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Fashion: Kenya on the catwalk

March 20, 2013

GRACE NDUTA has never ventured far from Korogocho, the Nairobi slum where she lives. But her handiwork has. Bags she helped make were slung over the skinny shoulders of fashion models as they strutted the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week earlier this month.Mrs Nduta belongs to a collective of Kenyan craftswomen that makes handbags and other accessories for designers such as Vivienne Westwood, a Briton. Their work could be one answer to Africa?s failure so far to manufacture much for export. Making consumer goods fast and in large quantities has proved difficult. But haute couture needs skilled hands more than speed, and these abound.The project, grandiloquently called Ethical Fashion Africa, was conceived by Simone Cipriani, an Italian shoemaker, who saw no reason why Italy?s model of fashion production could not be recreated in Korogocho and places like it. Milan?s fashion houses are ?hubs?, served by artisans arrayed as ?spokes? around them. In Ethical Fashion?s case the spokes are a lot longer.Mr Cipriani sought out underemployed women with experience in basic beadwork or tailoring and the talent for something better. He bet that with...

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