On the occasion of the European Week for Waste Reduction, Vauban’s ecology club discovered a Ghanaian up-cycling association » The Revival « , in partnership with Caritas Luxembourg. Yayra Agbofah, founder of the association, accompanied by the co-founder Kwamena Dadzie Boison, explained the consequences of textile waste in Ghana, and especially how to revolutionize the fashion industry on an individual, but also global, scale.
Charlotte V. : How does the association works and how many people are part of the organization ?
Yayra Agbofah : THE REVIVAL is a community-led sustainable design non-profit educating, creating awareness, art and jobs with upcycled global textile waste coming to Ghana. We are 8 people active in our organization but we have a bigger team because we have volunteers from different parts of the world, especially in Ghana, who come to work with us by up-cycling the clothes. Currently, apart from the 8 of us, there are also 6 other people in our team.
Charlotte V. : What is the source of inspiration for your artisans ?
Yayra Agbofah : We have a strong culture and tradition in Ghana, especially in Ghana. This translates into what people wear and how they were it. Our culture is affected by cheaper clothing and by the media and social networks, which distract them from the clothes produced by local artisans. We are trying to encourage them to take another look at what artisans are producing in Ghana.
Charlotte V. : What is the age range of your clients ?
Yayra Agbofah: There is not any age range. Indeed, everyone is a potential client for us. Anyone in the world can be interested in our products. We are trying to solve a problem, and everyone should be involved. In general, it is young people who are more interested in our project, but we also see older people coming. To give an example, our project includes both recycling and education. When we talk about education, older people want to contribute by sharing their knowledge.
Charlotte V. :If you were offered the opportunity to participate in Fashion Week, would you accept and what values would you like to share?
Yayra Agbofah : Of course we would accept, because we consider all opportunities. A lot of brands and big media are there, and that influences a lot. So it would be a great opportunity for us all to say what is really going on in the world and how we can get involved. It would be an opportunity for us to educate people about their behavior and their relationship to fashion.
Charlotte V. : When you look at Fashion Week now, do you see enough brands sharing your values ?
Yayra Agbofah : Everyone is trying to create and produce but without really caring about the impact on the environment. Everyone is thinking about profit first without thinking about what’s going on in the world. This is not good. It is necessary that each of us take care of the planet and not destroy it. But Fashion Week does not care about that.
Charlotte V. :What do you think about the initiatives of the big brands to limit their impact on the environment? Are they effective and sufficient?
Yayra Agbofah : First of all, it is not enough. Secondly, is what these brands say actually true? Some big brands promote themselves by saying they make organic clothes or produce in a more careful way, but most of the time there is no proof. What they are doing is what is called « green washing », it’s a way to promote themselves. They say that they are doing things right, that they are producing ecologically, but in reality in their factories, things are not changing. They are not paying their employees properly and they are producing synthetic clothes. Consumers also have to take responsibility by asking questions. All this is usually just marketing to influence social media, but it is not enough at all.
An interesting example is H&M, which offers to bring back old clothes in exchange for vouchers, letting people believe that these clothes will have a second life on the second hand market. But in reality, these clothes never make it to the second hand market, they get burned. And what do you do with the vouchers, you create the same problem by buying new clothes at H&M. We think that all this is not ecological and sustainable, just because they say so.
Charlotte V. : Would you be willing to collaborate with a Fast Fashion Brand if they commit to be more ecological ?
Yayra Agbofah : Absolutely. We are looking to educate and find practical solutions. If a Fast Fashion Brand has an interest in this, we are not here to criticize, and it makes sense to work together, to collaborate. Let’s work together and find a solution so that the problem is no longer a problem. We want Fast Fashion Brand to do things right.
Charlotte V. :If a Fast Fashion Brand is willing to collaborate with you, what would be your requirements ?
Yayra Agbofah :It would be a huge process, we would have to address the way they produce. For example, at H&M and Zara, most of the products are made of synthetic material, and we know that it is produced by fossil fuels which is a major cause of climate change. The first thing to do would be to stop using synthetic materials. To use less water to produce Jeans, because Jeans require too much water to make. This is just one example, but there is much to discuss. Hemp and linen are two interesting materials because they grow quickly and do not require a lot of water like cotton. Organic cotton is a better option than regular cotton because it uses less water and chemicals. There is still a lot of work to do. We would like to collaborate with H&M but the other question is whether they are willing to work with us. In any collaboration, you have to be firm about what you want. We can’t lose our values. Values are what make things change.
Charlotte V. : They want to sell cheaply and a lot when you want to sell better quality in small quantities. So it’s impossible to work together ?
Yayra Agbofah : It seems impossible, but it is possible if we understand that it is about the health of the planet. We have to keep in mind that the goal is to stop environmental pollution. If companies are looking for profit, they must also have their customers’ opinions in mind. If everyone changes their behavior, the market will have to adapt. We have incredible power.
Charlotte V. : Are we able to influence the fashion industry at our level ?
Yayra Agbofah :It’s about taking initiatives. Spread the information. Don’t keep the things you learn to yourself. Get it out there. If everyone does that, then it can make a difference. It’s everyone’s responsibility. If our clothes are damaged, there are so many websites that tell us how to sew a button and fix them. It’s a way for you to get creative, to make your garment something exclusive. And it’s good for the health of the planet.
Charlotte V. : For you, which personality or company represents the most the ecological cause?
Yayra Agbofah : There are many local brands that maybe you don’t know. Small companies produce ecologically and organically. Big brands influence us. I encourage you to look for sustainable brands that produce clothes, buy and support them, so they can grow. This will allow us all to be responsible consumers.
Charlotte V. : How do you see the fashion industry in 10 years ?
Yayra Agbofah : That’s a very interesting question. Personally, I think the fashion system could be different from what we know. For me, it would be less consumption and less production. Because fashion is not only produced by the consumer but also by the industry. The question is how we consume and how this has an impact on the environment. The fashion industry wants to make even more profit and in the next ten years there could be hundreds of times more waste. The situation may get even worse and we may lose the planet. In terms of diversity, human activities are impacting other species negatively. Some species are becoming extinct because of our activities. Is it fair that, because of fashion, species are disappearing and nature has to suffer? Things can change. And the change lies with you and me.