At the end of 2022, we were approached by the founder of Threads By S.O.F.T., Pamela Finck, an online sustainable and ethical clothing company based in Los Angeles, California. The letters S.O.F.T. in her logo stand for sustainable, organic, and fair trade. Pamela had discovered our authentic Ankara fabrics online and asked if we could produce a collection of African print fabric bathrobes for Threads by S.O.F.T.
In 2021, Pamela traveled to Kenya and Rwanda for a holiday where she trekked in the Volcanoes National Park to see the mountain gorillas, an endangered species. Pamela adopted Mubyeyi and Kabeho, baby gorilla siblings in 2022 and chose to donate 10% of Threads by S.O.F.T.’s profits to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Gorilla siblings adopted by Threads by S.O.F.T. (photo by Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund).
During her safari in Kenya, Pamela found a colorful Kanga African print fabric bathrobe in her tented camp and met several tailors at a sewing school in Rwanda. This inspired Pamela to source authentic African wax print fabrics and produce a unique collection of bathrobes in a responsible way. This would help to empower tailors and support African cotton farmers.
Discover how to tell the difference between authentic and imitation African print fabric.
The Kanga African print fabric bathrobe in Pamela’s tented safari camp in Kenya.
We were very happy to partner with Threads by S.O.F.T. as we both support the ethical and sustainable fashion movement. Our master tailor, Abdallah, lovingly handmade the colorful African print fabric bathrobes using Kanga and Kitenge fabrics at his workshop in Tanzania. Pamela came up with a great idea to mix the different African print fabrics together for the Kitenge bathrobes for a one-of-a-kind look! Continue reading to see what they look like.
Kitenge Store’s master tailor, Abdallah, making a Kanga African print bathrobe in Tanzania.
For the Kanga bathrobes, Pamela wanted the unique Swahili proverbs to be prominent in the design so they are featured on one side of the sashes and along one side of the bathrobes. Kanga cloth is traditionally worn by women, and occasionally men, in East Africa as a wraparound skirt. Women often wear Kangas in their communities as a form of non-verbal communication or inside the house so their husbands can see.
Learn more about the Kanga fabrics used to make Threads by S.O.F.T.’s bathrobes including their Swahili translations.
A woman in Zanzibar wearing Kanga cloth to cover her hair (left) and the Swahili proverbs featured on one side of the Kanga bathrobe sashes (right)
Pamela didn’t want to waste any of the leftover fabric offcuts after the bathrobes production so she asked if we could make some men’s African neckties and African print bow ties. Threads by S.O.F.T. also repurpose deadstock (fabric cuttings leftover from production in garment factories) by making women’s underwear which prevents the perfectly good fabric from ending up in landfills. Their underwear is handmade by garment workers in Los Angeles who are paid a fair wage.
Explore ways to upcycle old clothes in your wardrobe at home.
Browse Thread by S.O.F.T.’s beautiful bathrobes collection handmade using Tanzanian Kanga and authentic African wax print fabrics made in Nigeria using 100% locally-grown cotton. All the fabrics were locally sourced in Tanzania from small enterprises, which helps to support communities, the textile industry, and the economy. A small number of African print fabric bathrobes were made in each fabric pattern so they are truly unique!
Kanga African print fabric bathrobes handmade by Kitenge Store.
African wax print fabric bathrobes handmade by Kitenge Store.
Watch the below video of Pamela unboxing and modeling the different African print fabric bathrobes after they arrived in Los Angeles, California!
Q1. What inspired you to start Threads by S.O.F.T.?
Threads by S.O.F.T. and our new logo ‘Ted the Threadman’ came about as I wanted to expand into garments beyond ladies’ underwear. The threaded stick figure conveys the company’s core values with the commitment to sourcing sustainable, recycled, or eco-friendly fibers.
With the utmost respect for the talent and expertise of bringing an idea to life, I am also committed to paying a fair wage to the individuals using the thread and needle. The upside-down heart logo is still used for our Upcycled Cheekies and Hipsters ladies’ underwear.
Threads by S.O.F.T.’s ‘Ted the Threadman’ logo features on the pockets of their African print fabric bathrobes
Q2. Why do you sell ethical and sustainable clothing and accessories?
I want to be on the right side of history along with companies already evolving into becoming more ethically and environmentally responsible like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Kitenge Store.
For the fashion and textile industry to clean up, designers and brands must take a stand by using their purchasing power to only source fibers and garments responsibly and ethically. By doing this, we can collectively ensure cleaner farming and manufacturing practices as well as a fair living wage for all workers involved in the supply chain.
Living in Los Angeles, it is very easy to simply go to any of the hundreds of fabric shops in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) and pick up a bolt. Very few, if any of these, take into consideration fair wages from seed to fabrics to ultimately the garment pieces.
I also subscribe to slow fashion. According to Earth.org, 1.92 million tons of textile waste are produced every year. By offering Upcycled Cheekies, it is our sustainable solution in extending the life of preventing perfectly good textiles from ending up in landfills. For instance, our Sunset Muave Upcycled Cheekies is a stretch knit fabric repurposed from Eileen Fisher’s production offcuts that were passed on to my favorite “Deadstock” source, Ragfinders.
