Black Magazine - - Black End -


Karen Walker Eyewear 'Vis­i­ble' cam­paign im­age by Derek Hen­der­son

Si­mone Cipri­ani in the field. Photo: Tahir Kar­mali

Grant Fell: Si­mone, can we start with some of your ori­gins - at CESECA, you had a back­ground in footwear and leather – a back­ground that led to many early in­ter­na­tional posts. Si­mone Cipri­ani: CESECA was a ser­vice company set in Tus­cany, in those days the footwear in­dus­try was highly in­ter­na­tion­alised with a lot of fac­to­ries all over Asia and they needed somebody to do the train­ing with the work force, the qual­ity con­trol, the lo­gis­tics and this is what we did at CESECA. We also used to work at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy, we were among the first or­gan­i­sa­tions in Europe to adapt the CAD cam tech­nol­ogy to the footwear in­dus­try. We were us­ing CAD to in­tro­duce it to the sec­tor in Italy, a lot of com­pa­nies in Italy and in Europe but our main cen­tre of op­er­a­tion was in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of pro­duc­tion; Asia, North Africa, In­dia, Viet­nam, In­done­sia and so on. We did some work in some Chi­nese prov­inces but In­dia was the big heart of the pie. GF: So how did this early work with CESECA lead to what you are do­ing now? SC: As a re­sult of do­ing this work, I was ap­proached by the UN and by the Euro­pean Union to work in de­vel­op­ment be­cause they needed peo­ple to do train­ing, to set up train­ing cen­tres, to de­velop light in­dus­try; shoes, bags, gar­ments and so on. We had this ex­per­tise and, by chance, I had started to de­velop this. So I was pas­sion­ate about this and I started to do that as a con­sul­tant. I did it as a con­sul­tant for a while and then one day the chair­man of the board of CESECA came to me and said, “Si­mone, you like work­ing in de­vel­op­ment, you are al­ways ask­ing for leave to go abroad and work in de­vel­op­ment.” So I joined an or­gan­i­sa­tion called PISIE which worked in de­vel­op­ment for the leather and footwear in­dus­try world­wide. It trained peo­ple about leather, bags, shoes, and so on all over the de­vel­op­ing world. I think it has trained around 4,000 peo­ple world­wide, a huge amount of peo­ple. I was the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the or­gan­i­sa­tion but I was also do­ing my con­sul­tancy with the UN. After a short while the UN or­gan­i­sa­tion asked me to go and cre­ate, and di­rect, a project for the leather in­dus­try in Ethiopia, and I ac­cepted. I didn’t re­ally want to leave Asia as I was emotionally at­tached, I was de­sign­ing in those days in In­done­sia, in Java – which was beau­ti­ful and then also in Ho Chi Minh City and I was very pas­sion­ate about that – I loved PISIE, work­ing in those places, but Ethopia had some­thing…and then I started also go­ing to Kenya where I met th­ese mis­sion­ar­ies who taught me how to work with in­for­mal pro­duc­ers and this is where we had the idea, to work, not with the in­dus­try but to work with in­for­mal ar­ti­sans, women, mi­croen­trepreneurs. This was the first emer­gence of eth­i­cal fash­ion. Let’s put the two things to­gether. GF: So that was the gen­e­sis of the Eth­i­cal Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive it­self, there in Ethiopia... SC: I was in Ethopia, but I was also work­ing in Kenya, and while I was there, there was a vacancy in Geneva. I ap­plied. I won the vacancy and when I got there I went to them and said, “Look, I have not told you the truth. I am not in­ter­ested in the leather sec­tor any more, I am in­ter­ested in do­ing this thing (eth­i­cal fash­ion).” They said to me, “Do a business plan. We will give you the money for a trial, if you fail, you are out.” And it worked. Jeremy here, was one of the most promis­ing de­sign­ers in the UK… Jeremy Brown: Was one!! (laughs). SC: In those days he was still very young, a promis­ing de­signer and it was in those days that Jeremy joined us. We put to­gether a team, out­side the UN, a team not of bu­reau­crats, to be with us. Peo­ple that I knew from my work in the in­dus­try. Step-bystep we