Global Mamas

These great looking summer dresses were designed in England and made in Ghana, as a result of an interesting international collaboration. The Ethical Fashion Forum teamed up with Tabeisa, to run a competition, Design4Life, to link young designers with producers in Ghana to create designs suitable for the British high street stores. The goal was to design a cotton dress in batik that would appeal to European tastes, but be produced in Ghana by Global Mamas. This is a Fair Trade umbrella organisation of 38 small businesses — mainly batik and tie-dying — that involves about 200 women. There were over 100 designs submitted and Annagret Affolderbach and Julia Smith were the winners. The two discussed their experiences at a recent session of the London College of Fashion's Green is the New Black series. They said that it was such a thrill to go to Ghana and work with the women there to develop the styles. Annagret's design (pictured left) was based on coffee beans, whilst Julia was inspired by fish scales. They spent two weeks in Ghana, observing the women working and learning a different pace and experience from these highly qualified and skilled crafts people. They had to teach them to finish the clothes to a higher level. They also had to bring over pins and scissors which were in short supply. Topshop loved the results so much that they bought up the 400 dresses which are now on sale in the store, as part of their push for more ethical fashion on the high street. The prize included a return trip to Ghana, when the two designers were able to show the women in the collective the articles and photos of the dresses in Vogue magazine and tell them about the great success. They were astonished and could hardly believe it. One of the women said, with a big smile: "Life has changed very very well".

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