Thursday, October 27, 2011


It's official - Cape Town is the coolest city on the planet!

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) has announced, that the City of Cape Town (South Africa) has been designated the World Design Capital 2014 beating rivals Dublin in Ireland and Bilbao in Spain. Awarded to cities based on their commitment to use design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development, it is a reflection of how the city has socially and physically reinvented itself. Cape Town’s vision of design is based on socially responsible design, sustainability and innovation. As part of their bid, the theme “Live Design. Transform Life” was introduced in support of Cape Town’s objective to focus on enhancing the city’s infrastructure to make it a more liveable African City. Cape Town is a growing and vibrant city, where design has for decades been a significant factor in its desire to build an open city. Need and innovative design has resulted in unique solutions to address the issues of a developing city. A real win for Cape Town and the African continent.

Vivienne Westwood's 'Ethical Fashion Africa' collection.

Renowned British, pink haired diva, dame Vivienne Westwood (70) is not heading for retirement quietly. The radical designer and activist has released her Ethical Fashion Africa Collection in an effort to campaign for a better world. Her collection is comprised of handbags and totes created from all sorts of refuse, from flip flops to old tent fabric, and transformed by impoverished people in Kenya. "What I do, making bags, can make a difference. This project gives people control over their lives - charity doesn't give control, it does the opposite, it makes them dependant," she says. "These people have more control over their lives and can therefore choose not to exploit the environment because they have an alternative way of making money." She has designed three limited-edition styles: Gaia Heart, Get a Life and the Orb. They are all handmade in Nairobi, Kenya by a women’s co-operative. Much like the Carmina Campus range by Fendi that we recently featured, Vivienne Westwood’s collection is also part of the International Trade Centre, the joint body of the United Nations (UN) and World Trade Organisation (WTO). They work with marginalised communities of women such as single mothers, widows, HIV/AIDS victims and those living in extreme poverty. Their slogan is ‘This is not charity, this is work.’ The programme links up international distributors and fashion businesses with poor communities. It was set up to "allow international fashion companies to develop product lines that incorporate skills and materials from Africa, its communities and its designers." Through orders from companies such as Vivienne Westwood, some of the poorest people in the world have access to a job and an income that subsequently benefits the entire community.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


An important mission for Bundu Designs, other than exposing the amazing design initiatives that African community projects and African artisans produce, is introducing our readers and our clients to ethical kids products. With Christmas fast approaching we thought it would be a good time to highlight a few unique, handmade gifts for kids. We have come across an amazing array of products that are all fairly traded, eco-friendly and sustainably produced. Santa may still outsource the majority of his shopping list to factories in China, but that doesn't mean you have to. Ethical gift-buying is set to be a major force this Christmas. A survey recently published by Friends Provident will show that as many as 25 per cent of shoppers now consider ethical issues when buying gifts for children. A further 59 per cent would prefer to shop at an ethical retailer if given a choice, with 13 per cent believing that ethical gifts give more meaning to Christmas. Not awesome numbers, but it's a start.
 We have already written about a few organisations like Forward Bears, Shwe Swwe Poppis and Flock, but we have found a few more that we love and would like to share.

We were introduced to these sweet little guys by our friends at Dsenyo. Hand-stiched by Mwayiwathu, a support group for HIV-positive women in Malawi, using African wax prints combined with a soft jersey knit. Mwayiwathu was formed out of the HIV-positive Living Group with Village to Village, a local community based organization.  Mawyiwathu means "blessings" in the local language Chiyao.  The 15 members of this group are primarily AIDS widows who are living with the virus themselves.  They chose this name for their group because they really see the work they do as a blessing and a solution to some of the challenges they face.  The range is made in an elephant, monkey, lion and bunny and is available at
Shumba is a small company based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Shumba began life as the creative output of a lion hearted young girl battling cancer. During her long treatment and recovery period, she began the process of healing by playing with needle, felt and beads. Touched by the love and support of her own community, she stitched and beaded hope and positivity into her designs. What began as a pastime to help raise funds for medical expenses grew into a self funded philanthropic business. In an environment of hyper inflation, economic and political instability and overwhelming needs, Shumba ignited a spark of hope and pride in a deflated Zimbabwean community.

The Shamwari project was set up in Mutare in the Eastern Highlands of Zimabwe to give local women the opportunity to use their craft skills to build a future for themselves and their families. Knitting was chosen as it only requires basic materials, it can be done anywhere and at any time and is a skill that is practical for the women to learn. What began as a small group of 6 ladies now consist of over 25 women. Knitting the animals has given these women something positive to focus on and allows them to meet practical needs that they or their families have. Each animal is lovingly and completely handmade and has as much individuality and character as the lady who knitted it! Available at

