"Totally out of fashion" on the Kenyan fashion stage

A celebration of sustainable fashion took place in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday 3 April, where twelve Kenyan designers presented their newly designed collections together with EKA postgraduate students. The stage was a showcase of outstanding designs, bold cuts and handcrafted pieces.

Reet Aus, senior researcher and fashion designer at the Sustainable Design and Materials Lab, took the "Completely Out of Fashion" documentary to Kenya this time to map the journey of post-consumer textile waste imported from Europe, the environmental problems it poses, and to look for possible solutions to reuse or recycle textile waste in a valuable way. It is known that Kenya is one of the world's largest importers of second-hand clothing, and nearly half of the weight of this clothing imported under the banner of humanitarian aid finds its way directly into landfills or the soil.

In the framework of an incubator programme supported by the Estonian International Development Cooperation (EstDev), Reet Aus conducted a six-month incubator programme for local women to strengthen their design skills and inspire them to use waste materials, thereby recycling textile waste that accumulates in their hometowns.

The fashion show on 3 April was the first time for the Kenyans involved in the project to show their creations to the public. For many of the budding designers, it was a life-changing event. "One of the models and on-stage speakers was Esther Passaris, a local MP and women's rights advocate, who, as part of the fashion show, offered scholarships to local designers to complete their education", said Reet Aus, adding, "The pilot design education programme proved that the issue of textile waste and its recycling is very topical in Kenya, so we hope to continue the incubator and make it a regular feature".

Joint efforts to promote circular design between Estonia and Kenya are also supported by the academic cooperation between the EKA and Kenya's Moi University, which was launched in autumn 2021 in the framework of President Kersti Kaljulaid's visit to Kenya. The first group of students from the EKA spent two months in Kenya on an internship, working both on recycling textile waste, with leftover fish skins from the local fishing industry, and on a slightly more industrial scale in one of the largest local textile factories called Rivatex.

Accompanying the project will be director Jaak Kilmi and a film crew, who will record the journey of textile waste imported into Africa and later bring inspiring stories of Kenyan women taking textile waste from the West back to the fashion arena.

Project funder:
Estonian International Development Cooperation (EstDev)

European Reginal Development Fund, 
Estonian Academy of Arts, 
Moi University, 
African Collect Textiles (Kenya).