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    Boutique Fashion News — sustainable

    Sapelle Debuts Adire African Textile Collection

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmadeWe’re proud to unveil our Summer ‘18 capsule, showcasing an eclectic mix of vibrant African textiles in flattering, timeless silhouettes.

    Sapelle’s design ethos is based on fusing authentic African heritage design with a contemporary style aesthetic to create unique pieces for the modern woman seeking to experience global cultures. This season, Sapelle captures the spirit of an ancient African textile tradition – the ADIRE (or ‘tied and dyed’ in the West African Yoruba language), and celebrates the artisans who have kept this tradition alive for many centuries.

    ADIRE

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    The tradition of resist- and tie-dyeing goes back centuries in West Africa, with the earliest known example from the Dogon kingdom in Mali in the 11th century. The early 20th century saw a boom in Adire artisanship, making it a major local craft in Abeokuta and Ibadan regions of Nigeria and attracting buyers from all over West Africa.

    Whether created by old techniques or new innovations, Adire today faces challenges and competition from digital and machine prints and other textiles produced in Asia. The craft, which was previously passed down the generations, is now at risk of dying out as young people seek employment in other sectors. Our wish is to see more people around the discovering and enjoying this textile, thereby creating demand for it and employment among the adire artisans.

    Sapelle x ADIRE

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Sapelle has partnered with one of the most reputable Adire producers in the capital of the craft, Abeokuta to produce a line of custom Adire textiles for the Summer 18 capsule.

    “This is an exciting time in the African creative industry, with events like ‘Black Panther’ movie release and the rise of Afrobeats music and contemporary art increasing the public’s awareness of Africa as an important player in modern global culture. Since 2012 Sapelle has worked mainly with Ankara/ Wax prints that are synonymous with African traditional fashion, and which have a shared history with the Dutch who mechanised the printing of Wax prints,” shared CEO Daphne Kasambala.

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    “This season we go deeper into our exploration of African textiles by focusing on a textile that long pre-dates the Ankara or wax print. We’re excited to be focusing on Adire in this campaign as it brings new depth and meaning to our work, taking our customers on a journey into an African heritage textile that was born and nurtured in Africa.”

    The campaign was shot against a simple backdrop that allows the vibrancy of the prints to speak for themselves. The range includes this season’s hot colours from shades of blues that are typical of the ADIRE indigo tradition to the hot pinks and bold pastels that adorned the SS18 runways.

    Click here to see the full range.

    please insert this on all images: Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

     prdct yellow banana front please insert this on all images: Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Deep Roots of the Basotho Blanket

    Basotho blankets

    Right now, dropping the words Basotho blanket into a conversation may draw blank looks of incomprehension from most people. But all that is changing.

    Glimpses of the upcoming Black Panther movie (coming out in February 2018) reveal scenes where the warriors of the Wakanda kingdom are draped in Basotho blankets, casting the spotlight on an iconic feature of the clothing and culture of the small mountain kingdom of Southern Africa, Lesotho.

    Basotho Blankets glimpsed on a scene from the Black Panther movie trailer

    Basotho Blankets glimpsed on a scene from the Black Panther movie trailer

    This is by no means the first time the silver screen has launched a look or a trending style. The relationship between film and fashionista is a long-standing love affair.

    Think Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 2007 collection which was inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s striking Cleopatra outfits. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has firmly established the fur coat and pompadour haircut as a cool 21st century look. And Anita Eckberg in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is at least partly responsible for that enduring fashion staple – the little black dress.

    Basotho Blankets spotted in a scene from the Black Panther trailer

    Basotho Blankets spotted in a scene from the Black Panther trailer

    And now, the Basotho blanket is being showcased and given a brand-new fashion twist by luxury brands like Louis Vuitton; brands dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion like yours truly, Sapelle; and Sotho and Southern African designers like Thabo Makhetha celebrating their culture. Chic ponchos, bomber jackets, dresses, shirts and trouser suits are all part of an exciting and ever-evolving collection based on the Basotho blanket.

