This is a guest post from Anne Drane as part of our new guest post series.
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Hi! My name is Anne Drane, co-founder of Sawa Sawa Collection. We are an ethical, nonprofit fashion brand in Austin Texas.
When & where did you first hear about the idea behind ethical fashion?
I heard about slow, ethical fashion as I learned more about describing what we do and meeting other people who are passionate about fashion as a means of giving back and impacting the world. Sawa Sawa means, ‘It will be okay’ in Swahili. All our products are handmade by artisan women in Kenya using skills that have been passed down through generations.
The tribal women in rural Kenya are masters in their craftsmanship. The Maasai create beaded works of art, shoes and accessories. The Kikuyu create bags weaved out of sisal fiber harvested from plants and leather tanned from their cows.
Every tribe has unique techniques that have stood the test of time. We are on a mission to instill value in the women and their work. Their work is elegant, graceful and unique.
Through fashion, we make an impact in female entrepreneurship, empowerment, economic and social freedom, cultural appreciation and more.
Photo Credit: Summer Miles
Why did it grab your interest?
I was born and raised in Kenya. After immigrating to the USA, I had a chance to see my people and the culture from ‘outside the box’. I realized how beautiful, colorful and raw it was. The fashion creations dated back to the beginning of humanity. It should be shared with the world; we all came from Africa and share in its history.
What was your first ethical fashion purchase?
I started buying accessories, shoes and bags from women in Kenya. My mother would go into the villages, buy from the women and send the parcel to Austin. Soon, the women were seeking her out because they needed to make money for food, medicine, school fees etc. It helped me realize the magnitude of the impact a market would have on the women and their families.
Our co-founder Catherine Mung’ara works directly with the women groups and helps them in any way we can. I am a big supporter of slow and ethical brands in the USA. I work closely with the wonderful, passionate women that founded Tesoros Maya – weaved by women in Guatemala and Zuri Styles – handmade by women in Uganda. I wear pieces from other brands as well.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of integrating ethical fashion into your life?
Every piece of fashion you wear is a statement of the world you want to build. Fashion has the power to make a difference in the world of specific individuals and communities.
Ethical fashion is made by a person who put the time, skills and effort into the product I choose to wear. It is rewarding to know that a small choice makes a difference and steers the fashion world into a slow, ethical, moral, sustainable and fair direction.
What’s the hardest aspect of integrating ethical fashion into your life?
Ethical fashion is still a work in progress for our current society. We are used to quick, mass produced pieces. It is hard to find a piece you love in the size you want. It is also very expensive compared to sweatshop produced fashion. It is hard to compete with big brands. Hopefully, we will get to a place where big brands care about production and support slow fashion.
What suggestions do you have for someone just starting their journey?
It is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember why you are passionate about this when things get hard. Connect with like minded people. Have someone you can talk to and run ideas by. It is not easy, but it is worth it. You got this.
Questions for Anne? Ask away in the comments below: