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Image / Editorial

African Shirt Company

09th Jun 2014

The African fashion social enterprise with an Irish twist that’s been picked up by Grazia and The Guardian?

Forget the perfect white shirt. You want something bold and bright that looks like it hailed as far from the High Street as one can get. This is where the Kenya-based African Shirt Company comes in and also where you hypothetically write us a thank you note for adding another website to the favourites tab. We’re nothing if not procrastination enablers. However, internet shopping guilt can go bother somewhere else because the African Shirt Company is ethical and a fully fledged social enterprise that helps the local community of Kiteghe, where the workshop of the company is located.

These 100% cotton, handmade shirts are the technicolour brainchild of founders Joan Hughes and Lindi Campbell Clause. Campbell Clause is Kenyan and grew up among the beautiful landscape. She came to Dublin to study art and design and made friends with Hughes, who is Irish and studied fashion design in both Limerick Institute of Technology and the Manchester Metropolitan Museum. Hughes visited Campbell in Kenya in 2009 and was moved by the drought-caused deprivation she saw there, but also by the possibility for creativity. The two young women decided that they would combine their respective passions of fashion and conservation to make something that would lead to job creation and an improved standard of living for the area. Some profits go towards planting seeds around Kiteghe, in the hope that trees and plants will prosper in a land farmers had previously stripped in a bid to earn money. A workshop was secured and local women were taught to design and cut patterns and then sew.

Today the African Shirt Company is one of the most exciting names in the ethical fashion space with features in Grazia and The Guardian lending these so-called Kanga prints even more of a street thrill. We love the earthy tones amid the bright primaries and the plentiful patterns have us struggling to choose a favourite. Another ticking the box element has to be the one-of-a-kind vibe. Once a pattern runs out it is retired, so if you see something you like get in there early. In the meantime keep an eye on their nifty and regular Instagram.

Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun