David Thomas

Upcycled Fashion brand One Memoir releases it’s first collection with the help of Caribbean designers

Sustainable fashion continues to make strides in the industry with many consumers daring to ask who made my clothes in pursuit of more transparency in line with the recent Fashion Revolution campaign.  As consumers are getting more aware of the detrimental effects of fast fashion on the environment and people, such as an increase in textile waste and poor working conditions, an increasing number of consumers are rightfully demanding innovative ways to reduce the carbon footprint. One Memoir, a fashion start-up based in Edinburgh is addressing both the desire for greater transparency and sustainability. Founded by two University of Edinburgh graduates, Justus and Shelly, One Memoir is in the business of upcycling preloved women’s jackets and coats. Their first collection entitled, ‘REVYBE – The Memoir’ was designed and upcycled by Caribbean designers from Trinidad and Tobago.

For many who wonder, upcycling is the activity of converting old or discarded materials into something entirely new to make them once again valuable. One Memoir decided to upcycle its preloved jackets, sourced from Scotland with the help of four emerging designers to reduce waste and offer a sustainable design opportunity and awareness to these designers. But why Trinidad and Tobago?

Well, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Trinidad and Tobago is the second largest producer of carbon emissions in the world, as shown below. Fashion is very much seen as disposable: goods which are thrown away if they no longer fit or meet the current fashion trends. As a result, a lot of clothes are disposed of, filling landfills and leaving a mark on the beautiful Caribbean Island. The concept of upcycling was not widely known nor utilised in mainstream fashion in Trinidad and Tobago before One Memoir’s introduction to the island.

Moreover, sustainable fashion has also not attained a stronghold in the region and many designers remained uninformed of ways in which they can utilise their scrap material. With their cofounder, being a native of the Caribbean island they opted to have their first collection designed there. Most designers from the twin island discarded their scrap material but now, One Memoir challenged them to see value in their waste and use it as accentuating materials for the final one-of-a-kind pieces. It was an opportunity to inform the designers and by extension the island about sustainable fashion and, provide the designers with an international opportunity to have their finished designs retailed in the UK market. The process benefitted all parties and can be seen from the final One Memoir video excerpt released by the brand documenting their time in Trinidad and Tobago.

Conducting any business activity across geographic borders comes with its own hurdles and the Co-Founders were quick to highlight theirs. Along their journey, Justus was based in Scotland and Shelly in Trinidad and Tobago, they experienced time differences to logistical hurdles and the great task of filling knowledge gaps. The task was not easy but they firmly believed in their vision of offering a truly unique and sustainable fashion collection and ultimately they were able to overcome all of these obstacles to make their dream of One Memoir come alive.

In the space of 6 months their collection of 15 exclusive upcycled women’s jackets and coats were completed and their featured designers all thoroughly enjoyed the process. One designer, Nwannia, even planned to incorporate upcycling into her own design process in the future.  This highlights how One Memoir not only created an opportunity to reduce waste in the burdened Island, but also to support the emerging creative designers who are looking for an opportunity to join the global fashion stage.

Their journey and vision to tackle the detrimental carbon footprint of the current fast fashion industry is truly impressive. Brands that put sustainable fashion and knowledge transfer at the forefront should be recognized and we recognise One Memoir for their bold and sustainable efforts in the Caribbean.

Cofounders Shelly and Justus

Cofounders Shelly and Justus

If you’d like to view their exclusive collection called ‘Revybe – The Memoir ‘please visit their website www.onememoir.com

They can also be followed on all social media channels using the handle one memoir.


Fashion Africa Guide Conference 2016

The 'Afri-Present' panel

The 'Afri-Present' panel

Last week Danaqa attended the Fashion Africa Guide conference, hosted by FAG founder Jacqueline Shaw.   As well as the annual conference, FAG also offer online Fashion Africa Business workshops, a Fashion Africa Trade Expo and Fashion Africa Sourcing trips that are launching in 2017.  Jacqueline is also the author of ‘Fashion Africa’ showcasing over 45 of Africa’s well-known fashion designers and companies.

Jacqueline Shaw's book

Jacqueline Shaw's book

“The ethical considerations behind the fashion industry in Africa right now are really its biggest strength” –Claire Lynch

The day provided a fascinating insight into current African fashion businesses and best-model practices.  Discussing the textile and leather industry in Ethiopia we learnt from the company, Responsify, that the Ethiopian government are implementing a ban on the export of raw materials in order to focus on value added export as well as banning the second hand clothing industry. By prioritising the textile and leather industry, 200,000 Ethiopians can be employed each year due to the growing industry.  Developing the industry from scratch provides the opportunity to implement sustainable production practices and ethical working conditions, creating the possibility to make a positive change.

Mantis World, based in Arusha Tanzania, are another company paving the way for ethical and sustainable manufacturing, with a factory producing blank apparel for the printed market.  As well as achieving various industry certifications such as GOTS and SAI they are focused on women’s empowerment through the creation of garment industry jobs that do not require educational qualifications or previous work experience. 