de­vel­oped the business model; first of all we don’t just work in Kenya, we work in Buk­ina Faso, in Mali and in Ghana… GF: How does that process work, in terms of which coun­tries are added to the Eth­i­cal Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive. Does it hap­pen or­gan­i­cally? SC: The mar­ket is de­mand­ing fab­ric, nat­u­ral dyes…so I knew that th­ese things would be avail­able for ex­am­ple in Mali. We trav­elled ex­ten­sively for a while to see what was avail­able in the com­mu­ni­ties in each area, and then we set up the pro­gramme there… GF: So it is mar­ket­driven? SC: It is al­ways mar­ket-driven, yes. For ex­am­ple, one of the first five groups in fash­ion, one of the world’s big­gest fash­ion groups, is just now work­ing on a spe­cial project, on the cre­ation of a tex­tile which is why we are cur­rently ex­pand­ing to Pales­tine be­cause they have the em­broi­dery there and to South East Asia to get some silk. Re­cently Silvie, a col­league in Geneva, gave me some silk, which is in­dige­nous from there, a rough silk and they weave it. We may ex­pand to that as well… GF: Can we talk about the eco­nomic model, which ap­pears to be the foun­da­tion of the Eth­i­cal Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive… SC: Yes. The first part is prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. Jeremy has a whole team now in an of­fice in London, be­cause a lot of cre­ative peo­ple are from there, and this is where we do the de­vel­op­ment of the idea based upon the ma­te­ri­als we have. Then we do the sam­pling, the same as nor­mal, the sam­ples go into the fash­ion sea­son and then through the fash­ion sea­son, are sold, same as a nor­mal fash­ion business. Then we or­gan­ise pro­duc­tion with the fash­ion houses, but the pro­duc­tion has to hap­pen in the com­mu­ni­ties that we are work­ing in. So in or­der for the fash­ion houses to place an or­der in those com­mu­ni­ties they have to place an or­der with a pro­duc­tion hub, a hub that we have set up within the com­mu­nity. This hub is a so­cial en­ter­prise, it’s a so­cial en­ter­prise that re­ceives the or­der and or­gan­ises pro­duc­tion in the com­mu­ni­ties. The peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties are or­gan­ised into co­op­er­a­tives and in­di­vid­ual en­ter­prises. Here, peo­ple have their own cur­rent ac­count, business ad­min­is­tra­tion, very sim­ple. From us there is the build­ing, the tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and we co-man­age this so­cial en­ter­prise along with lo­cal man­age­ment in or­der to en­sure that im­por­tant val­ues, the value of fam­ily and fresh food are up­held. We do one thing that is very im­por­tant, we do an im­pact eval­u­a­tion in or­der to un­der­stand the story of what we do, in or­der to un­der­stand the real im­pact, in or­der to know the met­rics of de­vel­op­ment. This work is done by so­cial work­ers and di­rected by an an­thro­pol­o­gist and goes into the com­mu­nity cen­tres as a survey, a so­cial survey. Then we have the num­bers of the change, in the life of the peo­ple – do peo­ple im­prove their diet, are they nour­ished, is the most common dis­ease of the area de­creased, are more chil­dren go­ing to school? This is the way we check if what we are do­ing is good. Rachael Church­ward: Fan­tas­tic, you are con­stantly self-mon­i­tor­ing… SC: A lot of peo­ple, a lot of brands they come to me and they say, “We will give work to Africa!” but how do you know that is it good? It is not al­ways good, some­times we dis­cover that we have made mis­takes but by hav­ing this way to check, you can cor­rect your­self. We have found a lot of mis­takes in our work by do­ing this but this is how you find out! GF: I asked Mur­ray Be­van (PR ex­pert for Karen Walker) when we first saw the Karen Walker Vis­i­ble cam­paign if the mod­els that were wear­ing the glasses would ac­tu­ally get a pair of glasses each and he said he had asked the same ques­tion and the short an­swer was that they didn’t be­cause within the vil­lage or com­mu­nity it might be seen as a type of favouritism and that