Thursday, October 15, 2009

from seed to bag - we did it

The upper balcony at Good African Coffee at Lugogo Mall is usually filled with people who "work from home." They have free UTL internet, and the place has gotten so popular that you end up sharing a table with three strangers. It's a mobile office of sorts, and they have great cappuccino.

One rainy afternoon, Gihan showed up to do some work and plopped a stack of fabric swatches on the table.

"Do you like any of these? I know this guy, and he can turn any PDF into a print for you. He normally does t-shirts for me, but he makes a lot of these fabrics."

Many of the prints were gold on a solid backgroud, or printed on a textured, non-cotton fabric, but i was intrigued - they were intricate and the lines were all really crisp. Could this be the way out of the Chinese trap?

A few weeks later I drove Zach and Anna up to Gulu. One of their first tasks as OMT volunteers was to help me pick out some graphically interesting [Chinese] kitenge. It was difficult to ignore some of the obnoxious colors and polyester fabrics, but we chose for design and design alone. Back at the workshop, we photographed the repeat of the design and Zach loaded it up onto Adobe Photoshop. After playing around with pantones, we stood back and admired our work - we'd created four gorgeous designs.

After emailing them to Gihan, we got a response back from Herbert Musisi, the owner and lead designer at Chui Designs - a textile printing workshop based in Kampala. The following week I sat down with Gihan, Herbert and Alison to talk about our designs.

We agreed on 100% Ugandan cotton - a fabric called "Jinja" - named for the place where it is created - at Nytil factory in Jinja, the source of the Nile. All the fabrics are hand-dyed to our specifications, and Chui creates custom screens in our prints.

The result? We have bulk materials with custom colors and designs - a 100% cotton, 100% Ugandan product, from seed to bag. We did it!

Check out the new products this holiday season - coming soon to our online retail store.

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