Fashion: Connecting Kenya’s Artisans With The World

Image credit: Louis Nderi & ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative

This month, Parvati Magazine spoke with Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a company that connects talented but marginalised artisans – the majority of them women – to the international fashion industry, and supports Africa’s rising generation of fashion designers.

Parvati Magazine: What inspired the creation of the Ethical Fashion Initiative?

Simone Cipriani: I was working in Kenya in my previous job when I met a lay missionary called Gino Filippini. He worked with micro-producers in the Korogocho slum of Nairobi. His work is what inspired me to set up the Ethical Fashion Initiative as I saw real potential in working with micro-producers. It was clear to me that helping to organise micro-producers to work together could positively improve their lives.

PMAG: What is the achievement you’re most proud of?

SC: All the artisans we work with, their hard work and determination to improve their skills and change their lives. I am very proud that the social enterprise we helped set up in Kenya has now become an independent business that runs on its own. This has been a true success for me. Our long-term partnership with Vivienne Westwood is also an achievement.

PMAG: What would you like other fashion businesses to emulate in what you’re doing?

SC: Fashion businesses really need to start taking into account and giving credit to the people making their products. There is a troubling lack of traceability and transparency in the fashion industry’s supply chain.

PMAG: What are a couple of products you’re currently sourcing that you’re particularly excited about?

SC: We have just started working with BrotherVellies to produce a shoe collection with our partner in Ethiopia. This is a very exciting step forward. Another partner is developing new textile designs with artisans in Mali so the final outcome of this will be great to see.

Simone Cipriani is the head and founder of the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative. The Ethical Fashion Initiative harnesses the power of fashion as a vehicle out of poverty by connecting artisans in the developing world to fashion’s supply chain.Simone Cipriani began his career working in the Italian shoe and leather industry before working for the UNIDO to develop viable leather industries in Kenya and Ethiopia. He has consulted for a host of UN and international agencies. He designed and managed development cooperation projects in Asia. Simone Cipriani previously worked for PISIE where he directed training and capacity building to leather industry entrepreneurs from the developing world and at CESECA which offered services to Italian footwear and leather companies in quality control, technological innovation, training and delocalization of production.

For more information, please visit ethicalfashioninitiative.org.