Meet Tina Mbachu: international development professional, sustainability YouTuber and small business owner on a mission to highlight talented African designers.
Tina, tell us about yourself?
I am an international development professional focused on Africa and the intersection of gender equality and economic empowerment. I am passionate about social entrepreneurship that fosters the creative economy on the continent, and also builds opportunities for job creation. I am the owner of A Few Good Things, an online store with the aim to highlight talented African designers whose work has sustainable and ethical production practices at its core. I also am working on another business called Atelier MBOKA, and the focus here is on building an inclusive value chain for fashion accessories.
What is your holistic approach to sustainability and why is it important to you?
In the fashion space we often talk about sustainability in terms of the social, environmental and economic viability component. These three core tenets are great but for me as an African who is passionate about Africa’s design and production heritage, the component of cultural sustainability is also very important. So these four tenets to me form a more holistic approach to sustainability.
Your online store focuses on sustainable African designers. Who are a few of your favourites?
AFGT is new and a work in progress. The idea is to bring to the global market as many sustainable and ethical African designers as possible, making it easier for diasporans and others interested to buy Made in Africa goods. It also really is about diversifying what we see in the sustainability marketplace today. Some of my favorite designers I would have to say are:
Kente Gentlemen: despite the name they make incredible suit pieces for both men and women using locally woven textiles.
Ladunni Lambo: this is a brand I discovered recently, I am absolutely in love with their high waisted skirts and pants pieces in particular. They also work with local textile weavers.
I also love Kkerele: they make very beautiful leather goods with minimalist yet bold designs.
Do you think as consumers our consciousness and desire for sustainable practices is rising? And what are a few ways we can raise social responsibility in society?
Yes, absolutely, consumers are demanding more conscious pieces, but unfortunately I don’t think consumers are willing to pay the prices. We are so used to extremely cheap goods, and for the longest time, never questioned why these products are so cheap – along the value chain, someone’s pay was being sacrificed, if they were being paid at all. Consumers need to be more strategic in how they buy if they are looking for more conscious pieces – this means being intentional about the pieces you buy. It’s not every fashionable item that needs to be in your closet – rather plan your style, identify which pieces you will need to complete your wardrobe -i.e. to have the essential pieces, and then from there you can invest more in other items that you are interested in. Planning it this way also allows you to budget accordingly. And of course as we purchase each piece, we can raise social responsibility around us by talking about it, engaging with our friends and families and getting them to change their habits as well.
What is an approach we can all take today to start minimizing our footprint?
It is best to start local, identify local makers who are sourcing and producing locally and buy from them. Some brands also have zero carbon initiatives where they reinvest back into the environment. You can be objective about their efforts but it’s important to look at what they are doing and how they are doing it. The other thing is to really extend the lives of the pieces we buy – we shouldn’t be buying pieces that we will get tired of after a year – and then buy another, but rather our pieces need to last us a number of years. If it’s time to change then we can consider giving it to a sibling, to closet swaps, or donating it to a local charity that, for example, supports low income individuals or homeless people.