I am also excited for the arrival of Kitenge Store’s men’s neckties and bow ties that will be cut and sewn using the leftover fabric from our bathrobes.
Q3. Do you have any sustainable fashion tips that you could share with us?
I love shopping in my closet and re-inventing how to wear all my old clothing in a new and different way. I also shop in local second-hand stores. Anytime I am looking to purchase specific clothing or home goods, I first google sustainable and ethical companies to support like-minded individuals. And lucky for me, this is exactly how I found Kitenge Store when I was looking to source African print fabrics.
Q4. What do you love the most about African print fabrics?
Two things. I was initially drawn to the bright colors and the different patterns, not realizing the meaning or history behind each fabric. Secondly, I found the Swahili messages to be so interesting in how they convey blessings and well wishes to one another. I would love an opportunity to walk through an African community with an expert who could identify and share with me the history and hidden meanings of the individual Kitenge and/or Kanga prints worn.
Learn more about the history of African wax print fabrics and their hidden meanings.
Q5. Why did you choose to source authentic wax print fabrics, made in Africa, to make your bathrobes?
I would never want Threads by S.O.F.T. to be a brand that commits ‘Cultural Theft.’ The bathrobe in Kenya that inspired me to recreate and sell the same using African print fabric was so bright and fun that I was intrigued to learn the history of this fabric that is so prominent in the African culture. It’s a history that brings to life the bathrobes and information that I want to share.
By partnering with Kitenge Store and knowing that their sourcing standards align with mine, I am assured the Kitenge African wax print and Kanga fabrics come from African cotton farmers and textile mills located in Nigeria and Tanzania.
Q6. Why did you decide to work in the fashion design industry?
I initially started my company as S.O.F.T. Hearts with a very focused mission of designing the softest and most comfortable pair of ladies’ underwear. My go-to brand stopped making my favorite underwear and I couldn’t find anything remotely close to what I liked. There were plenty of lacy thongs and thin silky panties but no soft cotton options that would not rise up in the back.
Our two panty lines offered are for everyday activities like binge-watching, all-night study sessions, remote work-in-sweats-all-day or just hanging out in your favorite pair of old baggy jeans! However, I do think a few of our Upcycled Cheekies’ options could make the cut for “Date Night!”
Q7. Do Threads by S.O.F.T. have any exciting plans for the future?
The partnership with Kitenge Store has been a lifeline and such a pleasure. I would like to continue building partnerships with local boutiques to join us in supporting African cotton farmers and Tanzanian artisans. And to bring this journey full circle, my goal is also to find a boutique hotel interested in featuring our bathrobes in their guest rooms, greeting them with the same bright and colorful African print as I was in Kenya.
Q8. What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own ethical and sustainable fashion business?
It takes time and patience to stay the course in sustainability. Be fearless and steadfast. Don’t compromise or settle for fibers or textiles that aren’t held to a standard that supports your company’s ethical ethos. And know when to be flexible on your vision to pivot from what isn’t working to what will.
I was determined to offer a circular knit bralette and panty set with recycled plastic and bio-degradable fibers. In the end, the price per piece and MOQ (minimum order quantity) priced me out. MOQs go against my core value of offering small batches as well as supporting made to measure clothing companies like Kitenge Store.
Investing in MOQs that large factories require quite possibly runs the risk of inventory made, but not sold and used, ultimately ending up in landfills. So instead, I am now focusing my energies on repurposing deadstock for our Upcycled Cheekies line and of course marketing/selling Kitenge Store’s bright and colorful African print bathrobes, men’s neckties, and bow ties.
Shop Threads by S.O.F.T.’s limited-edition Kanga bathrobes and Kitenge African wax print fabric bathrobes; they ship within the US and Canada. Why not treat yourself or a loved one, they make great gifts with a story to tell.
If you’re located outside of North America and would like to purchase a Kanga or Kitenge African print fabric bathrobe please get in touch. Our highly-skilled tailors can make a bathrobe especially for you in a small/medium or large/XL size. We can ship to most countries from Tanzania either via the Post Office or by courier (DHL). You can currently get 10% off your first order when you subscribe to our newsletter!
Kitenge Store’s authentic, 100% cotton, Ankara fabrics made in Nigeria.
If you loved the look of the vibrant and bold fabric patterns used to make these bathrobes why not take a look at our authentic Ankara fabric collection? Our gorgeous fabrics are suitable for dressmaking, quilting, interior design, sewing projects, and arts and crafts. You can make pretty much anything with versatile African wax print fabrics!
For sewing inspiration, check out these 20 fabric items that you could make at home.
Our bold and vibrant Kitenge fabrics can be purchased by the yard (1 to 6) so you can order the exact yardage you need to reduce waste. We also sell fabric fat quarters left over from our clothing production for quilting and arts and crafts projects.
Learn how to sew with African wax print fabrics and discover our top tips!SHOP AFRICAN PRINT FABRICS
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