Karen Walker is known for her statement eyewear and smile-inducing campaigns. So it’s not surprising that for her latest collection, Visible, the artisans themselves are the stars. Working with the UN’s ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, the Kiwi designer commissioned Kenyan artists to create the screen-printed and beaded pouches to accompany her Summer 2014 collection (available February 10, 2014 worldwide). But she’s taking the project one step further, and using the oversized shades to bring the focus on these Kenyan artisans at work.

The UN’s ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative stresses that it is not a charity. Instead, they link fashion businesses with artisans in Africa and Haiti, with the aim to promote fair and sustainable business as opposed to heavy reliance on aid. The initiative seeks to empower women most of all, and hopes that the fashion world will learn to embrace the talents and skills of artisans in these developing nations. I, for one, would like to see more projects like this. It is possible to create beautiful, luxurious products in a sustainable, ethical way – paying fair wages, promoting local artistry, and reaching out to brilliant artists who have been marginalized.
Those featured in the campaign include the machinists, cutters, tailors, production managers, metal workers, and traditional Massai beaders involved in the production of this collection, and they were photographed by Derek Henderson – a regular when it comes to Karen Walker’s campaigns. I can’t wait to see what other projects evolve from the Ethical Fashion Initiative and I hope they are as optimistic and collaborative as this one.
[Photo credit: The New Zealand Herald]