I Remade Your Clothes2 years ago
Meet Margaret Kadi, creative inspirer at WORN
Recently we embarked on a journey behind the seams and met some of the local artisans working on the WORN initiative, a social venture that invests in communities worldwide to bring empowerment and education to children and young adults. Using precious recycled textile collected through various channels in Europe, the Artisans upcycle the materials into new and unique products. We catch up with Margaret Kadi, Founder of Project Sierra Leone and Pangea and Creative Inspirer at WORN to find out about herself and her work at the social enterprise.
Margaret was born in Sierra Leone but moved to London in the early nineties as the civil war began to break out across the country. She jumped on the education ladder at University in London and later worked in broadcast media for 12 years. She expresses with great sadness that she never made back until 17 years later when she visited for a two-week holiday – She was completely blown away. There was a buzz in the air and opportunities everywhere even though it is one of the poorest countries in the world. The people on the other hand are the warmest of people you would ever come across, as they are so welcoming.
Her shop soon became the go to shop for gifts and fashion accessories and things were great for about a year until the Ebola hit the country heavily affecting local businesses and entrepreneurs. The cloth weavers are based in remote villages so it became a logistical nightmare to get the goods to Freetown when most areas were under quarantine.
“My biggest passion is continuing to create a sustainable business where empowering Sierra Leoneans is at the core of what they do. The original idea was to work with predominantly women but that quickly changed, as they wanted to have an inclusive and fair business where anyone can come in and train. Poverty is rife in Sierra Leone and it affects everyone so it only makes sense to train and work with as many people as possible. My one pre-requisite though is that they have a strong work ethic.
There are many moments of happiness in life but mainly when a client tells you that you surpassed their expectations, be it with a custom piece of furniture or a tailored dress. I also love it when customers find it difficult to believe that all our products are made in Sierra Leone. They admire the quality and standard so I hope we are changing the minds of some people who think locally made means poor quality…you could not be more wrong. I feel like our customers are our ambassadors because they give us really good feedback and ideas from things they see on their travels.
I have always been creative in that I have always had my own style. Trends have never been a big hit with me and I never like wearing what everyone is wearing so I always found ways to creatively customise my clothes and accessories. When I was at University I used to shop from charity shops and blend my finds with designer wear.
Sierra Leone like a few other countries is a really challenging place to be an entrepreneur. There is just so much to worry about. Having an idea is the easiest part but then you have to worry about where to get capital from to get things going. The interest rate on bank loans is extremely high so that deters a lot of great ideas coming to light. In my case, assembling a great team that understand your vision is terribly hard so you find yourself having to micro manage everything as I am a stickler for extremely high standards.
WORN is a wonderful initiative, especially as consumers are all about slow fashion and up cycling. I honestly think it could be the start of something big – I cannot wait to see if get off the ground. What we concentrate on is the transparent supply chain. This is absolutely imperative for any sustainable business and it gives the consumer added confidence that they are making the right decision to make a purchase. Secondly, I think it expands the mindset of the artisans who are not used to working within certain perimeters.
When asked on her advice to young entrepreneurs there was one thing she stuck by – Never give up. Believe in your ideas, if you do then its a lot easier to get others to see your vision. Get a mentor if you need to, perhaps someone doing something similar so they can guide you every step of the way until you are ready to unleash your idea to the world!
The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone affected every industry and the country as a whole as you can imagine. We are slowly getting back on our feet so things are not too bad. Our hope is to increase our collective of artisans by bringing in more, especially women that were affected by Ebola. We’ll train them in jewelry making, batik making and business skills so hopefully they can set up their own respective businesses.
There is a good crop of creative of artisans in Sierra Leone. Once you find one, they will lead you to the rest. I am so grateful for the group we have, as they are the best at what they do. The arts and culture scene is not big here so you would never get to hear about them otherwise. For us it is imperative for you to know the hands that touch and make our products. When you come into our store you will see beautiful products, two tailors working away on orders or one of our jewelry makers making a piece of jewelry. There is a greater appreciation for the products when you get to see and know the person responsible for the products you own so dearly.
We have big plans for the future. We’d like to open a training school/center where we can encourage people to come in and learn a trade – whether it is furniture making, jewelry making or tailoring. I think something like that is so desperately needed in Sierra Leone as there is a huge unemployment problem that we hope we can play our part in addressing this issue.
We have a few collaborations with some great brands so we look forward to sharing this with you in due course.
By Luke Meredith, Founder & Chief Inspirer, WORN