José Hendo is more than just a fashion designer, she has taken it upon herself to create eco-friendly fashion that is beneficial to the society as a whole and preserving of nature.
She talks about being an eco-sustainable fashion designer, the challenges that comes with that and the steps we can take to contributing our quota to support and eco-friendly environment.
I am José Hendo an award winning Eco-Sustainable Fashion Designer, I graduated in fashion at Paris Academy where I acquired my technical and research skills. Prior to my studies at the London College of Fashion I had gotten substantial working experience in the fashion industry, mainly in bespoke, high-end bridal and occasion wear. I launched the José Hendo label in February 2010, and chose ‘Sustainable By Design’ tagline as the basis of my career in fashion as an eco-sustainable fashion designer and that led to doing some extensive research on the life cycle of a garment. I established the R3 Campaign (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse) in February 2014 to raise awareness on the fashion industry’s impact on the environment and to find out exciting ways of combating this.
As for my designs, I have a natural affinity within me to create which is inspired by the shapes, forms and textures in nature, also man made structures like architecture and sculpture.
FBA: Please walk us through the elements that constitute the José Hendo brand ethos.
Jose: The element that constitutes the José Hendo brand ethos is the sustainable approach through exclusive use of end-of-line, up-cycled and organic materials, specially the use of bark cloth. Designing clothes now requires an awareness on the environmental impact of the fashion industry. That’s why I combine good design with sustainability, using the 3Rs Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; this has become the cornerstone of my label.
FBA: Why eco-friendly fashion? What is the appeal of this niche?
Jose: Eco- friendly fashion is a growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of environmental and social responsibility. That is one way of explaining it, a simpler way to describe sustainable fashion is, Eco-friendly is about being friendly to our environment, being responsible with our environment,our resources and creative in our wardrobe choices which means everyone has to get involved, not just the producers but the consumers too.
The clothes we wear are a direct expression of our personalities, beliefs and lifestyles.
FBA: What inspired the use of bark cloth in your collections?
Jose: Bark cloth is a centuries old technique, one that is recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. It is considered the oldest man made fabric and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Material in 2005.
Bark cloth is produced in my country Uganda so it has personal sentiment as well as cultural reverence to me and my ancestry which I am honoring in my work. Having worked with it for more than 15 years, I still feel there is so much more that it has to give.
It is a perfect ambassador for sustainability because its harvesting does not destroy the tree which can still be harvested for years. It is important that more Mutuba trees are planted to keep this tradition going. I have connected with one of the Bark cloth making communities in Uganda BOFTA (Bukomansimbi Organic Farmers Tree Association), I have adopted a tree and planted the first in the 1 million tree planting campaign.
I am trying to be innovative with the way I work with bark cloth from season to season by including it in all my collections and keeping up the momentum to work alongside conventional materials, for example, colouring it with organic dyes was the first step in creative challenge of making bark cloth work as a mainstream fabric.
FBA: What are the costs involved in creating eco-friendly fabrics?
Jose: The price of organic is expensive so it costs a lot to work with it. I try to be innovative so I spend more time and effort to do this and this is costly. But the end result when you have created something amazing it’s worth it
FBA: Please explain the R3 projects.
I launched the R3 campaign in February 2014. Through Sustainable Fashion we can all make a difference to REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE; the R3 campaign. Designing clothes now require an awareness of the environmental impact of the fashion industry which is why I chose to combine good design with sustainability. The clothes we wear are a direct expression of our personalities, beliefs and lifestyles. Eco-fashion has moved from the fringe into mainstream fashion and we all have a part to play through the choices we make.
The R3(Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) campaign is about a fashion with a consciousness; raising an awareness of our impact on the environment so we can make a difference. It is not just the garment production processes but the wearer too. Designing and living in these times requires an understanding of the ripple effect our choices have, impacting on lives and the environment at large.
FBA: What are the key initiatives the R3 project is working on currently?
Jose: I am working on a project that has started with the collection ‘MOTO SILHOUETTE’ which captures the ‘ zero waste’ ethos. It covers all the seasons; Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer and the reason for this is that the research covers a 360 degrees angle and it averts the time spent designing just for a single season. I will use this in workshops and share with the press and social media, promoting the R3 campaign and just getting the message to the public.
FBA: Explain the business model behind Jose Originals?
Jose: Through sustainable fashion, I am making a positive contribution to society. For me this was the only way I could make sense and find my place within the fashion industry.
FBA: Given the global “throwaway” culture, do you think sustainable fashion is a viable business model?
Jose: Yes, it is a viable business model because it’s the only way to combat throwaway culture, making people aware of how damaging the fashion industry is to the environment and the people in it. The best way forward is to think of sustainable ways to tackle it.
FBA: Does sustainable and consequently more expensive fashion have a place in the African context?
Jose: Yes, sustainable fashion has its place in the African context because working with producer groups, coops and artisans in Africa helps improve livelihoods of small communities. Championing sustainable agriculture while supporting small scale farmers is an effort which would have countless positive social and environmental effects.
FBA: What is your opinion on inexpensive “second hand clothing” taking market share and hampering creativity of African designers?
Jose: In fact, one of the things that impacted negatively on the clothing industry in Africa is the second hand clothing dominating the market and if the African growing industry has to grown and survive, a balance has to be created.
However, the creative industries in Africa offer massive potential for continent-wide jobs and GDP growth. Textile and clothing is the second-largest sector in developing countries after agriculture. In textiles and clothing, the largest workforce is made up of women. There is great scope to hire more youth. The labor-intensive aspect of the creative industries offers an opportunity to generate a lot of jobs.
African culture as their unique selling point. To develop creative industries, such as fashion, would need global and African brands, designers and manufacturers, and governments and development partners to come together, to build global and regional supply chains along the continent. This would in turn create new trade patterns for African economies.
FBA: How has the global market for sustainable fashion changed over the years? What trends have you noticed?
Jose: Today, governments can use eco-labels to encourage change among producers and consumers leading to greater sustainability. Learning more of the background, consumers benefit by being able to make informed decisions.
FBA: In your opinion has sustainable fashion gotten closer to being mainstream?
Jose: Yes very much, the story behind the clothes has become interesting to the people and they are beginning to ask the right question.
By Kachi Udeoji