The African Development Bank’s Fashionomics Africa initiative has named a women-led Kenya shoe design house as the winner of its competition to support producers of sustainable fashion.
Pine Kazi, which converts pineapple leaf and recycled rubber into fashionable footwear, won the $2,000 Fashionomics Africa competition cash prize. In addition, the business will have the opportunity to showcase its creation in online events, share insights on key sustainability challenges facing the industry and receive a certificate.
The brand, co-founded by Olivia Okinyi, Angela Musyoka and Mike Langa, will also have access to media opportunities and receive mentoring and networking opportunities from competition collaborators.
“Pine Kazi is greatly humbled to be the winners of the first Fashionomics Africa contest in Africa. This is indeed an honour to the Kenyan people and the African continent at large,” said Okinyi.
Musyoka added: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage and the patience to pursue them.”
Competition judges said Pine Kazi’s shoes are innovative and sustainable. The upper of the shoe is made from pineapple textile, while the inside is lined with organic cotton. The sole is made from sisal plant fiber, fitted with recycled tyre underneath.
The Fashionomics Africa contest honours African fashion brands working to change how fashion is produced, bought, used and recycled, to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour. A panel of four judges representing the Bank and competition collaborators – the United Nations Environment Program, the Parsons School of Design and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – reviewed 110 entries from 24 African countries and selected three finalists: Pine Kazi; CiiE Luxuries, an eco-friendly accessories business based in Abuja, Nigeria; and clothing brand Labake Lagos.
“We were pleasantly surprised by all the applications received for the first edition of our Fashionomics Africa competition. It was very difficult to make a choice, but the finalists stood out with their innovative, durable and contemporary designs,” said Emanuela Gregorio, coordinator of the Fashionomics Africa initiative at the African Development Bank.
Of the applications, 65% were submitted by women and the businesses were predominantly micro-enterprises (54%), solo entrepreneurs (35%) and small businesses (12%).
“What we learned from this Fashionomics Africa contest, in this month celebrating women around the world, is that many women entrepreneurs are advocating for sustainable production and consumption, and we commend their efforts,” said Amel Hamza, Division Manager at the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department.
An online public vote by 986 participants determined the winner: Pine Kazi got 400 votes, 318 votes went to CiiE Luxuries, and 268 to Labake Lagos.
Competition judge and a Program Director at New York-based Parsons School of Design, Brendan McCarthy, congratulated Pine Kazi during the competition winners’ announcement last Friday: “You transformed waste materials from pineapples into profound new textiles and absolutely beautiful new shoes,” he said.
The shoes are 100% handmade to reduce carbon footprint and can last three years, Pine Kazi says.
Okinyi wrote in Pine Kazi’s competition entry that if they won, they would invest half the winnings in machinery used to make shoe source materials. “[This machinery] will see pineapple leaf waste put to work and create more green jobs for unemployed youth,” she added.
The design house said resources would also be divided equally between research and development of natural dyes, the acquisition of professional stylists and the establishment of a centralized production system.