We've been producing ethical African Clothing in West Africa for the last 8 years. Encouraging economic development in some of the poorest regions of the world, has been our goal from the very beginning. As well as brightening up the world with our vibrant colourful African clothing of course 😀.
From the beginning we have had an amazing group of tailors, they are truly lovely and friendly people, 80% of our initial team are still with us today. It was challenging though. The local mindset was to think for the present and not the future, so quite often we would invest in projects or designs, and the money would simply go on not so necessary things. The tailors, as brilliant as they are, were not used to making things precise, and became unstuck by our requests to make 100 pieces of one designs, rather than the 1 they would usually make for the local market. We knew that not only did we need to provide jobs, we needed to provide a nurturing environment, where we provided training and support for all our tailors.
Our 4 step process to achieving economic development through fashion became this.
- Create long lasting and full time employment opportunities
- Provide adequate training and support
- Pay good and fair wages to everyone
- Invest in the future through workforce development
Since adopting this process, our tailors, seamstresses and fabric merchant have absolutely thrived. Obviously change takes time, 8 years in fact, to see the extraordinary things we are seeing today. Now let us share a couple of stories that make us proud to be Continent Clothing.
Here is Adama, our Gambian manager, and Cherno, one of our tailors, discussing design elements for our up and coming winter collection.
This shot may not seem outstanding to many of you, but to us it shows that development of skills is happening in a real and fundamental way! Just a few years ago these discussions would not have taken place, and mistakes would happen.
Both these guys have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. Adama has gone from a bright and organised individual to a full blow amazing manager. He expertly manages the daily Gambian activities of Continent Clothing, he coordinates the tailors and goes through the design process that we set out with them. Cherno came to us 5 years ago, after hearing the good things we have done for other tailors in his community. He was a good tailor, but very raw. Of course when someone seeks us out we always strive to find a place for them in our team, that is what we are all about. So we started him off with some of our mens shirts and place in him our training programme, with our head tailor Hamed. They worked brilliantly together and now Cherno is just incredible. He cuts out patterns for several of our tailors and has now started helping Hamed out with our training programme too.
It is a joy to see all our tailors develop as we develop too.
Our training and support programme goes beyond simply tailoring. We try to give people confidence in their abilities and help them out in any way we can. Our goal here is to make them completely financially independent, which gives them far more chance of a bright future.
Every single on of our tailors children now goes to school, up from 40% when we first started. This is incredibly important to them as its starts the cycle of education and gives them the best opportunities in life. At Continent Clothing, not only are our tailors happy, their families are happy too.
The women in the Senegambia craft market are now in full-time employment. We have worked hard to find brilliant seamstresses and craftswomen to join Continent Clothing. We now have 11 women on our team. 6 are full-time seamstresses, making our amazing clothing, and the others are making our brand new collection of bags and accessories, ready just in time for Christmas!
It is so fulfilling knowing that our project is working and that it is only growing. In this difficult year, we have actually managed to expand our operations, adding tailors to our team and improved our training programme for the apprentices of the tailors. We also had our 4th apprentice leave their head tailor to start their very own micro-enterprise, who by the will be be working with us straight away. So keep an eye out for Yama's brand new winter-wear, available very soon.
See Our Collections Here
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