Whenever a new trend enters the mainstream conversation, I can almost imagine the originators of it saying, “we already know, but you’re welcome,” to the rest of us. When it comes to the trendy themes of organic, conscious and circular sustainability practices, particularly in the luxury realms of textiles, food, travel and self-care, I think this continent can take a bow, knowing that the rest of the world is finally catching up. Production and consumption habits, like hand-crafting textiles, producing natural dyes, small-batch production, seasonal ingredient use and organic body and skincare, lay claim to sustainability being inherently African. Where it isn’t by choice, there have been extenuating circumstances around infrastructure, geography and economic resources that have set our default to slow, controlled quantity and circular expressions of living.
Thankfully, many around the globe have now answered the call to shun waste-prone excess in favour of carbon-light options. In fashion, local designers are reversing the harmful textile dumping many African countries have been subjected to by introducing cut-and-sew upcycling that sees dumped textiles converted into high-end luxury fashion items. Togolese-born, Paris-based fashion entrepreneur Amah Ayivi, who owns fashion brand Marché Noir Lomé-Paris, has been re-routing vintage items from market floors in Lomé, Togo, to Paris since 2016. Following suit are designers like Nkwo Onwuka whose brand uses eco-friendly processes to convert landfill-destined garments into their signature denim-based Dakala cloth. Nkwo Transformables, the brand’s social-innovation project, asked customers to send in denim that they no longer use to be repurposed into a piece of their choice from the collection. The collection was unveiled at Milan Fashion Week last month.
Meanwhile, makers of fine jewels and watches have adopted ethical approaches in sourcing gems with sustainable programming that aims to off-set the luxury industry’s emissions.
This month, our contributors have crafted stories about luxury’s reckoning with global environmental decay, and each section of this issue features a hope-inspiring array of luxury’s tangible actions toward real change.
— Ntokozo Maseko – Editor