Rebecca Johnson - designer for London-based women's wear label RIYKA - recently got in touch to share her new project with the Kindness by Design community! This season the team at RIYKA have embarked on a new collaboration with Elizabeth Loopy, a 27-year old woman living in Gambia.
Very sadly, Elizabeth's father passed away when she was only 13 and soon afterwards she was sent from her home country of Senegal to live with a family friend in Gambia. Despite the many challenges she faced, and with the support of charity GETS, Elizabeth completed her final two years at school, where she was awarded best sewing upon graduation.
Now Elizabeth is crafting a range of dust bags made from end waste fabric for RIYKA. According to Rebecca, "For every RIYKA purchase made in December over £100 we're including one of Elizabeth's hand-sewn dust bags - for free. Not only does this make the perfect sustainable gift wrap for Christmas, but you will also be helping Elizabeth work towards living in her own flat and achieving financial independence".
I had the chance to talk to Rebecca about ecochic fashion, her work with Elizabeth and the philosophy behind RIYKA as a fashion label.
Q. As a designer, why is eco-friendliness important to you?
Eco friendly/sustainability is a way of life for us, even before we started RIYKA. We try to minimize the effect of our lifestyle on our surroundings. It's a less selfish way of living, and that is the most important thing to us and about being eco.
Q. How would you describe RIYKA in 10 words or less?
Functional, comfortable, classic, timeless, fun, playful, sustainable, unisex.
Q. If you could change one thing about the current fashion industry, what would it be?
Make it less fast, more transparent, the big companies have so much power to do this, and I am constantly shocked by how this power isn't utilized in a more positive way. They have the power to change the way we all consume, but hopefully things are starting to change...
Q. Can you tell me about RIYKA's collaboration with Elizabeth Loopy in Gambia and how it began?
I was contacted through another designer friend who thought that I might be interested in working with her. We started the project about 6 months ago, the idea is to start with something small, and see how we get on, and hopefully grow the range and give Elizabeth more complex pieces. At the moment she is sewing it all on a manual singer machine, but the ideal would be to set her up with a proper machine. These are all baby steps at the moment, but we love the challenge and I love the idea that we can connect with people in different parts of the world, and help them somehow.
Q. Who or what is inspiring you right now?
People who are encouraging and promoting for a more sustainable fashion industry- like Lucy Siegel, Livia Firth and and Carry Somers.
I'm loving RIYKA's Flourance shirt made out of light organic crossweave blue chambray, with reclaimed denim panels on the sleeve :-)
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