What motivated you to go into this business?
Working as a teacher prompted me to set a challenge to South African schoolchildren to find commercial applications for commonly discarded consumer recyclables. I came up with a way to up-cycle used vinyl fabric for student lunch bags. In 2009, I expanded into other consumer goods, creating fashion items ranging from purses and computer cases to accessories such as wallets, keychain holders, belts and dog collars. The women’s fashion line has been enthusiastically received.
How far have your products sold?
In addition to South Africa, my ceramics have sold at Harvey Nichols, Chelsea Arts Fair and the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland. This February I was invited to participate at the Good Fashion Show held at London House during the Off London events of London Fashion Week. Here, I was one of a few African designers present, showing my up-cycled billboard bags. These experiences showed me that unique, beautifully crafted items from South Africa have their place in global fashion. It is validating to have different markets respond positively to my products, and encourages me to be increasingly innovative.
How have you kept your business going in these challenging economic times?
What we do is actually part of the solution because we take what has been thrown away and repurpose it. I believe my business keeps going because our ethos aligns to and responds to many of the challenges faced by fashion lovers who want to enjoy imaginatively crafted items, but without draining the environment in the process. This is a powerful proposition for “thinking” consumers who shop consciously.
The fashion industry is a tough one. Is there space for an operation such as yours?
In the fashion industry annual sales figures are in excess of a trillion dollars. The eco-fashion industry is still in its infancy and our buying habits have to be seriously reviewed in order to protect the people and the planet.
What other highlights have you experienced?
During the 2010 World Cup I was asked to design and sew together the 600 soccer shirts that arrived in South Africa. They were collected around the world to raise awareness of refugees by Unicef. This shirt opened Soccer City and the entire workshop was given tickets to the opening. An experience honest, working South Africans would never have had. I was also given the honour of a lifetime to host the Nobel Peace Commissioner and his wife during this exciting time in our country.
In addition to being called to participate in the Good Fashion Show in London, I was invited to become a 500 Fellow from the Ethical Fashion Forum. The purpose of this forum is to unite 500 pioneering innovators in fashion and sustainability to take the movement to the next level.
* Visit: www.ninabloom.com for more information.