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Lilabare is a Kenyan clothing brand that uses recycled & handcrafted materials to create versatile designs for the mindful individual. Inspired by the heritage from which our fabric is crafted, Lilabare brings traditions of the ancient worlds into today’s conversations of inclusivity, art, gender and body image through its designs… with our speciality being highly adjustable and comfortable clothing. The styles are designed to be worn throughout the day and year, regardless of season or occasion.

The clothes are an ode to fluidity, creating pieces that endure the ups and downs of life. Style & timelessness are key to making things that last through generations, making designs that are inherently sustainable for the wearer as well as the makers. Made for those who appreciate the eccentricities of life, Lilabare brings a modern nostalgic perspective to the table and allows each individual to adapt their piece to their needs.

 

 

Launched in 2017, we have recycled over 1 million litres of water-worth’s of cotton. Lilabare works with six different artisanal groups, refugee craftspeople & craft heritage families as well as other cottage industry craftspeople that make up our supply chain of recycled and handcrafted textiles. Our team has more than doubled since the label was formed, and each of our valued team members earns more than double the local industry wages for their specific niches. We conduct workshops with artisanal groups particularly on sustainable practices, our most recent one being pioneering the first scaled plant dye fabric production on the continent.

 

MATERIALS

 

At Lilabare, we strive to produce quality clothing ensuring materials used are compatible with both the environment and your health. We source for natural materials that are both comfortable to wear and long lasting so they can transcend generations. Our primary sources of material are mainly from small scale artisans that weave natural fibres, while actively supporting traditional handcraft and recycling of “off cuts” which many may consider waste material.

 

COMPOSITION & ORIGINS

Our journey to finding the best ecofriendly materials with a story have taken us across East Africa & India so far. All our fibres are natural and compostable.

 

HANDCRAFT

Handcraft is a core component of Lilabare. Each design contains history, culture, context and meaning embedded in every inch. It is a slow & long journey, that is only enriching. The way we see it, there is no value in mass produced & pollutant fashion items. Ultimately, craft is a valuable piece of human creation that should be celebrated and rewarded. We believe that the value of a fashion piece is the story & heritage behind it. Thus, we make products that last and can be passed down through generations as heirlooms, making it more sustainable and better value for money than low cost, cheap designed mass produced textiles.

Our previous collection included Africa's first scaled natural dyed fashion range, using local & indigenous plants. This type of dyeing is environmentally friendly and maximises the potential of what most consider as waste. This approach was done in collaboration with Refushe, a group of women refugees turned artisans. This led to the creation of the first scaled plant-dyeing project in East Africa. You can read more about the project here. 

In our current collection, Kupona, we use local indigenous plant remains to hand dye 20% of the pieces.

We are also exploring traditional printing processes such as batik, bandhani, shibori dyeing. The Kupona Collection celebrates hand block printing; a process of using wood carved blocks to make a repeat pattern. These processes are all time intensive, but well worth it. This is also why our printed pieces are small-batch production based.

All the trims & details that are made from natural materials; coconut shells, handmade brass beads, which is often recycled from scrap metals. We make best use of local materials given they are in abundance in Kenya and the rest of Africa. We source these materials from our networks in African markets across the continent as well as from artisans who specialize in brass making. These little details can be found on each Lilabare garment as a signature homage to African art.

 

handwoven natural organic ethical sustainable handcraft artisanal luxury fashion brand kenya african fashion designer lilabare

MAKUTI JACKET

RAIN-FED COTTON GROWN IN EAST AFRICA

HANDWOVEN FRINGE

NATURALLY DYED WITH INDIGENOUS PLANTS

 

RECYCLING

It started with a few Kenyan suppliers as well as a three generational, women-owned manufacturing unit based in India that works with various artisans to create natural and heritage handcrafted fabric. So far we have upcycled over 1 million litres of water, that was used to grow the cotton in our zero waste fashion pieces. Where most see textiles destined for landfill, we see an opportunity to re-create & upcycle. Due to existing baseline market requirements for commodity supplies, the clothing industry always creates 110% of the fabric required; the extra 10% produced to cater for any mistakes made. In the majority of production runs, the excess is never used and is left unaccounted for. This led to the birth of our first clothing line collection, “The Awakening”.

As of January 2020, we embarked on taking our first solid steps towards a more localised supply chain;

 

  • We currently partner with local Kenyan weavers, who work with rain-fed organic cotton from Uganda and weave it locally. Cotton is a resource heavy product to grow due to the volume of water required, but rain-fed fibres rely on our natural eco-system and are therefore better for the environment.

 

  • Our Lounge range comes entirely from the East African region, using predominantly Cotton Made in Africa cotton. This initiative supports the rights of East African farmers by ensuring fair wages and production of certified, rain fed cotton.

 

  • Additionally, we diversified our supply chain by sourcing materials from the second-hand industry in Kenya. A lot of countries including the US, Germany, & the UK donate their clothes to the African continent. Often times our markets are flooded with a wide range of garments; some recyclable and some not. Often times the second hand market clothes are sold for profit by local vendors. Whilst we love a good vintage find, a lot of these garments actually end up in landfill if the item wasn’t sold (or if a garment is stained / irreparable). As a response, we have partnered with Africa Collect Textiles and managed to repurpose 50 pairs of jeans and create our own textile. Launching December 2020 ;)

PEOPLE

Our small team is based in the Lilabare Cottage in Nairobi, Kenya. Here, we produce in small batches, from dyeing to sewing, beading & finishing. We ensure our employees receive a good living wage by paying our double the highest local average clothing industry income standard in Kenya. Additionally, our employees get transport allowance, free meals and healthcare benefits.