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Mielie (pronounced Melee) is possibly one of my favourite design projects of all time. Mielie is the brainchild of Adri Schutz who started hook rugging, offcut fabric strips at her dining room table. Mielie is now a family of fifty proud Africans. The fabric of the Mielie range is reclaimed, and locally produced in South Africa.  Mielie fabric strips are a by product from cotton mills and once a week they purchase them by the kilogram from local factories. Because the shades vary every week and seasonally they never quite know what they’re going to end up with. Their solution is to work with broad colourways - i.e. lagoon = dark blue to aqua, emerald to bottle green. In their small studio in Cape Town and in the homes of each of the women employed by Mielie, the strips are woven onto hessian sheets before being turned into the little masterpieces. Before being sent out into the world, every Mielie product is labeled with the name of the weaver who made it - creating the opportunity for a connection between buyer and maker. Above all else Mielie are committed to excellent design, and are allergic to the idea of pity purchases. At Mielie, a product is only considered successful if it creates a job, is mindful of the environment - and is competitively and beautifully designed. The range of designs is almost endless as are the colour choices. Check out the range we have available at Bundu Designs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I love this story because it really speaks to why we started Bundu Designs and the Inspired African in the first place. The name Bundu, means ‘in the middle of nowhere’, which is where so many of our the community based projects we work with and talk about are found. Petrusville, is a small South African town in the Great Karoo, surrounded by flat-topped koppies (hills). Like most Karoo places it is a small, isolated town with a big heart. In a land of wind pumps, dusty roads and never-ending skies, parched and unforgiving for much of the year, Zahn Spies, started a community initiative called Flock. Extracting skills and talents from the many jobless women in the town, many of them with no income whatsoever, are now flock-ladies of the Karoo.  Twice a week they make their way from the townships through the dusty streets, lighting up the way with colourful bags filled with felt, bamboo, cotton, and mohair to reach a church building. Here, in a garage, they drink tea, laugh and produce exquisite hand made products, all from completely natural hand spun fibres. With the first rains, the arid soil bursts to life with sweet grass, providing sustenance for the Karoo sheep from which Flock source their wool. Using their traditional kneedle work skills, they produce a range of beautiful products from mohair throws and dolls to the sweetest kids hot water bottle covers. We love their products and their initiative. We hope to have their products up on our website within the next few weeks

Friday, October 14, 2011


The past five years have seen an unprecedented explosion and new dynamism of the African fashion industry on both the continent and the world stage. Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi and Dakar are now big fashion destinations in their own right.  Helen Jennings, the editor of African fashion magazine ARISE, has published a book called New African Fashion - a comprehensive look at African fashion, that explores why Africa is in the current design spotlight. From Africa inspired to African made, the book follows the influences of African fashion on modern designers like Burberry and Calvin Klein alongside the best contemporary designers, photographers and models across the continent. Jennings also looks at the recent trend of environmentally conscious clothing in Africa and the impact it has on the West through design. The 288 pager is a must have if you’re a fashionista, inspired by African design or simply wanna be cool, stick it on your coffee table.
On Wednesday November 30 Helen has invited designers Mimi Plange and Mataano, model campaigner Bethann Hardison and Heritage 1960′s Enyinne Owunwanne to a roundtable discussion about the book at the New York Public Library.
The book is available for $25.95 at

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


In the aftermath of the Ivory Coast humanitarian and political crisis, there is a fashion label bringing hope to the country. The concept behind LAURENCEAIRLINE is based on how fashion and ethnic cultures can successfully collaborate to create possibilities for the future. LAURENCEAIRLINE launches its first menswear collection "ABIDJAN” focusing on shirts and underwear. Laurence’s shirts tell the story of a stylish journey, the underpants being the intimate version of this same story. Fabrics are elegantly mixed together: poplin, chambray, and wax cotton. Along with graphical details the shirts’ soft and precise cuts make for a new kind of dynamism, fitting a modern tribal pop man.
The launch of this menswear shirt collection will help generate employment in Laurence’s hometown of Abidjan. In a country where education is still unaffordable for most, LAURENCEAIRLINE’s goal is to make learning a stimulating and creative trade possible.
The plan of action is in the near future to help in the construction of a learning space where young people will be given the chance to learn fashion skills like sewing and knitting.
Great collection and our first Ivory Coast piece.


Ilaria Venturini Fendi, one of the famous 5 Fendi sisters who transformed the Fendi brand, has put both her name and her designer eye towards a small collection of bags entirely made in Cameroon. Using up-cycled materials like safari and emergency tent leftovers, military blankets and scraps of fabric, Fendi has created small objects of beauty out of once discarded ugly materials and created the Carmina Campus brand. Ms Fendi met a group of women when she was invited to participate in a project for improving the skills – of believe or not, beekeepers. Through the project, she visited the small town of Dschang in western Cameroon, where she met a group of women very skilled in sewing and knitting.
The project is the result of the collaboration of her label Carmina Campus with ITC (International Trade Centre). “Not Charity, Just Work” is the slogan that sums up the philosophy of the project. The project has also moved onto Uganda and Kenya with a similar concept of producing exclusive, small ranges of bags.

They are truely works of art and once again highlight just how inspirational Africa is. If it uplifts communities through trade - we're all for it.

Monday, October 3, 2011


In case you hadn’t noticed, Made in Africa is the new trend. It is quite astonishing how many big international brands and designers are using Africa as their inspiration.  Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent, Fendi and coming this Fall, Lanvin’s Petite collection of handmade dolls by Swaziland’s Designing Hope. Lanvin’s creative director, Alber Elbaz created four limited edition soft dolls each dressed in Petite outfits. The dolls will co-incide with the launch of Lanvin’s new over the top kids fashion label. The project’s aim is to enable the women to earn an income and hopefully enhance their quality of life. Each of the figurines has been hand-embroidered and stitched by the group of women all living with HIV-AIDS. The soft dolls, will be on sale as of November in all LANVIN boutiques and retail outlets that carry the Lanvin Petite line. The dolls carry a hefty price tag of around $400, but part of the proceeds go back to Designing Hope.