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Collage images via Instagram.

14 Ethical & Sustainable African Fashion Brands You Need To Know

These brands are doing the work to transform the fashion world's impact on the environment.

For years, the retail industry has grown exponentially without much care as to how this growth is impacting the environment. Some would argue it is one of the main perpetrators of climate change as fibers find their way into oceans and companies burn clothes so as not to discount them. More often than not the retail chain—manufacturing, sourcing, packaging and transportation—disregards its carbon footprint. Thus, the term "sustainable" serves as a buzzword that suggests the use of recyclable materials, ethical labor practices, and fair trade.

Brands in the industry, both large and small, are faced with a number of challenges, while trying to remain prominent. Where some have implemented the use of organic fabrics and ethically sourced packages as well as the education and empowerment of artisans through programs, others do not see the urgency in transforming.

Today, a number of consumers are opting for second-hand and eco-friendly clothing in an effort to fulfill their altruistic needs. In a number of African countries, unwanted and out-of-season clothes from the US and Europe find their way to merchants who stock them in bulk in markets.

The endeavors above are not cheap, but they are necessary in a world where extreme and unusual weather patterns continue to appear.

Below are the ethical and sustainable African fashion brands that are doing the work and caught our eye.

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Style
Photo by Seyni B.

First Look: Senegalese Rapper Nix & Designer Papi Present Their Sleek Capsule Collection, 'The Ñuulest'

The collaboration is hip hop meets West Africa—a fusion of the creative duo's worlds.

Last fall, when Senegalese rap pioneer Nix released his album, Excuse my Wolof 2: The Ñuulest, he hinted that a fashion collection was to accompany it. For the rapper, his multi-faceted project was aimed at using all aspects of one's identity as inspiration to create—and in collaboration with clothing brand Mwami, it's finally here.

Fifteen years post the start of his career, Nix decided it was imperative he rap in Wolof and this work built upon that. He also gathered a team of tastemakers from his home to bring the album to life both sonically and visually. Papi, the Senegalese-Mauritanian renaissance man—artist, designer and entrepreneur—served as creative director. Mwami, his contemporary clothing brand, set on "infusing art into the mundane" through the use of embroidery, high-quality fabrics and traditional design was another catalyst used to drive The Ñuulest's point home.

The Ñuulest capsule collection is the fusion of Papi and Nix's worlds. The two have known each other for 4 to 5 years. Papi has had time to get a sense of Nix's style and who he is as a person; hence, the streetwear that represents the hip hop side of Nix and a kimono that exudes Senegalese elegance.

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Travel
Photo by Audrey Lang.

Travel Diary: Audrey Lang Connects To a New Home Away from Home—Côte d'Ivoire

An OkayAfrica contributor captures her vibrant and on-the-go experience in Côte d'Ivoire's Abidjan and neighboring cities.

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, our contributor Audrey Lang shares her musings while exploring Côte d'Ivoire for the first time.

During a visit to Dakar, Senegal for the Biennale last summer, I met an advertiser and DJ named Lio. He excitedly described his impending move to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and implored I make it my next stop on the African continent. Lio spoke of an invigorating creative scene in which he would thrive and I yearned to interact with the creatives telling its story so I could do the same. With little convincing, I obliged.

My desire to travel around the African continent is aimed at being able to refute a common media narrative that is often detrimental to its creatives and locals. Luckily, we are living in times where Africans far and wide are at the helm of a change in tide. Our stories are being told the right way—raw and unapologetically. They are as diverse as they are expansive. What is manifesting is nothing short of extraordinary.

Furthermore, because I am a second generation Cameroonian-American, travel is also aimed at connecting to a home I've never had the chance to live in, yet feels very much like it is mine. I am a product of an environment in which I was consistently reminded that despite the fact I live here, I am not from here. With time, I have learned that trips such as these are critical to forging a path in a world that so often attempts to dictate how you should identify and how this identity should make you feel. More often than not, my connection with heritage drives me.

Côte d'Ivoire is a West African country with idyllic beaches, a French-colonial legacy and a people who are friendly and warm. This country is honestly a gem that's heavily slept on.

From the moment I hop off the plane, I am moved by an ease. There is an air of not taking things too seriously. The doctors who administer my yellow fever shot jokingly offer to take me to get attiéké, alloco and garba (notable local dishes). The immigration agent who stamps my passport happily speaks on her phone about what appears to be a matter of no importance to her work.

Abidjan is a refreshing mix of post-colonial France and traditional culture. It's a sprawling metropolis with people very much on the go. I caught myself smiling at the locals' take on urban attire that reminds me of America.

The images I took engaging with the local landscape of Abidjan and some neighboring cities and towns do the best job of conveying just how lively the country is—check them out below.

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Interview
Kiff No Beat. Photo: Wilfried 'Tony' Sant'Anna

Kiff No Beat, Cote d'Ivoire's Premier Rap Group, On Being the Blueprint For the Youth

Kiff No Beat are riding a wave that shows no signs of slowing down.

I walk into a studio tucked on an unpaved road in Cocody, Abidjan, and I'm greeted by a young beatmaker, Tam Sir, the female duo, Nafasi, and the multi-platinum producer behind a number of Afro-French hits, Christophe Ghenda.

What's blasting from the speakers has me silently bobbing my head. Kiff No Beat members Didi B, Elow'n, El Jay, Black K, and Joochar aren't yet present. The artists I do see are on Africa Mindset, a label headed by Didi B, the leading member of La Kiff. A couple moments pass before Black K walks in and starts listening to another track made by Christophe Ghenda. Not too far from me sits the up and coming Congolese crooner, Cevin, waiting to leave for an interview.

Universal Music Africa has flown in Ghenda to diversify the sort of music their artists are releasing and evidently churn out bangers. It's Didi B's birthday and I am told to expect some delay. A few hours of waiting go by as artists shuffle in and out of the studio and more members of Kiff No Beat trickle in.

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