The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world-leading standard for the production of organic textiles. It sets the bar high, with rigorous social and environmental criteria for each step of the supply chain – right from seed and soil, to the spun fibres and finished product. In 2020 we became South Africa’s first GOTS-certified company. An exacting and undoubtedly expensive process that involves annual auditing of each of our departments – but one which we stood behind in our pursuit of sustainable textile manufacturing.
On August 18th we were pleased to be part of the discussion around certification – as we hosted an open dialogue on our GOTS certification from our our Cape Town store on 78 Hout Street. The talk was held in connection with the 2023 Africa Textile Talks, and featured a conversation between Africa’s GOTS representative, Muktar Dodo and our designer, Lenore Schroeder – mediated by Twyg founder, Jackie May.
Timely and interesting conversations grew from the initial dialogue, as makers in the local textile and fashion industries discussed the role of organic fibres, as well as challenges to certification in their various sectors, and need for support and transparency.
Navigating the sea of ‘sustainable’ buzzwords can seem overwhelming in a world where real solutions are easily lost in a mix of clever marketing speak and greenwashing. That’s where certifications stand strong as beacons of credibility. In order to safeguard the health of our families and communities for the future, organic agriculture is essential, and although certification might involve very real and immediate cost to company, the longterm value is priceless.
Whilst we’re currently flying the GOTS flag on our own, we hope to positively impact the industry and the future of responsible design. Proving that there is a demand for organic textiles, and supporting a growing industry of innovators and change makers.
2023 Africa Textile Talks
The discussion was part of the full programme of the 2023 Africa Textile Talks, hosted by Twyg and Imiloa Collective. Organised between South Africa and Mauritius, the annual event offers a full day of inspiring talks and panel discussions focussed on, and celebrating, sustainability, environmentalism and circular solutions in the fashion, craft and textile industries. The talks offer a platform to spotlight textile innovation, whilst creating a space to address issues like the need for credible supply chains, industry support systems and intra-continental collaboration, the importance of circularity and transparency within the industry, and the role of certifications. The day provided a refreshing opportunity to network and to explore responsive solutions, as we look to reimagine Africa’s fashion and textile landscape amidst globally relevant issues.
2023’s line-up began with a presentation by Kenyan textile artist and creative director Sunny Dolat, who took the audience on a narrative journey of textiles from around the continent with this keynote talk entitled ‘African Textiles – Vessels of Memory, Identities and Heritage.’ Referencing iconic African cloths such as the east African Kanga, Malian Bogolan, the Kuba Cloth of the DRC, and the Ghanian Kente Cloth, he evoked the long and rich history of the textile making on the continent, recalling the power of cloth to communicate, commemorate and preserve intangible heritage. Amidst Sunny’s impressive body of work, his recent project for Documenta Fifteen, entitled Return to Sender, drew attention to the dumping of textile waste in Africa by the Global North. In a thought-provoking spotlight of the west’s the gross overconsumption and rampant appetite for textiles, Sunny redirected 144 bales of clothing waste from African countries back to Europe.
Following was a panel discussion, moderated by Esethu Cenga of Rewoven Africa, between Krelyne Andrew from Sappi, Noreen Mwancha from Rethread Africa, Deon Saayman of Cape Wools SA and Carolina Li of DDI Mauritius. Noreen’s work as the co-founder of Rethread, a Kenyan biomaterial startup using agricultural waste for textile production, drew particular interest – with the company’s recent development of a fabric produced from pineapple fibre, a responsive textile innovation that sits alongside the need to improve and support local livelihoods, whilst improving land productivity and maintaining biodiversity. Krelyne’s talk highlighted Sappi’s release of an innovative new product – a renewable dissolving pulp product that can be used in a multiple sectors, including the textile industry.
Designer and founder of hand-woven mohair textile brand, Frances V.H Mohair, Frances van Hasselt, shared her design process and love for South Africa’s most prized natural fibre in an evocative talk entitled ‘Farm to Fibre: A Story from a Karoo Mohair Studio.’ Frances took us on a vivid and visceral journey through the rich and robust landscape of the semi-arid Karoo – where her studio is based and where she finds unending inspiration.
Lukhanyo Mdingi then presented a beautiful short film about the provenance of their cotton fabrics in Burkina Faso, followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Bielle Bellingham, on how design influences the future textile economy. On the panel were maker and textile artist, Tinyiko Makwakwa, Natalie Green of knitwear brand, INKE, and Merchants on Long fashion buyer, Sumendra Chetty. Conversations arose around the role of design – and the need to harness its power to rethink, reimagine and improve the world we live in. To design deliberately, to change the way we shop, and the importance of designing not only new products, but new behaviours.
Yvette Tetteh of the Or Foundation was in person, joined by her colleagues Sammy Oteng and Kennie MacCarthy, who streamed in from Accra, Ghana. Their powerful presentation discussed the impact of waste colonialism, bringing into stark reality the effects of fast fashion, mass production and hyper consumption, and the toll it is taking on Ghana and the Global South. The talk spotlighted Accra’s Kantamanto market, one of the world’s largest secondhand clothing markets, where approximately 15 million garments arrive weekly – of which only a small percentage are suitable for resale, with about 40% ending up as waste.
In an inspiring feat, Yvette recently swam 450km of the Ghana’s Volta River, from Buipe to Ada, in a drive to raise awareness around the impact of textile pollution on the quality of water. Serving as part of her broader initiative known as the Agbetsi Living Water Swim, Yvette collected water and air samples, to research the presence of microfibres in the river, and call to light the effects of decades of exploitative global trade.
The day rounded off with a presentation from Tina Smith of the District Six Museum, whose talk brought to life the power of cloth as a tool to both document and heal. Head of Exhibitions at the museum, Tina’s discussion entitled ‘Memory and Cloth’ showcased the use of textiles as part of the museum’s methodology and aesthetic framework, becoming vessels to mediate the past and navigate identity. Tina was accompanied by Patience Watlington, Jean Pretorius and Sylvia Ganget, who presented their personal stories of being involved with the museum’s ‘Huis Kombuis Memory Project’ – a project that mobilises creativity to access memory and lend a reflexive lens to issues of loss, through the revival of home-based crafts like embroidery, sewing and appliqué work.
A big thank you to Twyg and the Africa Textile Talks for creating a platform to engage in forward-thinking dialogue, and to collaborate and connect. It felt both timely and refreshing to have had an open space to discuss, network and reimagine the future. We look forward to 2024’s talks!
All images kindly provided by Rizqah Dollie @thedolliehouse