Our working space corresponds with our love of nature and is situated in a garden setting that ensures the employees can enjoy their environment while working. This allows us to connect to nature, ensure they have space to move by avoiding congestion and feel more inspired to do our best. Our open door policy begins on 30th October 2020.

Once employed, each member of the atelier undertakes training for a term of up to one and a half years during working hours at Lilabare, during which they are paid their full salary. We allow them to work on what they can handle at each stage while progressing in their careers based on what they show great strength in.

The team is also trained on global quality standards to understand the different variations in clothing according to each country. They are also coached to understand the need for different processes such as showrooms and catwalks. This helps expose them to a more global, well rounded view of the industry outside of the local scene they are accustomed to. Our current team have produced & showed collections at both Coterie FW19 in NYC & Paris Fashion Week: African Designer Showroom SS20.

 

ARTISANAL PARTNERSHIPS

Lilabare also externally subcontracts small scale artisans and artisan groups who work on fabrication and textiles, dyeing, brass designs and finishing. This ensures another market segment gets a consistent income and wider learning experience. Moving forward, we aim to slowly and consistently increase the value and bulk of the orders to sub-contractors so they are also able to grow alongside us in a sustainable, distributed manufacturing framework.

It is a core component for us that we grow with our valued artisans who work independently as well. We have long term partnerships with a majority of those groups we started with in 2017.

COLLABORATIONS

Here are the wonderful artisans and artisan groups we have the pleasure to collaborate with:

Africa Collect Textiles

The second hand industry is vast and creates multiple “informal” jobs for Kenyan youth. In an industry sector in which supply always outweighs the demand, there is further landfill waste. This presents further challenges as synthetic materials cannot be recycled and damaged / unwanted clothing are deemed refuse. We have partnered with Africa collect textiles in order to improve recycling and repurposing of denim, reducing the landfill load. To date we have salvaged 50 pairs of jeans in order to create a wonderful edit that we cannot wait for you to see.

https://africacollecttextiles.com/

Refushe

Refushe is a one of a kind community of women refugees-turned-artisans that encourages learning, growth and leadership skills. We collaborated with the women artisans through a workshop and training programme, the first of these projects using tea as a natural dye in a shibori dyeing technique that created a 100% natural & unique print for the Spring/Summer 2020 season. This was the first scaled plant-dyeing project in East Africa

https://www.refushe.org/

 

ETHOS

 

The sustainability of our materials and the ethical way we treat our people drives the way we go about our production, supply chain, sourcing and work. It is an influential component on our designs and makes Lilabare what it is today. We ensure we do not limit it to the internal way we run things but ensure it’s a value added component to pass it onto our community as well. “How” you ask? We ensure we break down the perceived notions that society has ingrained into the way we dress. From being more size inclusive to creating more gender fluid wear and ensuring that we show you how our clothing looks like on real bodies

Size inclusive

All of our pieces are made to be durable, as we create products to be more size inclusive and adjustable, allowing for a weight loss or gain of a minimum of 15 pounds (about 1 dress size). Our signature style, the kimono, is presented in a multitude of variations, each one designed to fit every body uniquely yet perfectly. Our aim is to ensure you are liberated from conforming to the sizes labelled on the clothing and to enjoy what you are wearing.

Gender fluidity

Your body, your choice. At Lilabare we like to play across the spectrum of gender in a non-binary manner. We seek to break the social constructs that tell us that clothes are gendered. This is a safe space we created for you to explore your individuality judgement free. Thus, we do not put any gender labels on our clothing and never will!

Normalizing normal bodies

We allow our models to shine in their unique forms by discouraging touching up and photoshopping our imagery. On principle, we do not photoshop our models or touch them up in any way. Our clothing is created to be loved and owned by everyone! If you’d like to model for any of our collections, slide into our DM’s @lilabare ;) . We accept & appreciate models of all shapes, sizes, skin tones and abilities.

 

COLLECTIONS

 

TRANSEASONAL THREADS

 

Our clothing is designed to be worn throughout the seasons; come rain, shine or anything in between. The pieces are made to be as versatile and comfortable as possible for anywhere you’d like to wear it to. You can dress it down for yoga or dress it up for a party. You can layer up in our warm jerseys in chilly Limuru or wear our lightweight cottons down in sunny Diani.

Each collection we make is from a different point of inspiration only. Wear your Lilabare however and whenever.

Small batch production

Our policy is and has always been small batch production. This creates an appreciation for handcrafted products as they take a long time to create due to their labour intensiveness as well as the finiteness of recycled material. This ensures that we create durable, high quality garments and that greater attention is given to each piece being made. In turn this also promotes better conservation of natural resources often exploited by mass production of clothing.

 

ABOUT THE DESIGNER

 

Ria has lived in Kenya most of her life; home is the most inspiring place for the designer. Having studied the “ethical” business model aspect of the brand at university in the UK, she is a self-taught designer who believes that this is her artform and an expression of her individual vision. Having spent time understanding craft across the East African region, she ventured to India to learn more about artisanal thriving groups so as to apply such models to local industry. Continuously working with artisans and providing groups with consistent income is just as much a passion for her as designing clothing.

 

Did we miss any info? We’d love to hear your questions and will answer them openly.

 

" we don't inherit our land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children "

These words, when spoken to me, are what made me decide to start Lilabare.

I hope you enjoy my creations.

Love,

Ria.