The new "Black Thread" exhibition in Gothenburg, Sweden, connects West African craftsmanship with vintage, sustainable fashion, and haute couture.
This initiative from the Paris-based designers Imane Ayissi and Amah Ayivi, is made possible through the collaboration with cultural platforms Art Comes First, Just Africa, Institut Français in Sweden, and the Gothenburg Museum for World Culture.
"Black Thread" showcases objects from the Gothenburg Museum for World Culture, films produced by the London-based cultural platform Art Comes First, as well as designs of the Paris-based labels Imane Ayissi and Marché Noir.
Both fashion designers consider that sustainable fashion is important, especially in Africa where tons of fast fashion from the USA, Europe, and China arrive every week.
Second-hand clothes are also an issue for the development of the local market for African textile products. 25% of clothing purchased by recyclers in Western countries are sold to international traders for Africa and other developing regions.
"Many of these countries in Africa used to have a fairly well-developed indigenous market for textiles and clothing and particularly for hand-crafted or hand-tailored clothes. And we've seen those markets virtually disappear over the last decade or two. There is no question that the secondhand clothing market has had a significant impact on domestic African clothing production. The tailors, the small producers have been put out of business. Those were good jobs for Africans and no jobs are taking their place. This is a trade that feeds on the poor rather than benefits the poor."
- Bama Athreya, previously International Labor Rights Forum Executive Director
Fast fashion brands and retailers are also moving into Africa and undercutting local artisans on price. Today, it's important to protect the environment as much as empowering local communities.
The awareness for sustainable fashion and responsible consumption needs to grow in African countries for traditional crafting techniques to survive.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.