Life in the bag

Art March 02, 2017 12:44

By The Nation

A selection of Vivienne Westwood’s Ethical Fashion Initiative bags, first produced in 2010 to support the sustainable living of the impoverished African communities, is now on show at the Central Embassy until March 9.



Vivienne Westwood’s Ethical Fashion Initiative bags, first produced in 2010 in collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) of the International Trade Centre to support the work of thousands of women micro-producers from marginalised African countries, are made with recycled canvas, brass and roadside banners. A selection of the bags is now on show at luxury Bangkok mall Central Embassy until March 9.

The EFI empowers informal manufacturers and craftspeople to enter the international value chain, providing an income for some of the poorest people in the world. This promotes the growth of sustainable business in place of aid dependency and creates stability among these impoverished communities. 

Since 2015 the bag collection has been produced through a local social enterprise in Kenya called Artisan.Fashion. Originally set up by EFI, this enterprise is now a completely independent and successful business due to the continued workflow from Westwood. They specialise in the production of high-end accessories made by community groups of artisans. The bags are labelled “Handmade with love” in Nairobi and convey the message that this is not charity, but work. 

Styles created use recycled canvas, reused roadside banners, unused leather off-cuts, and recycled brass cast in Kibera slum in Nairobi, where discarded metal like padlocks and car pieces are collected then melted down. The collections include a range of bag styles for men and women, including unisex rucksacks, totes, patchwork drawstring bags and hand-beaded clutches by Maasai people and key rings, and are inspired by the African fabrics and surroundings in which they are they are produced.