I have been meaning to start this blog for a while and to document the stages I go through in setting up this ethical clothing label. So here we go.
I officially started this label beginning of 2009 after I saw an ad in drapers record for a one year mentorship that David Jones (fashion guru!!) was offering to just 10 new designers to help them set up their fashion businesses. Now i had considered doing it for over 5 years but to be honest fear was the main factor in my delay. But I am so certain that this is what I studied fashion design for.
So my first decision was to make the brand ethical / fairtrade / responsible using organic / sustainable materials i.e organic cotton / bamboo / soy etc etc.
I have been inspired by brands/labels Katherine E Hamnett, Vivienne Westwood AR, Edun, Kuyichi to name a few. Initially I wanted to work on a womens sport and street label with an american feel to it but i decided that it shall be a womens streetwear label BUT it must be ethical AND it must be British with a london edge. We have great brands like Firetrap and All Saints (as well as VW) who do great work that is edgy, quirky with fantastic cut lines and I felt to give it an american esque feel i.e babyphat, apple bottoms etc would be wrong.
So after this my next decision was to work closely with Africa and to produce and manufacture the clothing within different African countries. My aim was to source my materials as much as possible within Africa too...this isnt proving as possible unless I am buying traditional African print fabrics (which will only be minimal in my label) but there are some available materials I can use.
Early in the year I visited Ghana where I met with a lady who has a fantastic jewel of a workshop in the back of her garden behind her house. She was very excited about the possibility of us workign together and the relationship was born. I have also networked with another factory in Kenya I am eager to work with who are responsible in their working conditions and with the staff, I am also in talks with a more newer initiative also in Kenya.
So far I have been sourcing organic cotton jersey, fleece - hemp and cotton mixes, bamboo and soy jerseys, recycled polyester etc etc these are relative to street and sports pieces. I have yet to complete designs but have already designed some styles that I have made toiles of in the UK and now am sending to Kenya to sample ready for production once orders come in.
It is early days and lots to do such as my logo is still an issue to be dealt with :) finalising all designs in preparation for my monthly meetings with David, completing my business plan, completing costings, doing more research for prices in store and online, websites...and the list goes on. Money and finance of course is an issue too. Its my aim to fund things with my own money through wages and if needed overdrafts but not yet to get a loan out. I am happy to go slow in order to have things done right and to not get into a pile of debt.
Overall it is my aim to spread the message of a positive modern Africa through the medium of fashion. I feel that thers is a vibe, an energy and a movement happening in Africa and I am very excited about it. Of course there is still poverty stricken areas and its all part of my brand to give back through earnings...this would be in a tithe payment to charities, through setting up charities, through mission work, through organising events to generate funding for initiatives and charities and most of all to set up a school and adjoined factory to teach sewing and education for life, including life skills. AKABI means love in greek a form of the word Agape - a measure of Godly love. The first range Love From Africa is all about giving something to Africa as Africa gives something to the rest of the world.
SO the vision is HUGE but like this brand says...www.africaisthefuture.com.