Before the pandemic reshaped world cargo, the Kantamanto market in Accra, Ghana was processing around 15 million items of secondhand clothing and fabrics every week, discarded by the west. Jeans, shoes, T-shirts, fabrics, bags. Items are bought by the bale, unseen and processed by vendors. Around 40% of items are discarded.
Kantamanto market is one of the biggest secondhand textile trading markets in the world. It is just one such market in the region and approximately 30,000 people work six days per week to clean, repair, and sell the clothing waste.
The people working in Kantamanto are a vital part of the fashion industry's global supply chain - the circular part. While they started as a way of getting clothing off shelves in the west so that more fast fashion could be sold, some vendors are creating an example of what circularity and care could really look like. And a great role model for what can be done elsewhere.
Slum Studio's multimedia artist Sel Kofiga documents the many hands that imported secondhand clothing and fabrics pass through and he also creates bespoke upcycled pieces that illustrate the vivid stories of these second-hand marketplaces through glorious colors and illustrations.
Sel Kofiga, who is fast making a name for himself among the world's fashion elite, recently told Design Boom:
"I LOOK AT CLOTHES AS OUR SECOND SKINS SO I’M PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN HOW THAT MATERIAL TRAVELS WITHIN MANY BODIES AND ENDS UP BEING USED BY ANOTHER BODY. RESELLERS HERE USE THEIR CONCEPTUAL AND IMAGINATIVE CREATIVITY TO TURN THEM AROUND INTO SOMETHING NEW. FOLLOWING IT IS LIKE A TREASURE HUNT."
Here's to a future where the west is buying back their own upcycled fast fashion at a fair trade price and the shirts on their backs have supported two sets of families - most likely from opposite ends of the globe. (If that is physially possible.) Which brings us to the last word from Sel Kofiga:
"I THINK WE ALL ADORE AND TAKE GOOD CARE OF ARTWORK, I WANT THE WORLD TO SEE MY CLOTHES AS SUCH. IF WE TAKE GOOD CARE OF ARTWORKS THEY LAST LONGER, LET US DO THE SAME WITH OUR CLOTHES."
Original stories seen on Design Boom, Highsnobiety, VOA News via Slum Studio.
We really do need to address the bales and the role of the groups sending them. The end work of the groups sending the clothes is societal support. In line with this point, I think that we should realistically expect:1) That the bales sent off shore are clean and respectful of the countries and situations they are going to land in2) That the groups accepting the clothes in the first place (Op Shops should be more vocal about the impact of the fast fashion industry. At least for the societal aspect, given the number of slaves etc in the space.
Monday, 16 August 2021