While the West only seemed to discover recycling and sustainable production over the last couple of decades, many Africans have been doing it naturally, since time began. When it comes to sustainability, there are few products in more abundance or as easy to access as tree bark. José Hendo has made a career from a caring approach to fashion design. We caught up with her at the opening of Sapelle to find out more.
Although we first caught up with José at PFM 2015, it wasn’t until Africa Fashion store Sapelle opened its doors in September that we really spent some time with her.
After a quick introduction, our eyes were drawn to the long ‘tie’ that she was wearing and she was quick to invite us to feel the fibre of the fabric she loves to use on her designs.
“It’s bark cloth”, she says with a smile at our confused looks. “The material is heavy, but soft, with a texture similar to crushed velvet. Amazing, isn’t it?” she asks. We are forced to agree. It’s hard to believe that this warm fabric has anything to do with rough tree bark. “It has been used in Africa for more than 600 years”, she told us.
Her dedication has yielded fans in high places back home. José is a multiple Award-winning designer – and designs by royal appointment. She has already been called upon for four royal weddings back home.
“I have been into fashion and design my whole life, with inspiration coming from the greats like Yohji Yamamoto“, she explained. “Now, I am an eco-sustainable fashion designer, who has the dream to bring barkcloth back to the forefront of fashion”. If you are in any doubt as to the beauty and desirability of clothing that has been fashioned from tree bark, we encourage you to check her Resonance collection.
Conservation is clearly important for José and she told us, “I use ‘R3’ as the cornerstone of my fashion business. That’s Reduce, Re-use and Recycle“.
We asked about her support for Passion For Motherland, “I believe that supporting charitable causes is important in order to better the world in which we live”, she said.
“Shows are also great for networking”, José explained. “I still remember my first ever showcase at Kampala Fashion Week, Bark 2 The Roots. It’s also very special for me to take my work out of Uganda and to share it with the world”.
When she needs inspiration, she has very specific taste, “Sade, Mary J Blige, Toni Braxton and Babyface for their music – alongside homemade food and plenty of water”.
As far as ethics and determination go, José told us, “Stick to what you believe in, don’t compromise your values and work hard for your goals”. Good advice for any young designer!
We thank José for taking the time to speak with us and we wish her well with her mission to bring more bark to the world of fashion.
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