The United Nations ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative is a wonderful thing, an organisation that takes fashion, an oft-maligned industry that is considered by some as lacking integrity, a conscience or ethics and uses it as a vehicle, a way out of poverty for the people who need it most. The initiative's overarching goal is to create work and empower women, the women of Haiti and Africa to be precise. It does this by creating work, real paid work, for women in these regions so that these women may in turn improve the circumstances of their familes and their communities. It is not a niche 'eco-fashion' project, rather a vast organisation fusing over 7,000 artisans with global fashion brands to create paid work, not just a survival wage but a decent one. Acting locally and thinking globally, everything about the Ethical Fashion Initiative makes sense - which is why brands like Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Sass & Bide and Carmina Campus have partnered successfully with EFI in recent times. Now, New Zealand's own Karen Walker Eyewear has taken up the baton.
For their 1st Summer range, Visible, Karen Walker Eyewear teamed with the Ethical Fashion Initiative to provide work for artisans in urban and rural areas of Kenya by producing a vast number of pouches, representative of the artisinal codes of the area, in particular of the Maasai tribe, that will be included with every pair of Karen Walker Eyewear from the Summer 2014 season sold through all 500 stockists of Karen Walker Eyewear globally. In addition, more elaborate and embellished versions, also made by Kenyan artisan groups, will be available to buy separately.
The KWE collection campaigns have long been keenly anticipated by fashion followers for Creative Director Mikhail Gherman's often visionary approach to showcasing specs, frames et al. It made sense then, for long time collaborator, photographer Derek Henderson and a KW team to head to Kenya to shoot some of the artisans themselves in the frames. The result is a series of images that are at once beautiful, optimistic and vivid. The people photographed here include machinists, cutters, tailors, production managers and metalworkers as well as members of the Maasai group who create the more elaborate beading work.
Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative said of the project, “From the very beginning, the relationship between the Ethical Fashion Initiative and Karen Walker was a very natural connection. Karen is a visionary and she clearly understood who we are and the potential of working in Africa with us. Everything about this project — which brings forward the positivity, dynamism and beauty of Africa — is in line with what we do.” Bravo! The range is in store from February 10.