Your Garment Stories
ATU21M2 – Your African Tunic Story
AP – Your African Tunic – concept and Design
Your African Tunic was created by UK social enterprise Where Does It Come From? in partnership with a charity, Proudly Made in Africa, and two social enterprises working for community development in Uganda and Malawi. Here is your African Tunics’s story.
Where Does It Come From? has created kind clothes that come with their story since 2013, working in partnership with a social enterprise and co-operatives in India. Having read about the decline of the African garment industry, we wanted to share our knowledge to create similar benefits of transparency, environmental protection, fair trade and customer connection in that region too.
We designed your African tunic to showcase the beautiful African fabrics we had created and to ensure you have a versatile and vibrant accessory. We selected the most ethical and comfortable fabric we could – an organic, rain fed cotton with a silk like quality.
We also ensured our designs were as zero waste as possible, with maximum use of fabric made and all offcuts used to make accessories or donated to a local period poverty project in Malawi.
We created our tunics to be flattering and comfortable, suitable for dressing up or casual wear. With no zips or buttons your tunic slips over your head. Three quarter sleeves and a soft V neck line makes for versatile wearing.
Print designs were selected based on choosing a selection that would match Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter skin tones, then asking our existing customer base to vote on their favourites!
The project was funded through a crowdfund. Customers very kindly pledged to help support the project, opting for a reward once the production had been completed. You can watch our crowdfund video below.
1: Organic Cotton Fed by the Rain in Uganda
We partnered with German social enterprise Cotonea who work with co-operatives in Uganda to create beautiful, organic cotton fabrics. They pass on their eco-farming knowledge so that cotton can grow again in fields that hadn’t been farmed since the civil war which ended in 2006. These fields are in the North West of the country.
The region gets enough rain to water several crops per year – countering the ‘thirsty crop’ issue naturally! The cotton is ecologically farmed and harvested by hand which helps the land in a number of ways and ensures that only the cotton is picked which stops the land being depleted of other growth and nutrients. Crop rotation also protects and improves the soil quality.
Cotonea shares it’s 150 years of experience with the farmers so that they can continually improve quality and deliver pure organic cotton. Cotonea gives the farmers financial security through a system of guaranteed purchase so their livelihoods are secure. Due to the civil war a generation of farmers missed out on farming experience and knowledge. These farmers are now being trained in organic cultivation to prevent deaths and illness from pesticide poisoning, as well as how to enable the fruitfulness of the soil and the preservation of the ground water. Pests are controlled through use of complementary crops and other natural methods and farmers only use natural seeds (ie. no genetic modification).
1. Processing and Printing
The cotton fabric for your African Tunic was processed and printed in Germany, in an organic certified workshop.
Originally the project aimed to have the cotton processed and printed in Africa but unfortunately we could not find an organic certified workshop that we could work with at this stage. This was a disappointment as not only did we wish to support livelihoods in Africa but we are also deeply committed to keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible – so transporting fabric to Europe as part of the supply chain was contrary to our ethos.
This is an area that we will definitely be addressing for future phases of the African Tunics project.
M: Garment Production by Mayamiko Trust in Malawi
The printed fabric was sent to Malawi to our partners at Mayamiko Trust in Lilongwe. You can find out more about the wonderful work they do and our partnership in our article Mayamiko – Our Production Partner in Africa.
The Mayamiko Trust team were able to take our beautiful fabrics and our design templates and instructions and use them to create our pocket squares, tunics and accessories – they did a fantastic job!
2: Production Team
Here are some photos taken during the production…. Here you can see Enala, James, Jane and Ethel working on our garments.
The first batch of Where Does It Come From? African garments arrived in the UK in April 2019 and the second in May 2019.
We are delighted to have created a transparent supply chain (mostly!) in Africa and to have contributed not only to making beautiful, high quality garments with a story, but also in supporting livelihoods and learning for farmers and garment workers in Uganda and Malawi. We also believe that by using as ethical and eco-friendly processes and materials as possible that we are showing that it IS possible to make beautiful clothing with minimum negative impact to our environment.
If you love your African Tunic please tell us (and please tell your friends too!). If you’d like to order more from the range then visit our Shop. Thank you for your support – we couldn’t have done it without you.