the wearer may have them stolen from them or worse…that con­cept of slum eco­nomics and slum cur­rency… SC: Yes, slum eco­nomics is the eco­nomics of how peo­ple sur­vive within a net­work of peo­ple and sur­vive out of ex­pe­ri­ence. In a slum, the re­al­ity of liv­ing is that ev­ery day you have to put some food on the ta­ble, and you don’t have the se­cu­rity of work so every­day you sur­vive out of the net­work that you have with other peo­ple - you get to know an op­por­tu­nity here, an op­por­tu­nity there and you have to in­vent your work of the day. Even the shoe­mak­ers I was work­ing with, th­ese shoe­mak­ers were pass­ing from one thing to the other. One day it was an op­por­tu­nity for stitch­ing some soles onto school shoes so they were go­ing to schools and do­ing it there. Another



day they found that a fac­tory had opened and they needed some work shoes so they went to find the right leather for those work shoes. Another day, they would work for peo­ple who had just got a job as a house­keeper for a rich man. They would go to them and say, “I know that you need shoes to work in that man’s house so I will make you some leather shoes out of your first salary,” it’s a con­tin­u­ous need for in­ven­tion – to the ex­tent that it makes th­ese peo­ple ex­tremely re­source­ful. In a slum you have to be re­source­ful, or, you fall into the other side of a slum, which is the pit. The pit from which you do not emerge any more and your life ex­pectancy is be­tween 34 and 42 which is very low, when you con­sider for us (Western­ers) it is 78 or some­thing sim­i­lar. The first time I worked there many years ago, I had some white in my beard and I think I looked older than what I am and I was con­sid­ered to be an old man. “I’m not so old,” I said, “I’m forty!” “Well,” they said, “you are not young!” (laughs). GF: Tell us more about the lux­ury bag la­bel Taytu which was es­tab­lished in the mid 1990’s… SC: Ahh, Taytu. This is what taught me what was the wrong road. There we went (into Ethopia) with some for­mal com­pa­nies and we in­vested in this brand. I also called in the de­signer, from Europe, who in­vested a lot per­son­ally into this brand. Then I brought in some in­for­mal ar­ti­sans to work with the brand but the in­for­mal ar­ti­san’s work was out. Two or three big lo­cal peo­ple, who were very rich, took the brand so I de­tached my­self from it, I told them that I don’t want to work with it any more - I don’t think the brand has sur­vived, that it had made some scarves, and that it may have failed. If it failed it was be­cause it didn’t have a clear mar­ket­ing con­cept – like we have now – with re­gard to re­spon­si­ble fash­ion. It was not linked with a fash­ion house or a brand and that’s what we learned, you have to de­velop it with a brand or for a brand, an ex­ist­ing brand… RC: Not try to start a new one in the mid­dle of Ethiopia… SC: Yes, you need to have es­tab­lished dis­tri­bu­tion ca­pac­i­ties in the global mar­ket. So, when Jeremy de­vel­ops a prod­uct now with say Stella Mccart­ney, th­ese prod­ucts are sold be­cause Stella Mccart­ney puts them into her mar­ket, we don’t have to go and look for re­tail dis­tri­bu­tion for them. I had had enough of go­ing to fairs with a suit case full of sam­ples that we are try­ing to sell… also with Taytu, they com­pletely ex­cluded the re­al­ity of the ar­ti­sans, the mi­cro­pro­duc­ers, so they be­came some­thing in be­tween a small Euro­pean fac­tory and a small African fac­tory. At the time, in Asia, their fac­to­ries were so much bet­ter. You'd have China, In­dia and those coun­tries make things bloody well! In the world of to­day, you see some shoes that look like they have been made in Eng­land, the crafts­man­ship, but they are made in In­dia… RC: Beau­ti­fully made by ar­ti­sans! SC: They are per­fect. You see some bags to­day, from Kolkata, you don’t see the dif­fer­ence with a bag made in Europe be­cause there is NO dif­fer­ence, even the leather is the same. GF: We re­ally like that the Eth­i­cal Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive is pri­mar­ily sup­port­ing