Green fashion is more than a trend. As the textile is considered to be the second most polluting industry, eco-friendly fashion is more and more under the spotlight. In a city like Berlin, you can find plenty of sustainable designers and creations. Some green fashion tours are even organised. Black designers and fashion creatives are of course involved.
This Summer ended with several Afrocentric festivals. We enjoyed visiting them. We met some of the designers changing the game in the fashion industry.
While wax print overwhelms the screens, catwalks and magazines, it is often forgotten that it is neither a traditional nor an authentic African fabric. Its popular success shouldn’t erase other materials and creations.
WearFula is a Berlin-based fashion and design brand. As you may have already understood they showcase the Fulani culture. Thierno, the founder originally comes from Guinea.
To summarise the brand embodies: the Fulani culture, support the local community and promote green fashion.
The creations are made with organic cotton, partially coming from Africa. The production is localised in Berlin. It supports local communities: the diaspora in Germany and the one in Africa.
Cotton culture has been raising sustainable and fair questions. On one hand, the production is often made in poor conditions, on the other hand, African cotton farmers have been deprived of their job.
By taking into consideration these points WearFula is definitely doing more than greenwashing.
Fulani people are localized from East to West in Africa, along the Sahara belt. So, it is neither about one country’s fashion nor a unique “African fashion”. It is putting under the spotlight a particular identity existing in Africa, existing above the post-colonial borders. This is another story that people are not used to
José Hendo, a green fashion supporter
Let’s move to East Africa, Uganda. At the ongoing exhibition Connecting Afro Futures, we met the fashion designer José Hendo. You can feel her generous and meaningful dedication just by looking at her.
After studying at Paris Academy and at the London College of Fashion and leading a career in the bridal industry, José has launched her label in 2008. It has a zero-waste philosophy, matching her sustainable way of life. Indeed, she explains that being born and raised in Uganda, where people use everything, thaught her eco-friendly practices. Therefore, it was natural for her to develop green fashion wearables and accessories.
As José has been in this industry for many years we discussed with her vibrant topics in the African fashion scene. Cultures representation and diversity, green fashion, embracing traditions…
In Africa, we do have sustainable approaches for doing things, but we don’t manifest it with words. It’s natural for us; we don’t have to name it.José Hendo
There’s no doubt, she knows what she’s talking about!
In her collection Signs of the Now, the Ugandan fashion designer has used the bark of the Mutiba tree. People have been using it traditionally. She has observed, learned and researched for more than 18 years on this tree. In 2014, José Hendo founded the initiative Bark To The Roots (B2TR). It promotes the use of barkcloth and helps preserve the ancestral knowledge surrounding the material’s use and production. This is recognised as an intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
It is not her only steps in favour of the environment. José is a strong advocate of the principle REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE, the key for a conscious and reasonable approach.
Parts of the collection Signs of the Now are still to see in Berlin, at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, until the end of the exhibition Connecting Afro Futures.
Connecting Afro Futures
This exhibition has a lot to offer to art lovers, fashion addicts, Afro curious or anyone interested in breaking the clichés. It’s gathering fashion, hair and design productions made by African creatives living on the continent and in the diaspora. Connecting Afro Futures is not here to reproduce an expected vision of the so-called African fashion, colourful and wax printed.
It is taking a position in the current debate about the approach taken by museums and their collections. And the exhibition questions us on how much authentic we are while we present Afro cultures.
“Our cultures must be shown as living and evolving processes with their complexities, arts and diversities. People in the diasporas have been inspired by ways of living and trends coming from Africa. We would like to put it under the spotlight with Connecting Afro Futures.”
And it has been done. During the official opening event, the visitors have watched a live braiding session by NYA Salon, with the music, the small talk, the hair products, from JONA Curly Hair care… like in an authentic Afro hair salon. This time it was in a national German museum!
Green fashion is also about recycling
Njola is a Ugandan multimedia artist, founder of the brand NJOLA impressions and co-founder of Compose Collection. She works with recycled industrial waste and follows a community-based design practice.
At the opening of Connecting Afro Futures, she has presented pieces made of old tires, plastic bags, discarded sandals and so on. Using the skills she learned from her mother, who worked as a traditional weaver of palm mats, Njola finds beauty and potential in the undervalued and misunderstood. She’s giving waste a new life by the method of recycling.
It is also important to mention that tires and other plastic material are not often seen as valuable raw materials by the local population. How often tires are burnt to protest!
Through her initiatives, Njola passes on her vision of a sustainable future by educating communities about waste management and recycling through workshops. Her green fashion approach also helps reconnect with the African way of reusing old material. Working on a better future and revisiting ancestral practices.
Connecting Afro Futures belongs to these exhibitions, which are changing the Afro narrative in Europe.
By offering a platform to creators involved in the green fashion, it connects Africa and its diaspora to a global movement and to the future. And doing it in Germany makes sense.
Germany has recently released the Grüner Kopf, an official sustainable and social label for clothes.
We invite you to visit our highlighted stories on Instagram to get an insight of the opening evening.
Connecting Faro Futures to see in Berlin until 1st December 2019.
From Berlin, with love ✊?✊?✊?✊?