summer).

Shop Bop x Born Free 

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It’s not every day that 22 of the worlds most popular designers collaborate together on a cause. That’s exactly what Born Free Africa does. The organization’s goal is to make sure that children born from HIV and AIDS infected parents do not contract the virus in utero. With 98% of cases being preventable, Born Free has partnered with Vogue, Shop Bop, DVF, and the likes of Alexander McQueen and Isabelle Marant to form a campaign to end in-utero transmission of the virus. In short: “Shopbop will donate 100% of the profit from the sale of the Born Free Collection to Born Free.” Not only do all of the proceeds from your purchase goes to benefit Born Free, but, “The MAC AIDS Fund will match the total purchase price of all tickets sold for the Born Free Mother’s Day Family Carnival and the total purchase price of all products sold, up to $500,000.”

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AIDS and HIV are such devastatingly horrific experiences for impoverished children. To see so many designers put an effort into the cause is not only heartwarming, but makes me feel hopeful about the communal future of our planet. As most things from higher end designers, these pieces are made in the U.S.A at a small quantities specifically for this campaign.

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The Born Free campaign features Wangechi Mutu’s art on printed fabrics. The internationally recognized Kenyan artist, and mother, is passionate about fixing this very solvable problem. Mutu works with collages, and focuses on the lives of women as the crux of her artistic projects. I love the way her work is  being used in the Isabelle Marant blouse featured above. Score some of the collectible digs, which are surprisingly well-priced, and help end fetal H.I.V transmissions!

Soko x Africa Yoga Project 

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Soko was founded on the understanding that empowering women is a way to empower and change a whole community. The company helps artisans have access to a market for their products without doing the time-consuming, and backbreaking work of lugging crafts and designs to faraway markets. The Soko business model helps shoppers connect directly with the women that produce their artisanal wares in order to nurture a sustainable creative economy.

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Soko and the Africa Yoga Project have partnered to bring us a collection of SHINE bracelets. The delightfully multi-colored bracelets are made of recycled kikoy fabric. What is the Africa Yoga Project, you ask? AYP is an organization that believes in the transformative power of Yoga. By bringing yoga practice to different cultures across the continent, AYP seeks to bring physical enjoyment and  leadership skills to youth in Kenya. Since the inception of the program in 2007, more than 5,000 people have joined over 250 community yoga classes.

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Soko’s offerings also include beautiful artisan made earrings that use up-cycled and recycled materials. Check out these  Tapered Bone Earrings that have been made with up-cycled bone rescued from local butcheries. The elegant drop add a nice touch to these mahogany colored earrings.

Global Mamas

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Started in 2003, Global Mamas is dedicated to connect skilled women from different—buts mostly coastal cities in Africa to a market for theirs skills and products. As the name suggest, Global Mamas seeks to help mothers bring opportunity to their children,  and economies. The skilled sewers and artisans produce jewelry made of recycled plastic materials, bespoke dresses, and Shea butters and lotions.

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Global Mamas was actually founded by six Ghanian women who are passionate about their skills as Batikers and seamstresses, and the ability of their skills to change the economic status of their communities. They partnered with two western women who were former Peace Corps volunteers, and embarked on the journey of empowering their communities through business.

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The company provides items to cover a wide range of needs. Are you looking for something cute and sustainable for your pet? Global Mamas have got your back. The company is one of the most full-service retailers on this list. They also provide a whole option for businesses who want to carry Global Mammas products in their stores. Look to their gorgeous and whimsically printed dressed for some excitement to your summer style.

Awava

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On a mission to bring peace and sustainable growth to Uganda, Kate von Achen and Lauren Parnell Marino started Awava, a fair trade fashion company that produces handbags, apparel, and items for the home. Awava means “origin” in the Luganda language. The company seeks to change the face of fashion retailing by asking the hard questions about sourcing, and equitable work.  Like many companies on this list, Awava’s goals are to build  supportive economic conditions for Ugandan communities. Your purchases go to help families secure schooling, health care, and a plethora of other essential human rights.

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Awava’s products are not only fair trade, but they are very affordable and cover variety of needs. You can score some earrings, and even Christmas ornaments. For you seasoned chefs, try the Amata aprons. They come in two beautiful prints that are sure to inspire some eclectic new vegan recipes. You can also give Awava products by purchasing a gift certificate for the fair-trade loving fashionista in your life.

Inspired by Uganda, Awava is building a community of skilled women that can inspire their country to recover from the Lord’s Resistance Army’s terror attacks, and kidnappings. Awava also raises the labor payments of artisans and their groups every month if 75% of their products are sold. This system provides incentives for the seller—and buyer to bolster the local Ugandan economies.

Want some vegan shoes to pair with those cute shorts? Try Cri De Coeur‘s latest collection.

About Chrislande Dorcilus
Chrislande Dorcilus is a writer living in Brooklyn, and ever proud of the cliché. She loves feminism, humor, sustainable architecture, and poetry. She hates to love to hate New York, compares bathrooms around the city, avoids the Six train, and misses the ocean. Chrislande is a proud former editorial intern, and blog contributor to the loved feminist publication, BUST Magazine. She hopes to see you at one of their spectacular BUST Craftacular events in Brooklyn this year. She has written for various fashion and media sources online, and is more than excited to delve into the eco-world with “y’all.”

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