women in th­ese re­gions. Is that be­cause most of the ar­ti­sans are pri­mar­ily women? SC: It is be­cause in th­ese so­ci­eties, women are dis­crim­i­nated against, highly dis­crim­i­nated against. They have be­come the back­bone of their so­ci­eties be­cause they are the ones that are forced to invest what lit­tle money they have into the fam­ily, into ed­u­ca­tion, into health­care and de­vel­op­ment. So women are in­cred­i­bly re­spon­si­ble. In­vest­ing in women is about in­vest­ing in the fu­ture of th­ese so­ci­eties be­cause what­ever in­vest­ment you make into women, it goes into de­vel­op­ment, it goes into health care and it goes into ed­u­ca­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, in many of th­ese places, if you invest in men, it is not the same, you could well be in­vest­ing in whiskey (laughs). I am Ital­ian, I come from a very chau­vin­ist coun­try, they don’t want to hear that in Italy but it is true. I am very glad that my daugh­ters have grown up (away from Italy) be­cause they have more op­por­tu­ni­ties. There are changes, the new Prime Min­is­ter has a cab­i­net which is nearly half women, it is very good. For a long time now though I have been work­ing in teams, which are mostly women, with CESECA it was almost en­tirely women… JB: It is the same with us now though, we are lit­er­ally the only two men! SC: Yes, the team is big but we are two of the only men… JB: We do work with men as well but the vast majority of the team are women, prob­a­bly about 90% are women… GF: That’s fan­tas­tic, an abun­dance of em­pa­thy no doubt! What sort of roles do the men have then? JB: We have some great men, like our lo­gis­tics man­ager in Kenya, he is a guy and he is amaz­ing. SC: He is amaz­ing! JB: He comes from a slum, he is very morally con­scious… he started in the most un­skilled job pos­si­ble and now he has ad­vanced to be­come the lo­gis­tics man­ager of the op­er­a­tion which is like, third in com­mand… SC: Yes, third in com­mand but he could eas­ily be higher up than that… JB: Yes, def­i­nitely… GF: So the hubs, are they all staffed and op­er­ated by lo­cal peo­ple, peo­ple lo­cal to the re­gion? SC & JB: Yes! Only lo­cal peo­ple… RC: Fan­tas­tic! SC: We travel a lot, Jeremy and I travel for 6-to-8 months of the year. The win­ning fac­tor in a way, is for us to not be there all the time, oth­er­wise it be­comes run by us, di­rected from the out­side when this be­longs to th­ese so­ci­eties… GF: They have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it? SC: Yes, they are re­spon­si­ble for it all… JB: They are also their own en­ter­prises, they are not part of the UN or any­thing like, that, they are self-sup­port­ing… SC: Each business is funded by trade, it is not funded by us. We can man­age it…just to give you an idea, just last week we were in Geneva do­ing the ra­tios, the fi­nan­cial ra­tios just so we know where we are but th­ese are all lo­cal com­pa­nies, we just over­see it from the out­side. There is one in Kenya, there is one in Oua­gadougou in Burk­ina Faso…and then we have one big­ger hub in Ghana where we have just put in 65 stitch­ing ma­chines but that is big­ger be­cause the gov­ern­ment gave us an in­dus­trial build­ing. We don’t have a hub in Mali, be­cause in Mali we work within an ex­ist­ing com­mu­nity so we use their premises and we don’t have any hub in Haiti be­cause we work with an NGO and we use their premises. In Pales­tine we will have to see what we can do… GF: Is Pales­tine the new fron­tier for the Eth­i­cal Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive? SC & JB: Yes…well there are a few new fron­tiers… SC: South East Asia… JB: Brazil… GF: I was think­ing about this yes­ter­day, this is such a sim­ple, yet big idea that can be ex­trap­o­lated out to many, many coun­tries; Pa­pua New Guinea, Mada­gas­car…there are so many coun­tries that have in­cred­i­ble ar­ti­sans, and thou­sands of years of his­tory within that ar­ti­sanal legacy… JB: Pretty much all over the world… SC: But what we don’t want to do is be in­volved in man­ag­ing all of th­ese (fu­ture hubs and so­ci­eties), what