Kenyan Cowboy Shirts are Recycled

kila-kitu shirts from kenya photo

Kijiti image from kila kitu

Kila Kitu is swahili for "everything" and it's the name of a new company that makes cowboy shirts out of old clothes from Kenya's markets. Started by a Canadian, Bart Sullivan, a former development worker who came back to Kenya for a visit and wanted to stay. His favourite cowboy shirt was dirty, he asked a tailor to copy it and so begins a story.

He and his tailor comb the depths of Nairobi's sprawling second hand clothing markets to find the best patterns and fabrics. They reuse these to make a very cool range of cowboy shirts, each with a different name and provenance. The shirt pictured is called the Kijiti which is Swahili for stick and is the name of a boy's game. Each one comes with its own matching bag.

founder kila-kitu photo

image from kila kitu

The shirts are popular with Kenyans who love the name and the idea. The term cowboy is slang for the British who stayed on after independence to work in the country. Apparently many politicians and public figures in Kenya wear cowboy hats or boots or big buckles.

kenya shirts

Cha mama image from kila kitu

The shirts are brightly coloured and patterned. They are western in form but have an African flair to them. This one is called Cha mama which means belonging to mom and is a children's game.

The experience has caused Sullivan to question the whole supply chain. When asked whether his clothes are ethical or fashion he replies " it's fashionable but I'm asking a lot of questions along the way. Like when we make some money, what will we do with it? Well, where my tailor lives the water's not clean and the streets are littered, so the quality of life for him and his kids is not great in terms of sanitation. So one thing we're going to do is start another business where we hire local young people to do some cleanup around the area. If the business succeeds, so does the community cleanup operation." We wish him well in this venture. Kila Kitu Via : PSFK

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