Responsible Global Fashion LLC

Responsible Global Fashion LLC provides consulting services and continuing education resources around responsible designing, sourcing, production, and distribution of fashion merchandise within the global fashion industries.

Filtering by Tag: Africa

Ethical Fashion Initiative: Not Charity, Just Work

I had the great pleasure of hearing Simone Cipriani, Founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, speak at a recent conference of the International Textile and Apparel Association. Mr. Cipriani shared the goals, business model, and implementation strategies of this amazing program of the International Trade Center (a joint agency of the United Nations and World Trade Organization).  Created in 2009, the Ethical Fashion Initiative focuses on connecting micro-artisans/producers from developing countries (e.g., Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Haiti, and Cambodia) with international fashion brands in creating sustainable and ethically produced merchandise sold throughout the world. Current fashion brand partners include Chan Luu (jewelry from Kenya), Osklen (jewelry from Haiti), Karen Walker (eyewear pouches from Kenya), Isetan (bags designed in collaboration with Italian fashion brand, Marni, and produced in Kenya), and MIMCO (variety of accessories from Kenya), among others. To support the work of both the micro-artisans/producers and the fashion brands, business support infrastructures have been created around centralized production hubs for assembly, quality assurance, and shipping; thus allowing artisans from multiple communities to be involved with production. 
The RISE model used by the Ethical Fashion Initiative appears simple in design (a characteristic of all great design) but ambitious in its implementation. RISE stands for Respect – Invest – Sustain – Empower. As noted on their website:
•    Respect – Respect is about valuing the people we work with and their culture. We consistently carry out a baseline study for each community and create a map to track the entire supply chain.
•    Invest – Business plays a key role in supporting sustainable development. The Invest stage monitors trade-related activities and all investments brought to the community, such as capacity building.
•    Sustain – Fair labour conditions and environmental awareness are key to sustaining dignified lives. The Sustain stage monitors the fair labour and environmental practices and standards applied throughout the supply chain.
•    Empower – The social and economic impact assessments are conducted at pre-determined intervals. The assessments follow the rigorous impact assessment methodology of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
Mr. Cipriani shared not only his enthusiasm for ethically produced fashion merchandise but also the stories of the impact this initiative has had on the lives of the many artisans who have been involved. As a wonderful example of supply chain transparency (if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll see a pattern of my talking about great examples of supply chain transparency), the Ethical Fashion Initiative website includes videos of artisans and their fashion brand partners.  All are uplifting and inspiring! I urge you to check out their website and learn more about the important role of micro-artisans/producers in the global fashion value/supply chain!

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Putting a Face to Fashion: Uganda

As you know from my previous blog postings, I strongly believe in the power of supply chain transparency -- I love companies that share stories of their workers through photos, videos, and interviews – evidence of the real faces of fashion. Two companies (well, one of them is a non-profit but most of their operating expenses comes from selling merchandise) I want to share with you in this posting are Sseko Designs and Krochet Kids Intnl. Both produce merchandise in Uganda and both use the creation of fashion as a basis for social change; in the case of these two companies to use fashion to empower women in Uganda. Through the creation of fashion both companies offer women steady employment, education and/or scholarships, and opportunities for the women to become self-reliant. In addition, by producing merchandise in Africa with materials/fabrics from either the US or Africa both companies can take advantage of the US trade initiative known as the  African Growth and Opportunity Act when importing the merchandise back into the US,

Sseko Designs makes wonderful “ribbon sandals” with interchangeable fabric straps as well as leather bags and other footwear and accessories. The model used by Sseko Designs is to provide employment to women during the 9-month gap between high school and university requiring them to save money to pay for tuition. Sseko also grants scholarships to these women so that they can earn a college degree. As they note “If we considered the impact that each product we consume has on the lives of those who produced that product and chose to see consumerism as a force and opportunity for positive social change, we believe the world would be filled with beautiful products with even more beautiful stories.” On their website is a “meet the women” page with stories about the women who work for Sseko Designs. For example, Pauline works in assembling sandals. Her goal is to study law.

Krochet Kids Intnl. creates hand crocheted hats, scarves and other men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel. The model used by Krochet Kids Intntl. is that women enter their program, learn to crochet and have steady employment for up to three years. During that time, they set goals, learn about business operations and finance, and have one-on-one mentoring with a local female program mentor. An interesting aspect of Krochet Kids is that they are a registered non-profit organization. As they note, “As a non-profit, we are able to focus more resources and financial investment into our program initiatives and the activities that achieve empowerment.” Upon graduation from the program, the women have gone on to become business owners and teachers. As noted in a Krochet Kids Intnl. video: “the true measure of social impact is not how well you can care for someone in your presence, but how well they thrive in your absence.” Watch their videos of the women crocheting hats sold all over the world and you too will be inspired.

These are the true faces of fashion.

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