we want to do is to pass on the in­for­ma­tion, ed­u­cate th­ese peo­ple on how to do it them­selves, pass to peo­ple the knowl­edge of what to do and how to do it… JB: And con­nect… SC: Which is what we are do­ing in Brazil… JB: Yeah, ex­actly… SC: In Brazil we are pass­ing on the knowl­edge to a new part­ner… JB: In Peru we are con­nect­ing two of our ex­ist­ing part­ners to­gether and we will bring our knowhow to the field… SC: We will be a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, man­age di­rectly th­ese first things and then leave the oth­ers to fa­cil­i­tate. JB: Kenya was an in­cu­ba­tor, a pi­lot to fig­ure out how to work with the poor­est

peo­ple and then how to share that knowl­edge with peo­ple all over the world. RC: The po­ten­tial for this seems to be enor­mous… JB: In twenty years time, peo­ple will come to us be­cause they want to in­no­vate. They will want beau­ti­ful, hand-made, hand-crafted items from all over the world – it might be tra­di­tional skills (they are after) or it might be new ma­te­ri­als mixed in with tra­di­tional skills in a small com­mu­nity some­where – and they will be work­ing di­rectly with the com­mu­nity, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. SC: Hope­fully this will be a case of ap­ply­ing our sys­tem, which we de­vel­oped in Kenya and are man­ag­ing in Ghana, Burk­ina and Haiti but we will be giv­ing it to some­one else to man­age… JB: …but still to be ac­count­able and to man­age it prop­erly… GF: You did a project with Hands That Shape Hu­man­ity in 2012… SC: Yes, that was with Myer and is when we first met Karen Walker and also worked with Sass & Bide… GF: So are there other non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions like Hands That Shape Hu­man­ity that you can, like you say, hand the model over to? SC: There are. There is an NGO in Pales­tine, in Haiti, and there is the Na­tional Move­ment of Re­cy­clable Ma­te­ri­als in Brazil who have come to Kenya al­ready to learn our sys­tem of work and it is a big move­ment in Brazil, thou­sands of peo­ple, it is huge. Now, it is our aim to struc­ture this knowl­edge, this know-how and our ca­pac­ity to pass this on to th­ese peo­ple… JB: More and more peo­ple are com­ing to us as well, in dif­fer­ent re­gions, ask­ing us if we can of­fer that ser­vice but we are re­ally just now get­ting to that stage where we have th­ese sys­tems to share… RC: Amaz­ing, love what you are do­ing…gf: It’s fan­tas­tic, good on you…as a fi­nal ques­tion, how has the Karen Walker col­lab­o­ra­tion been for you, com­pared to some of the other part­ner­ships, how has it dif­fered? SC: Karen has been a plea­sure for two rea­sons. Firstly, be­cause she de­lib­er­ately se­lected and de­signed the prod­uct on the ba­sis of our need to cre­ate work, she cre­ated a very sim­ple prod­uct but full of hand­work, bead­work and dec­o­ra­tion so as to cre­ate work for the ar­ti­sans. Se­condly, she agreed to do a proper cam­paign… JB: She didn’t even agree to, she sug­gested shoot­ing a cam­paign! SC: Yes, it was her idea (laughs) and that’s such a plea­sure for us be­cause usu­ally we have to try and con­vince peo­ple to do a cam­paign, you have to push, you have to ask… JB: I think Mikhail had a lot to do with it… SC: I un­der­stand, be­cause some of the oth­ers say they don’t feel like they need to do a cam­paign be­cause the prod­ucts sell well any­way but if you tell the story as well as sell the prod­ucts it is bet­ter for ev­ery­one… JB: It pro­motes the cause as well.. RC: I think that will res­onate with New Zealan­ders, we are very out­ward look­ing and we want to know why some­thing is made in Africa, we want to know the story be­hind it… SC: Yes, New Zealand is a very aware coun­try and it has been such a plea­sure to work with Karen be­cause she is so…on board…she helps us do the real work, the work that mat­ters… GF & RC: Fan­tas­tic Si­mone and Jeremy, it’s been a plea­sure… SC: We have en­joyed it very much, come to Africa!


EFI Cre­ative Di­rec­tor Jeremy Brown Photo: Chloe Mukai

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.