bobby kolade

This Ugandan clothier is upcycling donated garments and promoting them again the place they got here from

Bobby Kolade is taking garments which have been donated to African international locations, upcycling them into new objects, and attempting to promote them again, in an effort to battle a tradition of extra that he says has contaminated and degraded Ugandan tradition and vogue. 

“It’s extremely troublesome for a designer like myself, and like my friends, to provide clothes in Uganda that’s aggressive as a result of the second-hand garments that flood our markets are so low cost,” Kolade advised host Matt Galloway on The Present

“It isn’t simply that we’re importing second-hand garments [from] the worldwide north. We have additionally imported a tradition of over consumption and a tradition of cheapness.”

Kolade is a designer and entrepreneur, now attempting to reverse to that stream of clothes with a mission referred to as Return To Sender. 

Kolade says that about 80 per cent of all clothes gross sales in Uganda are of second-hand objects discarded in wealthier nations, the place fast-fashion dominates. In Kampala, the place Kolade lives, a spot referred to as Owino Market is devoted to it. Among the clothes available in the market is beneficial, however objects like ski jackets and wool fits do not actually match the Ugandan climate. 

Kolade takes garments which have been despatched to Uganada, and upcycles them into distinctive new items. (Ian Nnyanzi/Buzigahill)

“The issues which can be shipped right here aren’t essentially the issues that we want. So lots of the time, folks simply adapt,” mentioned Kolade.

“I as soon as spoke to a vendor in Owino Market and I used to be telling him, hear, I am unable to purchase this jacket. It is simply manner too thick… And he mentioned, you already know, type does not know climate.”

And whereas Kolade admits the market is a enjoyable place to search out some hidden gems and offers, it is also very damaging to vogue designers within the nation. 

The second hand enterprise

When somebody donates garments in North America, the very best of it goes on sale in an area retailer. Different articles are then bought to third-world international locations. Kolade mentioned that when clothes was first being donated to international locations equivalent to Uganda within the ’80s and early ’90s, it was useful. 

“They did come initially as charity. And there have been factors across the metropolis the place folks may really decide up garments. However what occurred is it rapidly become a really worthwhile enterprise,” mentioned Kolade.

“That signifies that our native industries had been by no means in a position to get well from the downfall of trade within the early Nineteen Seventies.”

Now, many thrift shops and clothes charities in rich international locations promote extra stock globally, which regularly find yourself in international locations in Africa, he mentioned. That makes it onerous for Kolade and different designers to compete financially. 

“Folks, the market right here, they now assume that garments are supposed to be … as low cost because the second-hand garments are. That is what folks have discovered,” mentioned Kolade. 

return to sender
Kolade says that it is onerous for vogue designers in Uganda to promote their garments, as a result of discarded clothes from wealthier nations has led most individuals count on garments to be low cost. (Ian Nnyanzi/Buzigahill)

“So when, as a designer, you give you one thing new and your value is one way or the other a bit larger than what they’re used to, they don’t seem to be going to purchase our garments. In fact not.” 

Annamma Pleasure, professor of promoting on the College of British Columbia, says this second-hand system generally is a double-edged sword.

She says that whereas it creates challenges for designers, it is also extra sustainable to donate clothes, and provide low cost choices for people who find themselves struggling to get by.

“From the viewpoint the federal government, they’re growing work availability. Folks get employed on this companies so it has an affect that’s good for the financial system,” mentioned Pleasure. 

“Alternatively, these garments aren’t what’s desired by shoppers in these international locations. It is also costlier. The second hand clothes undercuts the trade, and they also shut down.”

Return to sender

That is the place Kolade’s mission, Return to Sender, is available in. Kolade takes garments which have been despatched to Uganda, and places his personal distinctive twist on them. For instance, one in all his merchandise is what he calls a four-panel T-shirt. He cuts up 4 totally different shirts, and combines them in fascinating methods. 

“It is sort of like a metaphor for what we’re doing as a result of we’re attempting to present these garments a brand new id,” mentioned Kolade. 

Then he places them on his web site, and sells them to folks around the globe. The garments additionally include what Kolade calls a garments passport, which explains the origin of the objects used for the piece. 

return to sender passport
Kolade’s designs every include a passport that explains the origin of the objects used for the piece. (Ian Nnyanzi/Buzigahill)

“Hopefully it is a manner of speaking with … individuals who see this merchandise of clothes, in order that they ask, ‘you already know, what’s it? The place is it from?’ And the wearer can simply present the passport,” mentioned Kolade. 

He says he is not upset that folks donate their garments, and understands they imagine it’s a charitable act, doubtless not realizing the bigger implications. As an alternative he hopes folks can assist contribute to companies by shopping for again his sustainable creations.  

“We’re attempting to say, ‘hey, hear, we’re in a position to create one thing enjoyable, one thing new, one thing very artistic and resourceful. We are able to construct smaller industries right here. Have a look at what we have carried out along with your waste. Please purchase it again if you wish to help trade in our nation,'” mentioned Kolade.

Written by Philip Drost. Produced by Benjamin Jamieson.

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