COTTON - Xoomba
Heather Chaplin, a former theatre designer, was determined to apply her design talent to prove that fashion could be harmless, that we can look good and treat people and the planet with respect at the same time.
Knowing it would take time to establish production, and needing to be in a place she loved, Chaplin based her business in West Africa. She chose Burkina Faso after a research trip in 2009, where she visited all the organic cotton-producing countries in the region.
Natural materials and planet- and people-friendly manufacturing is the way forward for fashion.
Burkina Faso is rich in culture and has a history of courageous political activism but there are enormous challenges in working in one of the poorest countries on the African continent, which is landlocked and has very little infrastructure. But addressing crucial needs and building trust while making fashion harmless is also rewarding.
Xoomba refuses to use conventional or GMO cotton. It is committed to using only local and organic cotton grown in Burkina Faso. it works with local artisans to transform regional resources into yarn, textiles and clothing, creating sustainable livelihoods in a depressed economy. Xoomba uses low impact, fibre-reactive dyes and treat fabrics in waste water to avoid groundwater contamination. Xoomba’s fabrics are all hand-loomed using fair trade certified cotton, so buying an item gives you the opportunity to invest in sustainable development and the creation of dignified jobs in West Africa.
WOOL - Maxhosa by Laduma Ngxolo
Laduma Ngxolo was born in Port Elizabeth and his flair for knitwear design earned him a bursary from both Port Elizabeth-based Cape Wools South Africa and Mohair South Africa, offered to him during his BTech studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2010. The same year Ngxokolo won the national leg of the Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC) design competition, which earned him a trip to London, where he was also awarded the international first prize.
The brand Maxhosa started with Laduma’s desire to explore knitwear designs that would be suitable for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates), who are prescribed by tradition to dress in new, dignified, formal clothing for six months after their initiation into manhood. Having undergone the ritual himself, he wanted to develop premium knitwear that celebrates traditional Xhosa aesthetics.
In 2017, Laduma partnered with Chivas Regal South Africa in an initiative aimed at empowering South African design entrepreneurs who had limited resources to grow their businesses. The aim was to empower people with the knowledge to grow their businesses faster, create employment opportunities and to confront the increasing unemployment challenge in South Africa.
To cope with the challenges of the changing seasons, Maxhosa used mercerised cotton for its 2016 summer collection and a 70% linen and 30% viscose mix for the 2017 summer collection - all sourced internationally. For all the winter ranges, a locally sourced 80% merino wool and 20% mohair mix was used.
WOOD - Indalo Decor
Indalo is a multitalented industrial design and manufacturing company based in Tembisa. Its innovative and diverse team captures modern African style in every one of its custom pieces. The business was founded in 2012 by Inga Gubeka, who developed the range while studying interior design in Cape Town.
Indalo's flagship product is its wooden bag. It is manufactured from medium-density fibreboard - which in turn is made from hardwood or softwood offcuts. The wood is laser-cut into shape for accuracy and assembled by hand. Some of the bags are finished with leather and canvas.
All the wood used for Indalo bags is treated and can be customised to be stained any colour. The leather is similarly hand-treated and dyed at Indalo. The company mixes its own leather tanning dyes to suit each creation. And naturally, all the leather comes from South African suppliers, which makes the bags 100% local in concept, design and production. Local craftsmen are rigorously trained by Gubeka himself and he oversees the final finishes of every single item.
Gubeka’s designs include custom iPhone and iPad cases, lighting pieces, interior fittings and more. Each is inspired by a work of art. His creativity and innovative use of locally sourced and crafted materials have earned him international recognition, too: he was the first African to have a Glenfiddich premium single malt whisky named after him!