M I S S I O N
To improve the lives of the locals living in Kasigau area in south-western Kenya by providing them with skills and empowering them to find a creative and environmentally sustainable way to make a living.
A B O U T U S
The African Shirt Company is the brainchild of Joan Hughes and Lindi Campbell Clause - two friends who both studied Art & Design at University and share a passion for conservation & sustainability. After Joan’s visit to see Lindi in the Mt Kasigau area in South-Western Kenya in the Summer of 2009, she was moved by the daily hardships faced by the people there - and it sparked the idea between the both of them to create a company that would help lift the local community out of poverty by increasing sustainable living and giving people access to international trade whilst keeping the uplifting spirit in the village alive and true.
The pair came up with the idea of teaching the locals how to sew. They decided to set up their first workshop in the village of Kiteghe, about 200 kilometres from Mombasa, near Mt Kasigau. The people of this area have little or no means of income given that the region suffers from year-round extreme drought. Families rely largely on traditional farming practices, which are becoming more and more unrealistic as the climate changes and the ecosystem degrades. Local farmers continue to clear forested areas in order to produce charcoal to sell as firewood or to build their own homes. However, this practise leaves the soil unsuitable for farming, and when the rains do come, the topsoil gets washed away, leaving the earth barren with little chance of recovery. Given that the community lacks environmental education and have little understanding of the importance of trees in soil preservation and water catchment, day-to-day survival is itself a difficult task and investment for the future a pipe-dream.
This is where we come in…
The African Shirt Company teaches local people how to pattern, cut and sew. This gives them new skills and provides them with an alternative way to create an income. Additionally, by providing a different revenue stream, the locals now do not need to cut down the trees in the area as a means for survival, meaning that the fragile ecosystem in the region can be conserved and protected.
To date, we have trained and employed 4 local mothers from Kiteghe to use manual sewing machines to produce the colourful African kanga shirts we sell. As our project grows, we hope to employ more people and expand to surrounding villages, and make a greater positive impact in the region.
The African Shirt Company also supports a reforestation project in conjunction with the Malewa Trust, which works to promote environmental education and sustainable land management around the Kiteghe area. Each shirt that we sell means money will be given back to the community to buy small seedlings from the local children, which are nurtured and eventually planted around the mountain to restore the degraded land.
O U R P R O D U C T
We believe life is too short to wear boring clothes.
“Our aim is to make fun easy products that have a positive impact.”
The idea is simple. We wanted to create an easy standard shirt using beautiful fabric, which also makes a positive impact to the people of Africa. So the The African Shirt Company was born.
What makes these shirts unique is the fact that every shirt is hand made on a foot pedalled machine by local women in Kiteghe Village. Currently our shirts are made without electricity, without running water and we iron them with a charcoal iron.
And of course, it is the beautiful, colourful designs which make our shirts one-of-a-kind. The kanga is a traditional East African fabric which dates back to the 19th century.
The kangas used by The Africa Shirt Company are usually in short supply, meaning that once the fabric is used up, there will be no more made from the same pattern. This means that each shirt is truly a unique work of art.
T H E T E A M
LINDI - African Shirt Company Co-Founder
Lindi is a 3rd generation Kenyan and with Kenya still her home. Growing up and attending primary school in Kenya, Lindi then went to Dublin for secondary school and college. After graduating from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin in 2010 with a BA Hons degree in Fine Print, Lindi worked aboard a yacht traveling the world before settling back in Kenya in 2012. On the return home she got involved in numerous conservation projects and is currently the interim factory manager for SOKO Kenya, a clothing production workshop for the export market that aims to create sustainable, fair employment and offer training and skills to some of Kenya’s poorest people.
Lindi is responsible for all production and logistics in Kenya. Her passion for the local community and conservation lends itself to the successful management of the Village Workshops set up by the African Shirt Company.
JOAN - African Shirt Company Co-Founder
Joan was born and raised on the West Coast of Ireland. Having always been a visual person with a love for design, she attended the Manchester Metropolitan University where she graduated with a 1st class Hons degree in Fashion Design and Technology. After working as a garment technician and a product designer in Ireland she moved to London to work as a designer for PUMA. She has now moved to Mallorca where she works in the Camper headquarters as manager of Women's shoes.
CLARA - African Shirt Company Workshop Manager
Clara was born in Rukanga Village in Kenya and grew up with her mother, and siblings while her father had to move to the city to work. She attended Rukanga Primary School but didn’t get the opportunity to attend secondary school. At the age of 16 she went to Gilgil Polytechnic and studied Tailoring and Dressmaking for 2 years. After that, she worked part-time as a cleaner, but she always kept up with her dress making skills by using the sewing machines of her employers to make uniforms and personal clothing for customers in Taita Hills. After doing this for 4 years, she moved to Kitege to marry her husband Newton in 2006 at the age of 22. They now have 2 children, Henry and Happy.
By working with The African Shirt Company, Clara has been able to fulfill her dream of becoming a successful seamstress as well as stepping up to the challenge of training other ladies from the village. Making clothes is her passion and she hopes to own her own tailoring shop one day.