    SA-based designer Thabo Makhetha's signature textile is the Basotho blanket.

    SA-based designer Thabo Makhetha’s signature textile is the Basotho blanket.

    The Basotho Blanket Backstory

    By no means a relic from ancient history, the Basotho blanket made its debut around 150 years ago. Legend has it that back in 1860, King Moshoeshoe I (pronounced ‘Moshweshwe’) of Lesotho was presented with a wool blanket as a gift from the French. He was so delighted with it that he had a wardrobe makeover, replacing his traditional leopard-skin kaross with the blanket. The King’s look was adopted by his fellow countrymen and women. Not only did it look beautiful, it was also just the thing for the country’s cold mountainous climate. It’s said that the contrasting stripe that is a permanent fixture in the blanket’s print design, started out as a manufacturing flaw but was embraced as a unique feature.

    And so, the Basotho blanket as the iconic garment of the Lesotho people was born.

    Wearing the Basotho Blanket in a ceremonial setting: Semonkong Lodge staff don the attire for the King's visit

    Wearing the Basotho Blanket in a ceremonial setting: Semonkong Lodge staff don the attire for the King’s visit

    Whereas in the west, we grapple with a ‘throw away’ culture, switching fashion styles on a whim, the Basotho blanket has endured for over a century as the traditional clothing of the Basotho people of Lesotho. It boldly symbolises pride in the national culture and traditions.

    The deep roots of Basotho Blankets

    For the Sotho people, the Basotho blanket is so much more than an item of clothing. Its roots are deeply embedded in Lesotho’s history and it plays a major role in its culture and identity.

    Different blankets are worn at significant turning points on the journey from cradle to grave. During their circumcision ritual, boys wear a special fertility blanket and this is replaced by another blanket after the ceremony to acknowledge their transition to manhood.

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

    From a young age, girls collect blankets in preparation for their marriage trousseau. For his wedding, a man wears a motlotlehi, and on the birth of the couple’s first child, he gives his wife a serope. Like the kente cloth in Ghana or the bogolan (mud cloth) in Mali, the Basotho blanket is a textile enshrined like a precious jewel in local culture and represents major milestones in a person’s life cycle.

    Collaboration with ‘authentic’ designers.

    With its distinctive designs, the Basotho blanket is also a thing of great beauty, a fact that has not been lost on the global fashion industry. There has been a lot of debate recently about international brands working with heritage design, examining where ‘inspiration’ turns into ‘appropriation’ – read the BBC article on the Basotho blanket issue in the link below. At Sapelle, we believe that respecting the ownership and rights of the cultures we work with is the only fair way forward and so we have collaborated with an ‘authentic’ designer who originates from the Sotho people, Thabo Makhetha to produce our stylish poncho.

    Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket in Blue print (also available in Monochrome print)

    Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket in Blue print (also available in Monochrome print)

     The future’s bright. The future’s ethical

    There’s never been a better time for fashion companies to rethink their strategies along ethical lines, whether its thinking about the environmental impact or consulting and collaborating with the cultures that originate the designs, and even helping to promote them to as to keep heritage wealth alive and thriving.

    We now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the food we eat counts. It’s becoming increasingly evident that the clothes we put on our backs need to be part of a radically new way of thinking. For the future to look bright, the universe desperately needs conscious designers who will lead the way in ethical fashion production.

    Read the BBC piece: ‘When does cultural borrowing become cultural appropriation’

    Shop the Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket Poncho here

    Words: Yvonne Lloyd

    Header image: courtesy of I See A Different You

    Interview with Florisa Magambi of There is Hope

    Being from Malawi, I’m always excited to find partners to work with that are based there. And so it was when I started to talk to Florisa Magambi of There is Hope, a charity based in Malawi that works with a group of some of the 20,000 refugees who are based in Malawi, to help them find sustainable livelihoods, whether through education, training or business micro finance. There is Hope’s hand-made craft brands Umoja Cards and Kibebe products are currently in stock with Sapelle, just in time for Christmas. There is Hope was conceived in 2006 by Innocent Magambi, Florisa’s husband, a Burundian national who has lived in different refugee camps within eastern and southern Africa since his birth. Their vision is to see refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable people in the host community rise above difficult circumstances by fully..

