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Organic Cotton made in Burkina Faso

West African cotton is not irrigated but rather rain fed. Furthermore, organic cotton uses 88% less water with water retention techniques and better soil quality. The absence of chemicals also means that the water is cleaner and safer. Conventional cotton (which is NOT organic) often uses irrigation and it can take 2,700 liters of water to make a cotton t-shirt. 

Conventional cotton uses about 16% of the world’s insecticides and 7% of pesticides. Beyond the toxic exposure for farmers and their families, the seeds are pressed into vegetable oil used in food products world wide, and then the leftover meal is fed to livestock so the toxins used on cotton permeate major food production chains. No toxic chemicals are used in the growing of organic cotton. 

In 2005 the Swiss NGO, Helvetas, began implementing a program of certified organic cotton culture in Burkina Faso. Normally the centralized gin company in Burkina Faso requires cotton farmers to buy and use chemical fertilizers and insecticides for growing cotton. Helvetas was able to carve out a small niche of regions where farmers were invited to use organic cotton farming techniques. The program demonstrated that cotton could be viably produced without using the chemicals that are so abusive on the ecosystem and the health of the farmers.

However only 3% of all West African cotton is processed in West Africa and all of the organic cotton output was destined for an international market. And yet organic cotton could add considerable perceived value to local artisan made textiles while adding relatively little cost. Buying organic cotton that is also processed into textiles and finished clothing in Burkina Faso is investing in dignified livelihoods based on the local resources in one of the poorest countries on the African continent.

For the dyes, we tried to use the GOTS certified dyes but in the end, we were not able to make it work with the wax resist stamps, as it is a longer process that eats away at the wax. So we had to go with the conventional dyes that the batik artist is normally using. I think later, we may be able to develop a technique to use the better dyes, but it will take some time to develop. My opinion is that it is already a great step to use organic cotton and to insist on processing it into fabric and clothing locally in West Africa.

Heather Mackenzie-Chaplet, XOOMBA.

Organic cotton with bogolan pattern

The Text Style went on a journey to find a natural and harmless colouring method already present in West Africa.

First the hand woven, organic cotton fabric is soaked in an infusion of leaves from the n’galama tree that is rich in natural tannins and then sun dried. This leaves the cloth a muddy yellow color. Then for the charcoal back color, the fabric is soaked in fermented mud rich in iron content. The chemical reaction between the tannins of the N’galama and the iron make an indelible black color. The process must be repeated to get a deeper black.

For the rust color, the bark of the n’pekou tree is boiled and mixed with wood ash and used to dye the fabric that has been pretreated with the n’galama leaf. The white patterns are obtained by painting with a mixture of bleach, soap and lye ( a more modern method now used by most bogolan creators).

These techniques originated in Mali and have traveled across west Africa with the Bambara people. The motifs are a sort of language used by the artists ( traditionally women) to communicate within the family and community. The motif of the dots on the black fabric signify human footsteps. The motifs on the rust fabric are the dots for footsteps and arrows that signify a sense of direction or the idea of walking in the right direction.

The pieces should be hand washed in cold water with a gentle soap or dry cleaned.

Heather Mackenzie-Chaplet, XOOMBA.

African print made in Ghana

Our colourful african wax print textile is bought in and around local markets in Accra, Ghana. We carefully choose high quality cotton fabric from brands that are establishing much needed jobs in the textile industry there. Three companies are our prefered brands - Printex, Akosombo Textiles and GTP. According to our knowledge the first two are ghanaian owned where as the last one going back decades had to be financially secured by a dutch company. Fortunately keeping many of their jobs in Ghana. Where as we are not able to source the beautiful african wax print in the form of organic cotton, we can make sure to use every little piece of them. Some of our designs are made from scraps and contribute to a no waste circular production system. All of these are unique pieces, and only available in size shown on product page.

By manufacturing the beautiful textiles into clothing locally, we are adding value there instead of abroad. As the local textile industry has declined and is challenged by secondhand clothing from fast fashion leftovers, we think it is important to revive and strenghten the culture of the local creative workshops. And by doing this we are supporting a more sustainable value chain and playing our small part in creating optimism for job security on the african continent. Our artisan wax print styles are made in Accra, Ghana by our local partner Village Gate Studio owned by Bola Bhadmus. 

Recycled glass jewelry made in Ghana / Denmark

Our jewelry is made with recycled glass beads from Ghana. All beads are beautifully unique and contributing to keeping an artisan tradition alive. They are bringing a much needed income to the skilled manufacturers. The whole process is handmade using the same old techniques as generations before them.

The finished jewelry are designed and handmade by me, Lene Nortoft, in Denmark. By choosing to have this part of our product range made here, we are adding a flexibility towards keeping up with customer favourites. This is giving us the opportunity to not having a stock of jewelry ready, risking not being sold - but rather having a "Made to Order" process, where we avoid waste.

Accessories made in Burkina Faso / Paris 18. Arr.

The latest addition to our product journey are our bags, hair bands and other accessories, which are made in the 18. Arrondissement in Paris, France - famous for it´s population with various immigrant backgrounds mainly from Africa and the Middle East. While the average income here is significantly lower than in other parts of Paris, we found in the area a vibrant creative atmosphere of small textile shops, workshops and other creative studios. Our accessories are made by Godwin Isaac, a skilled young nigerian-french creative who understood our design ideas immediately - and transformed our organic fabric into what you see in our webshop.

Lene Nortoft, The Text Style