Information on organic cotton from the Mantis World website

Information on organic cotton from the Mantis World website

Mark Stephenson from Sandstorm Kenya presented a very inspiring story of his brand’s evolution, from a ‘safari-style’ product aimed at expats and the export market to a ‘Kenya’s first choice for timeless and functional bags,’ achieving $1 million in sales in the last 12 months.  The brand now presents a heritage story instead of a lifestyle story, with nearly 100% of the bag being manufactured in their Nairobi based factory, for example most of the hardware for the bags is cast from recycled brass by local craftsmen.  They have also reinvented their retail concept to accommodate for the sophisticated Kenyan consumer market. 

Sandstorm Kenya on Instagram

Sandstorm Kenya on Instagram

“You’re not going to help, you’re going to learn and collaborate.” – Simon Ferrigno

Other impactful points made throughout the day were the need for cultural understanding of who you are working with and the value of skills already present, as well as those that need to be developed.  Manufacturing focus should be on developing skills as an alternative to keeping the skills set low and simply producing low-cost goods, which echoes the need for value-added export products.

It was a truly inspiring and encouraging day to hear positive stories of responsible manufacturing, local creativity and business innovation from such a rich and diverse continent.  Thank you Fashion Africa Guide!

Outcome Statement – Global Landscapes Forum: The Investment Case 2016

Following on from Danaqa's facilitation of the Global Landscapes Forum in June, the recently released statement summarises the day's outcomes.

These were their key messages:

New business models, financial instruments and regulations need to come in at different scales and provide support at different stages and over different timeframes.
Technology is needed to make sustainability simpler and cost effective.
Risks have to be mitigated and trust built – for investors and their customers
Access to good quality data and using it is essential.
We need to start communicating alternative value propositions, collaborating across sectors and value chains.
— http://www.landscapes.org/publication/glf-london-2016-outcome-statement/

The full report can be read here.

RIP Bunny Manning - the man who taught me value

On the 11th of May it is the funeral of my Father in Law. It is a sad day.

“Bunny” provided me with one of the most important lessons of my life.  He was born, raised and now buried in Barbados. The images that you have of Barbados are probably a little different to mine. My imagery is of “liming”, cold banks and family.

When I married Nadia, I made a ridiculous 45 minute long wedding speech. It involved me breaking down in tears 7 times about how lucky I was.  Thinking back on the speech, I made a wedding speech about my father in law.

The theme of the speech was Social Capital.  When I met Nadia I had just finished a physics degree and a stint working in a bank.  I was cynical and practical. Nadia and I fought about things like “Social Capital” – those soft things couldn’t mean anything could they.  The idea that I can retain value by having friends. By doing favours. By being nice.

Bunny Manning had more Social Capital saved up than any man I had ever met.  He changed my thinking, and as a result the direction of everything that I have done since.  For Bunny, nothing was too much for anyone.  He was not a business man, he would take on crazy extra costs going the extra mile for his customers. He never charged more.  If someone needed a ride, a job done, a kind word, any favour, Bunny would do it. Religiously. 

My wedding was paid for by Social Capital.  Good friends hosted our reception. A friend made the cake. A friend supplied the beer. A friend took the photos. A friend married us. A friend drove us. Friends performed. A friend was the DJ. A friend made my wife’s dress. 

For a cynic, this was the proof I needed that social capital was real. One man taught me that.

Danaqa is a business built on the idea that there is value in the story and the social value of what we do. Thank you Bunny, you were absolutely unique. 

You will be missed.

On being social

Note: to be 100% transparent, I am not sure why I wanted to write this blog, or even that I agree with it. 

Some Background

Some of the Danaqa ID consultancy work that we do that we enjoy the most is facilitating meetings and processes.  It is something that we enjoy because enabling good conversation and learning is… good.  The key things that we try to remember whilst doing this is to create an environment where everyone is comfortable communicating.  This can be a difficult process that normally involves icebreakers, fun games and a lot of effort to make sure that no one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable to speak up. The key is to provide all participants of a meeting or process with confidence.

When talking to participants about this at a recent workshop, the ability of “young people” to communicate came up.  The participants talked about how it was unnatural that groups of teenagers could sit in a car together texting each other. That this is awful communication.

My Theory: Young people are actually good communicators. Or at least as good we were.

My guess would be that old people have bemoaned young people’s poor communication skills for a long time.  Our grandparents probably bemoaned our parents “constant speaking over telephones”. Telegrams almost certainly ruined the romance of the written letter.  The complaint about young people today is that they are always on their mobiles texting, whatsapping each other, not really communicating.

It strikes me that young people spend infinitely more time communicating with each other than I ever did with my friends.  It is a different form of communication, but it is still valid.  It is also a form of communication that allows people who may be shy or reserved to shine.  There is a phenomena of being “online funny”. The idea of people being boring in person and fun in their social media persona.  This is seen as being illegitimate. Presumably there have always been these types of people.  People who have a great sense of humour, but lack the confidence to speak up. I would guess that in the past the funniest of these people became authors, columists or humourists. All of those people were not always the most gregarious and outgoing people “in real life”.  Now, everyone has the chance to be “online funny”. 

I don’t think young people are worse at communicating than in the past. Sometimes you meet a 14 year old and they are a bit awkward, struggle to make eye contact and give short answers to open questions. I think this is probably how a lot of 14 year olds have always been.  The fact that the same 14 year old can take time to be funny, open and humorous over a safer online environment is good. This safe space (safe from the perspective of the user) may even help to build confidence, which in my experience is how you create better “real” communication.

What do you think?