African Voices Changemakers explores sustainable fashion


African Voices Changemakers, CNN International meets Ria Sejpal, a Kenyan fashion designer using waste textiles and material to create sustainable clothes and accessories.

Sejpal started designing as a child when she would deconstruct and reinvent her own clothes from the wardrobe. She describes how this started,

“Growing up in Kenya, we didn’t have a lot of shopping opportunities. So, I would take apart all my clothes. I just didn’t think it made sense to throw away anything. So, I guess that was the first time I engaged in up-cycling.”

At university Sejpal studied sociology, choosing to focus her coursework on labour practices in the fashion industry. She talks about how this investigation inspired her current line of work,

“I asked whether (design houses and factories) think you can treat people really well and be good to the environment in the fashion industry and still make a profit. And every single one of them said no. I decided to change the narrative and do it myself.”

In 2017 Sejpal launched her environmentally and socially conscious fashion label – Lilabare. The brand uses the fashion industry to waste textiles to make its garments. Sejpal explains how these materials are collated,

“Whenever a unit creates textiles for a designer, there is always that excess that would otherwise go into landfills. So, we actually procure that and that is when my design process starts.”

The company prioritizes sustainability throughout its creation process. As well as using waste material from fashion houses, Lilabare also up-cycles metal from old pipes and padlocks to create buttons and accessories. Sejpal tells host Arit Okpo about the use of local products to reduce the brand’s environmental impact,

“We’re really working with the organic natural resources that are indigenous to the country and support local farmers.”

The program follows Sejpal as she prepares for an event launching her new collection. The event also features four other local brands introducing their clothing lines. Sejpal talks about this expanding market,

“People are taking pride in buying Kenyan brands and African brands and knowing the stories behind it.”

Lilabare encourages not only sustainable fashion but also body positivity. Sejpal sums up her brand’s message,

“Whenever someone wears a Lilabare piece, I want them to feel good about who they are and the skin that they are in, to feel completely liberated. And when they are making that choice to buy the Lilabare piece, they are knowing that they are making a significant impact that is positive on the environment and the community that made the pieces.”

‘African Voices Changemakers’ airs on Friday 25th October at 0930 SAST on CNN International

The show also airs at the following times:

Saturday 26th October at 0030 SAST, 1230 SAST and 1630 SAST

Sunday 27th October at 0500 SAST, 0930 SAST and 2000 SAST

Monday 28th October at 0530 SAST

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