#CNILux Simone Cipriani: Uniting African Hands
“Afro Haute Couture”? Really? Simone Cipriani stunned delegates at the fifth Condé Nast International conference in South Africa with his commitment, his passion, and his belief in bringing work – via the fashion industry – to “the poorest of the poor”.
Involving international designers including Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney, and ordering 300,000 tote bags for the Coop retail chain in his native Italy, the champion of handwork is making his mark across Africa and beyond.
Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India and Indonesia have all profited from the Ethical Fashion Initiative, part of the United Nations Industrial Development programme and a joint agency of the UN and the WTO.
The object of Cipriani’s work is to replace “pity purchasing” – when visitors to a country might buy things just to be kind to their makers – with fine workmanship at a high level.
It’s about “empowering women by generating work and making them into micro entrepreneurs,” says Cipriani, who concentrates on city slums and rural areas in countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Kenya.
“We did it by investing in people,” said the entrepreneur, who listed success stories such as the continuing support of Westwood over 16 consecutive fashion seasons; the development of hand-woven, dyed and printed cotton in Mali; and a new collaboration with Ugandan refugees, offering work on the Ivory Coast.
Human hands creating high-quality clothing is a powerful way to help people across the African continent – and beyond.