Building a Transparent Supply Chain in Africa for Clothing

Crowdfunding a Transparent Supply Chain in Africa

During September and October 2018 Where Does It Come From? ran a crowdfund to help establish our new transparent supply chain in Africa.  You can now order one of our African tunics, scarves, pocket squares or hair scrunchies in our online shop, or create something for yourself with our Natural Fabrics from Africa.

Why a Transparent Supply Chain?

clothes sale) Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash
Photo by Artem Beliaikin – Unsplash

The clothing industry has become increasingly wasteful, polluting and cruel to its workers and these issues have increased in magnitude as ‘Fast Fashion’ has ramped up over the last 40 years.  As consumers we’ve been trained to expect cheap clothes that we can simply discard, buying the latest style or simply an outfit to wear just once.  Our love for our clothes has gone and with it goes our respect for the people who make them and the effects on the planet we live on.

Photo Where Does It Come From? (taken by Rachel Forcella)

Where Does It Come From? is a clothing brand that tells the stories behind clothes – creating transparent supply chains so that we know exactly who is making our garments and how they are doing it.  All our clothes come with a code on the label so that our customers can explore their garment journey and get a deeper connection with the people and processes.  We hope this will inspire people to love their clothes more and build their own stories with them.

Since 2013 we have been working with social enterprises in India to create our retail and wholesale shirts, scarves and children’s clothing, using eco-friendly techniques and benefiting hundreds of marginalised workers. We now plan to replicate the model in Africa, creating beautiful garments using African cotton and supporting livelihoods for African garment workers.

transparent supply chain in africa
Photo Where Does It Come From? (taken by Mesher Photos)

Where Does It Come From? is collaborating with the NGO Proudly Made in Africa, which facilitates and promotes the ethical trading of African goods.  Together we have researched and built relationships with partners in the region to create our new, transparent supply chain in Africa.

Why is the African Garment Industry struggling? Find out more in our article ‘The Decline of the African Garment Industry‘.

Find out more about our partnership with Proudly Made in Africa at – Working with the NGO Proudly Made in Africa.

Why Cotton Grown in Africa?

Sub-Saharan Africa has ideal growing conditions for cotton and currently around 8% of the cotton being traded globally is grown there.  Unlike other major cotton producing countries, African cotton is mainly grown by small holders and provides a livelihood for 5.6 million farmers and their families.

transparent supply chain in Africa
Growing Organic Cotton in Africa – photo credit Cotonea

Cotton grown in Africa has environmental benefits too.  African cotton is purely rain fed as farmers match growth cycles to rainfall patterns – this drastically cuts down the water required for a famously ‘thirsty crop’.   The growing cycle in Africa is longer for this reason but this has added benefits in ensuring the soil can recuperate better in between growing cycles.

Small holders tend to hand pick their crop which ensures that only the cotton itself is picked and not a mass removal of all plant life as often happens with mass produced cotton picked by machine.  Small holders are also more likely to practice crop rotation which also adds to the health of the soil.

Find out more about the cotton we are using at – Organic Cotton from Uganda

An Influx from the East

When many of us think of African fabrics we think of the beautiful, vibrant prints worn in traditional dress.  These are now also becoming popular with the youth culture as they’re being given a more contemporary look by designers.

Our initial research uncovered a disturbing fact – the majority of these ‘African’ fabrics are now being imported from Asia.  Even traditional, tribal prints have been copied and mass produced.  Trade agreements have meant that these cheap imports have flooded the market in Africa and elsewhere, devastating the African textile industries.  Out of 250 textile mills in 1985 there are now only 40 left (WIPO 2009).

Find out more about how we are making our clothes in Africa – Mayamiko – our Production Partner in Africa.


Published July 27, 2018 & Filed in Jo’s Soapbox,Where Does It Come From? Blog

Tags: ethical businessethical clothingethical clothing brand ukethical fashionethical fashion ukFairtradeorganicsustainabletraceabletraceable clothingtransparent supply chainwho made my clothes

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