- Lucy Macnamara - Aspiga



"Kenyan people could fix a mobile in 10 seconds "

Starting from the boot of her car, now retailing all over the world. The Lovely Lucy from Aspiga speaks to Giovanna. 

How do you define Ethical Fashion?

Fashion which choses not to exploit individual people or the environment.
When did you start Aspiga?
 I properly started the business in 2005, selling one pair of Aspiga shoes (the disk collection) in 10 colours at the Top Draw trade show. Before I was selling the shoes from the back of my car,  at polo events etc.
 
Do you think there is a danger that if fast-fashion continues to expand, artisans such as the ones you work with will lose jobs?
 
There is always a demand for sustainable fashion and we cannot drop the prices to match high street, as this is not fair to the artisans. Yes remaining ethical, is more time consuming as we are working with small suppliers, and sometimes it is easier just to abandon everything and go to china for larger suppliers but this is not fair to our artisans and their livelihoods.
 
Do the artisan have any input in your designs.
 
Yes Kenya and Africa where our designs are made are incredibly creative, and colourful. Every time I visit my suppliers I always gather inspiration. These artisans are fantastic with their hands, they could fix a mobile phone in seconds! Kenya is the only country that directly punch's holes into leather, other countries will use machine or sew beads onto fabric and then attach it to leather.
 
A young women punching holes into sandals, ready for beading. BEADING WORK CAN TAKE THREE HOURS JUST TO DO ONE SANDAL.

 

Any story of an artisan, which has touched you?
 
 Our belts man Kolonzo is incredible. He works mainly with men and one women to produce these belts. Originally the men worked on a wooden bench under the trees, which was idyllic but Aspiga decided to give Kolonzo a loan over summer, where they created a building to work under. This made the workers so happy and therefore us happy to. It may sound cliché but little things like that really lifts a companies spirit and shows that we are helping is some small way.
 
LUCY WITHE THE LOVELY KOLONZO her Belt man "When i visit I get texts from Kolonzo saying Good Night and God Bless Me"
 
How important is eduction in Kenya?
 
Education is very important in Kenya, young children walk for miles to get to school, that is why Kenyan's are great marathon runners!  We are soon going to be working with a co-operation in Gil Gil. Where money made from making our pieces will go directly to a children's charity called Restart Africa, where children have the opportunity to be taken out of poverty, able to go to school and be given a real push to start a happy and fulfilled life. These children trek miles to get to school, wearing wooly hats at 5am because it is chilly and then suddenly the weather turns very hot mid day. 
 

 Children from Gil Gil - KENYA at School
Do the men do more of the leather cutting and women beading. Is their an even men to women ratio.
 
 Yes the men primarily do the leather work, and women to the intricate beading. All the men who work with Kolonzo on the belts have an incredible work ethic. The women also have the flexibility to take their beading work home so they can be there to look after their families.
 
How many artisans are working for Aspiga
 Around 80, like many ethical fashion brands, it is important to keep a small workforce, therefore being able to keep an eye on things and make sure everyone is being treated fairly, fair wages.
 
There seem so many issues around ethical fashion, what can people who are reading this do to make a difference?
 Just to have a great deal of awareness of what we are buying.  Vivienne Westwood said a famous quote "People who wear interesting clothes, have more interesting lives". This is some way depicts ethical clothing, it is unique, beautifully crafted and has a story behind it. Which you cant help sharing to people.
 
Why should people shop Aspiga rather than high street?
  Chris Evans once  stated that he wasn't going to buy anything new for a whole year. Of course Aspiga does not want people not to spend though just spend more on something which will be long lasting and sustainable. High street prices have dropped by 5% in past years and yet people are spending 20%, they are indoctrinated into thinking that as prices are low they can buy more, though these small prices all add up.
 
Any interesting ethical reads you have read recently, books, articles etc
 
Olivia Firth married to "Mr Darcy" (ColinFirth)  Is a great lady to follow  .
Livia Firth is the Creative Director of Eco-Age, the sustainability brand consultancy and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge® (GCC).
Also watch the documentary True Cost which you can find online on Netflix etc. It is heart breaking and very saddening, though unless you see how poor the conditions these workers are working in you will not do anything. The media also needs to take action. I would love to see a programme similar to Jamie Oliver's Sugar Rush documentary on fast fashion and the dramatic affects. 
 
 
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