How Fashion Can Contribute to Sustainability

The world is currently looking to Africa for Inspiration with its rich colours, cultural diversity and traditional handicrafts that have been passed down through generations. Different brands are using fashion to make a difference and establish social values, changing the African fashion narrative by creating cross-cultural dialogue through fashion.

These brands are reinterpreting African traditions with contemporary designs and cuts while supporting local artisanal communities in the process.

” Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.” said Ban Ki-moon

Labels based in Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa have seen the value of working inbound with the talent the land has to offer. Fashion in Africa draws so much from its surroundings; The people, the art, which is mostly self-taught or passed down through the years.

Tapping into that stream can unlock greatness. Instead of outsourcing, brands would just need to enhance what is already there and educate the locals on different aspects of design, lifting up the disadvantaged, especially women out of poverty by nurturing their creative talent.

This in turn would tackle some of the Sustainable Development goals listed for agenda 2030 ; No poverty, quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth.

The onus is on us as fashion creatives to inspire resilient and sustainable fashion values by taking everyday ideas as well as ideals  and infuse them into sustainable models that create a consciousness of the world around us. How can the next generation of fashion creatives find their voice?

It is important that sustainable value systems are passed from one generation to another. This thought pattern is at the centre of my current work with rural Communities in Victoria Falls for a project titled ‘Teaching Roots to Each Root’, a sustainable fashion concept that  addresses the lack of skill that is being passed down from generation to generation within the area.

An area that is rich is heritage, culture and mystique. The aim is to help women learn how to make garments for themselves and for resale so that they are empowered and have a sustainable source of income thereby improving their livelihoods as well as that of their children.

The hope is to see more women empowered and gain self sustenance as well as unlock a creative pool that is new as well as intergenerational.

Adopting methods of sustainable development in fashion locally would benefit the industry greatly. It not only helps the creative and underprivileged communities but also helps the local consumer to be a more conscious shopper. Nowadays people shop for the cause and not necessarily the price and local creatives would do well to be more conscious of their surroundings and how their creativity feeds into today’s everyday life. Keep in mind that sustainable does not mean dowdy, the new luxury is handmade. Until next time, be aware and be conscious of your creativity as well as your surroundings. Real change, advancement and sustainable development is the duty of all of us in order to transform our industry and nation in the end. You do however choose how you want to make your mark.

By Sikhanyisiwe Sebata

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