BY EVE CHEGE
Although Michelle Obama loves her designer dresses, and has wowed in gowns made by Alexander McQueen, Tracey Reese and Jason Wu, however she is also not afraid to shop a bit thrifty and go Kenyan on her outfits. She was spotted a couple of months back wearing a $35 dress from high-street fashion retailer H&M and recently she was seen wearing a top from the ASOS Africa Collection.
Not only has Michelle Obama decided to shop high-street but has also decided to support ASOS in their plight to help local communities in Africa by wearing their collection. ASOS is working with SOKO in Kenya to produce the ASOS Africa Collection and also enable underprivileged communities to establish sustainable businesses through their local craftsmanship. The scheme will give £5 to each ASOS garment sold directly to help the construction of SOKO’s new East Africa workshop in Nairobi later in the year.
“As a Kenyafrican fashion brand, with global online reach, we at ASOS are thrilled to launch the eighth and only ASOS Africa collection have Michelle Obama as someone who continues to be a great ambassador for fashion and flying our flag abroad, said Nick Robertson – ASOS CEO, while unveiling the collection in Kenya recently.
ASOS Africa is their dedicated ethical collection, now in its third season and produced in Kenya by 25 local craftspeople to help empower the community, so it feels very appropriate to have the First Lady wearing it whilst doing valuable humanitarian work in South Africa.
Inspired by Kenyan Masai tribes and their Masai Shuka fabrics, the in-house ASOS design team produced the Africa collection mainly using locally sourced fabrics and made up of plaid clash mixtures of red and green checked skirts and pinafore dresses, textured jacquards of leopard-print in miniskirts styles and elephant motif shirts. The pieces are both bang on-trend and uber ethical too. With prices starting from £38 makes this collection affordable, aesthetically pleasing to the eye and profoundly based (and made) on principle.
As well as the ASOS Africa collection, ASOS has also been housing ethical brands such as People Tree, Fin Oslo, and Made Jewellery. The Green Room is ASOS’s online space dedicated to labels with ‘a story to tell’, featuring fair-trade, upcycled and handmade garments from Kenya for the eco-fashion enthusiast.
However it isn’t Michelle Obama only who is known for her thrifty and you could say ethical fashion sense as other high profile celebrities such as Kate Middleton have been spotted branding the Kenyafrican fashion brand. Hence witnessing a style and fashion evolution of more ethical and recycle clothing as well as helping the poor.
Michelle Obama chose the ASOS Africa printed shirt for an on-duty look as she made a school visit in South Africa recently in early March. The high collar that added sophistication to her navy trousers and matching waistcoat. She added a splash of colour with red ballet pumps.
The shirt, which featured a bold Kitenge print from Tanzania, was hand-woven in Mombasa, Kenya, bringing much-needed employment to the area. The style savvy First Lady added tailored separates to the oversize piece.
SOKO, a clothing production workshop based just off the Mombasa/Nairobi link road in Kenya. Through their various projects and production services to brands like ASOS Africa, Lalesso and Suno NY to name a few, this mostly female staffed workshop has expanded from a team of four to 45 since ASOS began outsourcing labour enabling them to provide this workforce with not only a free lunch but on-site childcare too and thus helping some of the poorest communities in Kenya. Alot of this is being done through the ASOS charity called ASOS Foundation which in 2011 matched proceeds from the sales of both that year’s collections to help boost the SOKO space.