Myer & Hands’ African Charity Tote Bags Initiative

Hands that Shape Humanity and Myer, have joined forces with the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a United Nations Initiative, to create glorious tote bags for summer 2013, this in the spirit of sustainability and social enterprise.

The project came about because Myer’s Judy Coomber (Group General Manager Merchandise) and Virginia Bruce (CEO The REAL group & Hands That Shape Humanity) became aware of the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s proven achievements in using fashion as a vehicle out of poverty. They decided to work with community groups of women to create bags, each one unique because each is created by many human hands.

While the journey begins and ends in Australia, the designs were brought to life in East Africa. First, Myer commissioned its star designers; Jayson Brunsdon, Karen Walker, Fleur Wood, Manning Cartell and sass & bide to come up with striking designs. (sass & bide is already a valued partner of the Ethical Fashion Initiative).

The results could not have been more different; from an illustration of a glamourous woman from Jayson Brunsdon, messages of hope from Fleur Wood, to a vivid collage of flowers and bees from Karen Walker.

Once designs arrived at the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s vibrant hub in downtown Nairobi, work was sent out to community groups spread across a vast geographical area of East Africa. The women who added their artistry included groups of Maasai beaders, who live in rural areas decimated by drought, while screen-printers included urban women from Africa’s most populous slums. This was a considerable logistical challenge in areas which often lack hard roads and electricity. Everyone involved brought their own skills, this perfectly in keeping with Hands That Shape Humanity.

Each design provided employment for a month for at least ten women, each of whom supports an average of eight members of their extended families. This project enabled women to fund medical expenses and the education of children. The Ethical Fashion Initiative’s first priority is the empowerment of women through work, this facilitating them to change their own lives. All artisans are paid a fair wage.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative is not a charity. It is a United Nations initiative which enables the leading creatives from the international world of fashion to source quality product from well-paid artisans in Africa and Haiti. Marginalised women can be vulnerable to exploitation at the bottom of the clothing industry’s supply chain. The Ethical Fashion Initiative connects to the top of fashion’s value chain in a fair way.

Simone Cipriani, head of the Poor Communities and Trade Programme, Chief Technical Advisor Ethical Fashion Initiative, A United Nations Initiative, ITC says “This project involved some fantastic artisans and we have assessed the positive impact of it on their lives: earning good money makes people more confident in their skills and more optimistic about the future. Let us keep the good work up, Myer and Hands that shape Humanity!”

The bags are on sale now exclusively at selected Myer stores nationally, retailing at $69 and $89 depending on the bag. All proceeds go to Hands That Shape Humanity who help fund ongoing projects in ethical fashion and sustainability globally.