Around the world, there is a growing awareness about the need for a more ethically mindful and less environmentally impactful approach to be taken by the fashion industry. Two South African fashionpreneurs are passionately committed to a new Slow Fashion movement which combines a passion for design with a more environmental friendly approach and footprint, and a strong social conscience.
As part of April’s Focus on African Women Fashionpreneurs, Lionesses of Africa spoke to Natalie and Kim Ellis, the inspirational founders of The Joinery, about their unique entrepreneurial journey and their vision for the future of Slow Fashion. The sisters started The Joinery to provide an alternative to the way apparel is produced, and to improve on the processes already in place.
Tell us a little about your company, The Joinery
The Joinery is a company dedicated to organic and ethically mindful fashion.
As fashion activists, we believe that creating a sustainable movement will result in a slow fashion revolution. We believe, "Do Something. Anything”.
What inspired you to start your company?
The Joinery is an ethically inspired fashion brand. The majority of our garments and accessories are produced out of local townships in Cape Town, South Africa, by Fair Trade sewing co-operatives.
We are transparent about our journey and pledge to educate ourselves further. We don’t have all the answers but we hope to strengthen our principals as we strive to demystify slow fashion. Our partnerships create opportunities, contribute to economic independence, and raise awareness of the importance of supporting local businesses that can sustain communities.
Talented local artisan collectives and hand crafters, mainly residing in Khayelitsha, create our accessories using a mix of traditional techniques and contemporary design. We design our collections to be produced by hand as much as possible so as to minimize our carbon footprint.
We use Hemp fabrics and organic cottons, where possible, to ensure that our collection has a minimal negative environmental impact. Hemp is a carbon-negative raw material. These green fibers are hugely regenerative, improve soil quality, and are grown without the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Hemp is one of the strongest and most durable fibers and it naturally offers UV protection from the sun. The best part is that hemp keeps you cool when it is hot, and warm when it is cool. If we all insisted on wearing hemp garments, we could reduce the resources needed to clothe the earth’s inhabitants by one third.
"Our signature is artisanship and handcrafted fashion....
Bohemian. Indie. Classic."
Why should people buy your unique products?
Our name, The Joinery, is based on our founding principles to collaborate with artisans and designers to not only create inspired and long lasting fashion, but to improve community life and create employment. We want to build a community of like-minded people who share and experiment, finding solutions to producing sustainable organic fashion. As fashion activists, we believe that creating a sustainable movement will result in a slow fashion revolution. We believe, “Do Something. Anything”.
Tell us a little about your team
Our team consists of founders Natalie and Kim Ellis working with our local sewing and leather co-operatives in the local Cape Townships.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Both our father and brother are entrepreneurs, owning and running successful companies, which rubbed off on us. We have found the journey of being entrepreneurs rewarding, challenging and inspiring. The organic and ethical route we have taken for The Joinery has been the harder route, and we are faced with daily challenges such as a lack of organic fashion, not being able to get to our sewing co-operatives due to gang warfare going on etc. These and other such challenges we have had to overcome and I think that having an entrepreneurial spirit and having grown up privy to it, helps us on our own journey.
"We want to build a community of like-minded people who share and experiment, finding solutions to producing sustainable organic fashion."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We hope to grow our use of organic fabrics, strengthen our principles, educate consumers about sustainable fashion and collaborate with more brands to create sustainable fashion together. The larger vision is to set up more sewing co-operatives in local communities.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Being able to use our business to help create opportunities for others, contribute to the economic independence of others, and raise awareness of the importance of supporting local businesses and artisans that can sustain communities.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Follow your heart and your gut. Its extremely important to make sure you surround yourselves with a team that you trust, as we trust in ours, for example our photographer Lyall Coburn and our lovely ladies at our sewing co-operative.
Contact or follow The Joinery
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why LoA loves it….
There is something extraordinarily powerful about The Joinery’s vision for a Slow Fashion movement that is both sustainable and also contributes to genuine local economic empowerment through the support for, and growth of, local artisans and businesses. We love the passion and real vision of founding sisters, Natalie and Kim Ellis, who demonstrate that the fashion industry can have the power to make real socio-economic and environmental change happen, whilst at the same time, creating highly desirable and beautiful quality fashion items. The global fashion industry needs more visionaries like them. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa