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Can MOT Provide Much Needed Training And Income In Kibera With Its New Line Of Bags?

LA-based design label Ministry of Tomorrow works with African slum tailors to launch luxury bag collection.

BY JANIE CAI | Feb 6, 2017 | Accessories

Video and images by Ministry of Tomorrow.

 

Kibera—Africa’s largest urban slum—is based just outside of the city of Nairobi, Kenya. It is an area of abject poverty, layered shanty huts where masses of families live in stifling proximity, and where the average daily wage is less than a dollar a day—that is if you are lucky to have a job at all. It’s not the place you would expect to find luxury vegan bags being made, but then again, Ministry of Tomorrow is not your run of the mill label. Founded in 2011 by Julian Prolman, The Ministry of Tomorrow (MOT) is a luxury fashion brand that looks to support environmental and social developments by providing fair wage jobs in impoverished communities, and it is starting with Africa’s largest slum.

MOT’s current flagship project is based in Nairobi, Kenya, just skirting Kibera. The sleekly-designed luxury bags are crafted by professional tailors who are recruited from within the slum area, keeping the skills and wages in the region, where they are sorely needed. They are offered fair wage jobs and training by the team, which has been developed by MOT to be, hopefully, a far-reaching and sustainable employment opportunity. Says Chrisphine Agolla, the production manager at MOT, “We want to improve the living standards of the people by creating a sustainable income-generating project. Which they are going to benefit through the creation of jobs.”

 

From top: The finished interior of the backpack, along with a single cigarette(or joint) holder; screen-printing the interior canvas.

 

The brand’s DNA also focuses on environmental activism and this translates directly to the bags, which are made using sustainable eco materials, including animal-free leather from Italy and Japan and 100 percent certified organic and fair trade canvas from India. They use low-impact dyes and recycled rubber padding, producing high-quality bags whilst minimalizing negative environmental impact.

Interestingly, the canvas used in the MOT bags is made from organic cotton sourced from Rajlakshmi Mills in Kolkata India, from the Chetna Organic Farmers Association—a collective of more than 6,000 organic cotton farmers that Rajlakshmi Mills supports at every step from the field to the mill. The smallholder farmers who grow the cotton for Rajlakshmi Mills are paid a fair price for their crop, which is grown organically to minimize negative environmental impact.

Prolman, the dynamic founder and president of the Ministry of Tomorrow, says that making a positive impact is essential for MOT. “We design and produce eco-luxury bags for a new audience of conscious consumers. Social, environmental and animal rights activism is at the core of our brand. Our bags are produced with respect for the earth and care for animals and the people who are involved at each step of the production”

 

From top: The finished backpack; the slim briefcase with its printed canvas interior; the design and production process.

 

As for the luxury bags themselves, which are 100 percent Vegan and Peta-approved, there are four original designs—a portfolio, a briefcase, a cross-body bag and a backpack, which are available in black, in two textural finishes. Understated pieces that work well for both work or a weekend away, each bag boasts thoughtful compartmentalizing and a minimalist exterior that aligns effortlessly with your wardrobe. Unzip one and a Maasai warrior mask pattern interior greets you, reminding you of its uniquely African origins. Our favourite is the slim backpack that’s big enough to fit a Macbook without the clutter, it also has a thoughtful spliff holder tucked discreetly into the inside. A product that does its bit to alleviate poverty, create employment, minimize environmental degradation and carry your stuff? We like it.

 

Check out the full collection at Ministry Of Tomorrow.