Thank you to Consider + Beyond for nominating us as winners of the Conscious Brand Award In 2023 and 2024 as a recognition for our contributions to people and the planet, and to Drapers for acknowledging In Our Name as a finalist for the Social Impact Award in 2023 and 2024.
When I set out on this journey in 2021, I had two clear objectives: to build a brand with a strong social purpose and to design with purpose by sourcing sustainable materials with high circularity value. I was committed to manufacturing in Africa, aiming not only to create fashion but also to economically empower artisans and small indigenous producers in Kenya, helping to showcase their craftsmanship to a global market.
Africa isn’t the obvious choice for production, given that the industry is not as well-established as those in Asia and Europe. Unsurprisingly, many of my peers questioned my choice, aware of the challenges. However, having worked with manufacturers and artisans in over 30 countries throughout my career, mainly in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, I was confident that I could leverage my experience and knowledge to establish a credible supply chain and a viable sustainable economic incubation hub for our makers.
Has it been difficult, frustrating, and challenging? Yes, yes, and yes, on absolutely every level! It is easy to focus on the things that get in the way of progress (I like to view them as lessons learnt) but it’s the wins on this journey that really matter.
The first win for me is the people who took a leap of faith to see my vision for In Our Name, notably our first manufacturer in Athi River, Kenya, who employed 45 workers two years ago. With our mentorship, they have now more than doubled that number (95% are women) and passed the SEDEX audit - all within 24 months. The second big win are the artisans who were open and curious to understand the concept of capacity building, quality control and open costings - and how they could benefit directly from our 100% Initiative. (Our 100% Initiative is our unique scheme where all net profits from artisan products are reinvested in their economic growth and welfare).
And finally, a message for our customers. Somehow, you found us on the worldwide web, were curious, interested in our story, trusted us, and bought the products we have carefully created and curated just for you. We say a big thank you and encourage you to continue looking bold, brave, and brilliant!
An African proverb, ‘When deeds speak, words are nothing’ sits at the heart of everything we do (despite the difficult market conditions and global supply chain issues). Why? because we believe that the fashion industry can choose to have integrity in its approach to sourcing and how we treat the planet's resources and its people. The approach doesn’t need to be complex with fancy marketing and misleading messaging, for us, the intention (good, positive ones of course!) is what really matters…it’s all about the deed!
So where next? We now have a framework that we are rolling out to new manufacturers in Africa, and we continue to nurture our wonderful artisans. Partnering with the right retail outlets globally is a crucial next step to reaching a wider audience which will inevitably have a long-lasting benefit to our community of makers in Africa.