    Read more

    Look of the Day: Chocolate Treat

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    Here’s a way to rock a brown outfit and still look outstanding. The gorgeous, soft-feel skirt with ribbon detailing comes in a figure-flattering shape that just skims the knees. We’ve complemented it with a simple crisp white top and stylish accessories, and the overall look is a confident chocolate dream.

    Get the look from Sapelle.com:

    • Soft-feel gathered skirt with ribbon detailing, by South African designer Thula Sindi
    • High quality cowhide and plain leather drawstring bag, made in South Africa by Chameleon Earth
    • Ruffle fabric-covered hoop earrings from Trudy Furusa, the Zimbabwean designer behind the label Velvet & Rose
    • Recycled brass and bone ring made in Kenya for Made
    • Shoes, Jimmy Choo

     

    What I Learned from the Ethical Fashion Forum Summit

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    A Day Well Spent

    For me, the recent Ethical Fashion Forum was like a retreat. Hundreds of designers, retailers, educationalists, activists, press and students converged, and the day was jam-packed – literally – with panel discussions, talks and forums around topics related to the fashion industry and specifically the ethical side of it. We discussed traditional and cutting edge ways we can do what we do responsibly, we discussed Bangladesh, searched our souls and searched for solutions, heard from those who’d gone before us and broken ground – the wizened among us.

    I for one left with renewed clarity and vigour about my company’s purpose in the grand scheme of things. I left encouraged that what we’re aiming to achieve with Sapellé, which is a scaleable, ethical, viable business that gives a thriving platform to talented, creative people who wouldn’t otherwise have one, is absolutely achievable.

    A Bit About the Summit

    Here’s Ethical Fashion Forum’s preamble to the event:

    “Sustainability in the fashion industry is gaining momentum. At this year’s London Fashion Week exhibition, almost a third of showcasing brands had a sustainability focus. SOURCE Summit 2013 will unite leaders from the largest global retailers to the most pioneering brands and suppliers, from all over the world and every part of the fashion industry supply chain; to build upon and accelerate this momentum.

    The day will include inspirational speakers, focused forums, tailored networking and in-depth masterclasses.

    In the wake of the Bangladesh garment factory collapse of 24.04.13 the Summit will aim to constructively address challenges, share and learn from best practice and innovation.”

    By the end of the day I’d made new contacts, shared experiences, debated issues and felt positively rejuvenated. It was a chance to step away from the ‘daily grind’ and crystallise some of the new ideas that haven’t had the space to become fully formed (more of that in another post). My inspiration tank was filled.

    What I Learned, Whom I Met

    Here are some of the things that provoked, challenged and resonated with me:

    Baroness Lola Young OBE a life peer in the House of Lords who founded and is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, on what’s going on in the industry today:

    “It’s hard to argue that the advent of high street fashion and the call to buy, buy, buy represents the democratisation of fashion when so many people are oppressed by it.

    We need to find fresh ways of communicating the concept of sustainable fashion to the lay-person who wants to change the way they consume.

    We need a global strategy, global in the sense that the collective acts as one in order to have an optimum impact.”

    Brigitte Stepputis, Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood,  a long term supporter for sustainability and fair trade, had this to say on working on the Fashion Africa Project in collaboration with the International Trade Centre:

    “The point is not to do charity but to create business opportunity. (We used) existing local skills and upgraded these every season, using ethical production methods. (We’re) proud that it’s…a sustainable business model”

    Cyndi Rhodes, CEO of Worn Again. Established in 2005, Worn Again is pioneering a closed-loop technology and resource model turning textile waste into new products of higher value. Worn Again’s groundbreaking technology will allow fashion brands and retailers to recycle end of line products into new ranges, with zero waste, and has the potential to transform the industry.

