By Vicky Ngari-Wilson
I’ve always had a light for Afrocentric style but wasn’t seeing African creativity being represented in a luxurious way. I set out on a mission to volunteer what I was learning in the mainstream Fashion industry to African communities in the UK. That’s how I came about Miss Kenya and Miss East Africa UK.
This experience exposed me to international development platforms where typically lot’s of white, middle class suits where trying to solve the issue of poor, unemployed African youth. I learned about the Sustainable Development Goals and Social Innovation; and fell in love with Social Entrepreneurship.
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I skilled myself in other creative talents, PR, Project management, and got a certificate as a Make-up artist to diversify my services. I have been working as a creative freelancer ever since until The Creative Conscience Awards invited me to come and help guide creative students how to implement social impact and sustainability into their designs.
It’s the perfect time to engage African youth in Fashion since they are a major influence in popular culture. As everyone scratches their heads about how to be more sustainable – environmentally friendly – African’s have been using sustainable methods of fashion for centuries! Look at the Kiondo, our national woven basket.
Kiondo is traditionally made from the Sisal plant, it’s processed naturally and with close to no environmental effect!
However, in Europe many brands a imitating the bag using synthetic materials, taxing process to the planet, not telling it’s rich meaning and sticking a huge price tag on it.
If Fashion include indigenous people producing such cultural inspired products – the industry will tick the box of ethical fashion, provide opportunities and in return get many sustainable solutions. It’s about value exchange, if African’s realise their natural value. I started a CAMPAIGN to help change our mindset and look at what is in front of us.
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I am working from the ground up to join forces with communities, so I can demonstrate/skill them how to commercialize their art. For the industry, show simple ready to go sustainable solutions with indigenous communities ready to act as suppliers.
The Campus Lady Kiondo Challenge is calling Fashion to include indigenous people, craftsmanship and techniques in global design. Starting with Kenya, we are curating communities, skilling and guiding them to collaborate like a supply chain, the aim is to connect brands who can give them sustainable fashion briefs to deliver. My dream is to see Africa can be a production hub for sustainable design houses.
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The Challenge sends the Campus Ladies back to their roots and exchange skills to create a mini brand around a Kiondo. I would like to see this as a national competition.
We plan to create more exciting sustainable challenges with the rest of the KTF community and continue to skill them through Good Ambition. Fashion Industry experts are responding to this very positively internationally and we’ve barely just launched.
The article has been edited for clarity.