3 Kenyan brands prioritising sustainability in their business models

With the rise of slow fashion, more and more brands are jumping on the trend. Many small brands already have sustainable practices embedded in their value chain and ensure their production processes are as low waste and environmentally conscious. We spoke with 3 Kenyan brands about how they are practicing sustainability. 

From repurposing vintage curtains into stunning made-to-order garments to exclusively using hyacinth packaging and brown paper labels handmade by local artisans, the following inspiring designers strive to lower their fashion footprint in their own unique ways. Below, the participants of our Designer Accelerator hailing from Kenya -Hamaji, Rummage, KATUSH- sit with us to discuss their evolving business models and how they’re minimising impact in their creations.


Kenyan-based Katush incorporates eco-conscious packaging made from hyacinth, handmade by different artisans locally.
The brand teams up with Artisan Fashion to gather data on social and environmental factors for every order.

How has your sustainable business model evolved throughout the years?

Over the years, I began researching and finding ways of implementing new and available sustainable materials in my collections. The only things that remained constant throughout the years have been the consciousness and intent surrounding the people in my business – they’re crucial. I’ve enjoyed working with handwoven materials made by artisans, for example, and being able to interact with these artisans on a personal level. The evolution of our business model has been quite an adventure and a challenging experience both for me and for the artisans we work with. I’ve learned that some things take longer to make and require extra dedication.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face when establishing a sustainable fashion line, and how has your brand managed to overcome it?

The biggest issues have been communications and marketing. Having consistent, accurate communication around our brand and our mission was a large challenge. Staying authentic is important to me and so finding the ability, words, and tools to express our vision about the sustainable fashion brand that is Katush was very difficult at times. But now I’ve developed the confidence to communicate better, making sure I am as genuine as possible.

Inside Katush’s production centre, photographed by Louis Nderi.

Give us an example of one of your sustainable practices.

I make sure I am intentional and conscious in each step of the process, all the way until the consumer receives the item. Some of my packaging is made from hyacinth, and when possible I also incorporate brown paper that’s screen-printed, handmade by different artisans locally. I’m currently looking into labels and tags that are also conscious. I only work with local providers to ensure I’m giving back to my community. 

In terms of measuring my impact, the biggest way that I measure and control Katush’s footprint is by removing mass production from my business model. This makes it easier to keep track of the items made, the items that worked and the items that didn’t, keeping waste out of landfills.

Pieces from Katush’s latest collection.
Unfinished garments inside the studio.

How are wages for the artisans you work with calculated?

Generally, I work with Artisan Fashion here in Kenya. Artisan Fashion uses EFI’s Due Diligence Reporting System, which gathers data on social and environmental factors for every order. Typically there is an extra cost associated with my orders because my order quantities are small. Over time Katush and Artisan Fashion reached a mutual agreement on a fair price regardless of the size of our orders placed because we are working towards the same ultimate goal, which is to produce sustainable, beautiful, and accessible items.

Garments at Katush proudly feature the handwritten name of the artisan responsible for its production.


Hamaji designer Louise Sommerlatte drafts each original pattern in the brand’s small studio in Kilifi, Kenya.
The brand represents a true expression of its origins: collections are produced in Kenya by local craftspeople.

How has your sustainable business model evolved throughout the years?

Over the years, new processes have been implemented as we work towards a full circular supply chain. Hamaji started initially upcycling and then, for some time, we switched to sourcing fabrics and organic, natural fibres in India. We are now incorporating more upcycled materials into our production. Because our brand is a very small-scale business, we work with individual artisans, and we enforce a made-to-order model. In that regard, Hamaji is a slow fashion brand.

The studio in Kilifi, full of upcycled fibres and fabrics.
The team at Hamaji.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face when establishing a sustainable fashion line, and how has your brand managed to overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced has been fInding fibres and fabrics that were traceable in their sustainability. Since the brand began in Capetown and later on moved its base to Kenya, traceability in natural fibres and fabrics barely existed. It was because of that that I resorted to upcycling. I saw a lot of possibilities in working with vintage curtains and jackets.

Give us an example of how you ensure low-impact practices in your collections. 

Every part of our garments comes from a sustainable source. For our newest collection, we tried to make it as sustainable as possible. The buttons, for example, are made from used, melted-down padlocks. My future collections will be produced alongside Wildlife Works, one of the biggest conservation companies in the continent. I’m proud to collaborate with them as they have an incredible community-centred, wildlife-focused business model.

When it comes to printing, Hamaji uses the traditional art of wood-block printing, a centuries-old method that’s printed with eco-friendly dyes, sometimes done by hand. Oftentimes, we work with a women’s group in eastern Kenya that uses a locally-grown hand-loom tool.

We ensure sustainable practices throughout each step. The bags that we package our online orders in (i.e. tote bags and other small items) are made from leftover scraps by street children, and our overall packaging is made from beautiful brown recycled paper.

The centuries-old method of traditional art of wood-block printing, utilising eco-friendly dyes, is often done by hand.

What are your sustainability goals for 2022, and how will you ensure the success of your practices?

This year I will begin upscaling production and partnering with Wildlife Works, a conservation-focused company that creates jobs for citizens in the area and provides both direct and indirect benefits to communities from carbon financing through forest protection. They have incredible resources for carbon offsetting and a vast community footprint that provides a wider community with opportunities.

Working with individual artisans and providing decent work conditions is at the brand’s root.


Rummage sources all materials from Gikomba market, East Africa’s largest second-hand open-air market.
The label introduces deadstock fabric and pre-consumer waste textiles to create everyday essentials.

How are wages for the artisans you work with calculated?

Due to the nature of our bags and their particular designs, the artisans we work with are trained in-house. The older members of the team are paid based on experience, with a base that includes minimum wage along with bonuses. All of our staff are salaried, meaning they are paid a fixed amount and not per piece. 

We train our artisans from start to finish, from cutting to assembly. Since they come to us with different skills, we train them in different departments so they can work cohesively.

Inside Rummage’s warehouse, full of unique prints and fabrics sourced at Gikomba market.
Inspecting fabrics and calculating dimensions for production.

Tell us about your eco-conscious production processes and how they’ve evolved over the years.

We’ve always had a wholesome 360 approach from the beginning. Reducing waste in local second-hand markets is at the root of our low-waste production. We have more waste coming in than going out, that is why we source all of our materials from Gikomba market, Kenya’s largest second-hand open-air market. There we find used denim, leather, and other materials that we incorporate into our designs. Since items and quantities in the market vary and are not guaranteed, sometimes we purchase extra items to keep in-stock, especially if we know we will want to use it in the future.

Rummage trains its artisans from start to finish, from cutting to assembly.

What are your sustainability goals for 2022, and how will you ensure the success of your practices?

We have a big vision to make a big impact in Kenya, beginning with measuring our carbon emissions and within a few years, becoming a carbon-neutral company. I want to try to rescue as much as possible from national landfills and to create a more sustainable, circular approach to the brand. For now, saving as much as possible from landfills translates directly to lower carbon emissions. We feel very good about that.

Preparing a tote with all upcycled materials, in line with the brand’s circular, sustainable approach.