    ” Behaviour change is required. Education around re-using plastic and paper is there and it’s good, but this hasn’t extended as far as fashion and textiles.

    36 million tonnes of polyester is created every year. If we changed the way we re-use this, we’d never need to use oil resources to make new polyester… The closed-loop model just makes common sense.”

    Orsola de Castro, a pioneer and internationally recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion who launched Estethica at London Fashion Week in collaboration with The British Fashion Council, the first-ever official platform showcasing sustainable labels at an International Fashion Week. Esthetica has catalyzed similar initiatives all over the world. In 1997, Orsola started From Somewhere, a revolutionary fashion label that was the first to address the issue of pre-consumer waste and reproducibility in recycling.

    “We’re introducing the concept of design with sustainability, and creativity with sustainability…Once we start integrating all of the sustainability initiatives and solutions, then a real impact will be made right across the entire supply chain”

    Bruno Pieters a Belgian fashion designer and art director who launched Honest By, the first company in the world to offer price transparency to their customers with complete details of retail mark ups, sources and costs. On why he set up his own sustainable fashion brand:

    “Buying is like voting and I don’t want to support someone who’s values I don’t agree with… If you’re buying unsustainable fashion, you’re paying that brand to be unsustainable and encouraging them to continue.”

    Russell Spiller, Director of Mantis World, on why Mantis World has grown over decades to be one of the biggest employers in East Africa, working in an ethical way:

    “It takes time, it takes patience, it takes persistence. Our employees are encouraged to join workers’ committees and be involved in the workings of the company”

    Ben Ramsden, Founder and CEO of Pants to Poverty, the UK’s leading sustainable underwear brand, selling in over 20 countries around the world and supporting over 5,000 farmers in India. The company is ground breaking in its business model, marketing, and financing, and has successfully raised several rounds of funding for growth through crowd funding, the “Pants Bond”, and “Pants for Life.”

    “(We’re) building a viable, scaleable business model that’s ethical.

    Fashion goes beyond the industry, it impacts culture, it links the very richest with the very poorest through the value chain.

    We need to look at fashion in a new framework, reshaping the way it works, redefine what we mean by ‘profit’, look at relationships along hevalue chain, learn from an open source of data and promote (sustainability) as the new mainstream. Or bear the consequences of not doing so.”

    There were thought-proving and insightful presentations from more pioneers in ethical fashion, including:

    Edmond Chesneau of LuLeA, the luxury leather accessories brand that took production to Kenya (watch the story here),

    Merryn Leslie of independent ethical boutique 69b, a womenswear boutique showcasing innovative, forward thinking designers and brands committed to contemporary, sustainable fashion.

    Jacqueline Andrews-Udall, Formerly Textile and Fabrics Designer at Stella McCartney, and now a leading consultant in sustainable development for fashion and textiles, and an expert advisor for The Department for International Development.

    Benjamin Itter, co-founder of Lebenskleidung, that specializes in environmentally sound and fairly produced organic cotton and silk fabrics for small order quantities.

    Going Forward, More of the Same

    The ethical fashion industry is definitely gaining momentum – I felt this even comparing it with the same summit held a year ago. Bigger and bigger names are becoming associated with sustainable and ethical fashion; and whilst it may be a box-ticking exercise for some of them, they’ve jumped on the bandwagon nonetheless. If we can all use our clout to push for better practice across the whole value chain, then it’s a great thing.

    The many different players in this space just need to galvanise our efforts, our resources and voices – something I feel is still lacking. If we do, the required change that is inevitable will be accelerated. We need to push from every angle possible: commercial campaigns, engaging local authorities, celebrity endorsements, government petitions and every other trick in the book to tackle the old habits that have led to such tragedies as the Rana Plaza disaster.

    And most importantly, we need to engage with our consumers, convince them to change their mindset – show them there is a stylish, trendy, affordable, more sensible alternative to the status quo, because in the final analysis this will be the biggest catalyst for change across the industry.