At Kitenge we’re extremely proud of our ongoing commitment to improving the lives of our tailors and their families in Tanzania. That’s why every single piece of modern African print clothing you’ll see in our African boutique online is lovingly handmade by our talented team of tailors. We think it’s really important to celebrate this talent and share with you the stories behind the clothing. One such tailor is Betty, and here is her story.
Betty started her own business in 2013 after completing a Computer Science degree at the Institute of Financial Management (IFM) in Tanzania. Betty taught herself how to sew by watching YouTube videos and using her Mum’s 30 year-old old sewing machine.
Betty in her old office space (2015) before expanding her business
Our founder, Sian, was first introduced to Betty in 2015 through a mutual friend. Betty already owned a small, combined shop, office and workshop space that was built next to her family’s home. She employed 4 staff members including a shop assistant, 2 tailors and a sourcing assistant.
Abigail, one of Betty’s tailors working in the old, small workshop in 2015
When Sian visited Betty again in 2016 she shared her exciting plans to expand her business premises. Betty desperately needed additional workspace so she could employ more tailors and feel more confident in accepting larger order volumes.
Betty planned to knock down the wall between her office and the small workshop next door to make a larger office space for herself and all her equipment.
She then showed Sian the new workshop they were building at the back of her family’s compound, which could accommodate up to 20 tailors! At this stage, the main framework for the new workshop had been constructed including the roof.
Betty looking out of one of the windows inside her new workshop in November 2016
Betty standing inside her new workshop in November 2016
It was incredible to watch the progress of the building work and when Sian visited Betty again in early 2017 she was able to see the finished result. A fabulous, brand new, spacious workshop!
The side view of Betty’s brand new, finished workshop behind the banana trees in her family’s garden
The finished front view of Betty’s new workshop with the windows and doors now installed
Betty’s business is thriving and she now employs 6 staff members including a new shoemaker called Vincent. The below video shows Vincent cutting out the soles of leather sandals by hand in Betty’s new workshop.
Betty’s team makes all our African print hair bands, hair clips, bow ties and bunting by hand using the recycled offcuts from our clothing production. This minimises fabric wastage and crucially prevents it from going to landfill.
According to Fashion Revolution, it is estimated that global manufacturers make 400 billion m2 of textiles annually and 60 billion m2 is cutting room floor waste!! At Kitenge we have sought a sustainable solution to address this issue by making smaller items including hair accessories, jewellery and bags. It also provides more work for women who specialise in making the smaller, more intricate items.
Betty’s tailors Lucy (left) and Levina (right) making our African print hair clips using recycled offcuts
Betty, Lucy and Levina proudly presenting their finished, lovingly handmade, African print hair clips!
The below video shows Abigail affixing the bows to our Kitenge headbands. They are very popular accessories worn by both children and adults.
These lovingly handmade accessories are later sold on our colourful stall at music festivals, events, exhibitions and markets around the UK throughout the year.
For those of you who visited our festival stall in 2017 you may have noticed our brand new African print changing room curtains, which were also made by Betty’s team. Thank you for all the lovely comments we received, which we have fed back to the team!
Sian visiting Betty and her tailors in her brand new workshop in Tanzania (May 2017). Back row (from left to right): Vincent, Abigail, Betty and John. Front row (from left to right): Sian, Levina, Lucy and Upendo.
Watch our below video interview with Betty in her brand new office talking about her journey to date, the challenges she faces in Tanzania and where she sees her business in 5 years time.
It is an absolute pleasure working with Betty and her fabulous team and we look forward to supporting her continued business growth in the future. We love the fact that she plans to employ more female tailors so watch this space!
This is one example of how we support our tailors in Tanzania, East Africa, to set-up and grow their own businesses independently. To learn more about our social impact please watch these video interviews with our main clothing tailors, Abdallah and Hassan.
If there is a particular accessory design that you would like us to make using our leftover fabric please get in touch.
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