I started Slumlove* Sweater Company as a way to help improve the lives of people living in the place that I love. I began traveling to Kenya when I was just four years old, and the beauty and magic of this wonderful country seeped deep into my soul; I’ve never been able to let go.
Over the years, my love for Kenya led me to begin working in Kibera. It’s one of the world’s largest slums located in the country’s capitol of Nairobi. Some friends and I spent the summer of 2008 volunteering there. We developed strong relationships in the community and after seeing a need for educational opportunities for students, we developed a long-term plan to help provide high school scholarships to the children of Kibera.
It’s been seven years since that summer, and each year that passes my love for the people and my desire to see real change grows.
I founded Slumlove Sweater Company in 2012 after meeting women from Kibera who knit school sweaters for children. I had always wanted to work in the fashion industry, but was unable to see how I could fit in. After meeting these women and recognizing their incredible skill, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my love for fashion and my passion for helping the community of Kibera.
At its core, Slumlove Sweater Company exists to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty. We do this by paying our employees fair wages for their work and giving part of our proceeds back to a non-profit that provides educational scholarships for children living in the slum. Anytime I find myself in Kenya, I make sure to visit the school and spend time with the students and teachers. This is the place where Slumlove began, and I never want to forget that this is what it’s all about.
I am now almost two years into this crazy adventure. It’s challenging, demanding, and incredibly rewarding. We’ve expanded our production to a new facility outside of Kibera that creates beautiful clothing made from organic materials sourced in East Africa. Working with women in Kenya to produce ethical, quality clothing is something I only dreamed of being able to do.
It’s a privilege to get to play a small part in this movement and help give people the opportunity to change the world with the clothes they buy.
On my most recent visit, I was able to meet with the knitters and go over our new fall collection. This is the most excited I’ve been about a Slumlove collection so far, and I’m so proud of how the pieces are turning out. Being able to take a design I dreamt up and a few weeks later hold the finished product in my hands is really incredible. Knowing that this piece of clothing that I’m holding is improving the lives of the women who made it is almost too much to take in.
There’s an incredible movement happening in the fashion industry right now. People are starting to care about where and how their clothing was made. They want to know the stories and faces behind the dress they just bought, and they want to know that the people who made it are being treated with respect and dignity. It’s a privilege to get to play a small part in this movement and help give people the opportunity to change the world with the clothes they buy.
I hope you know what an important part you play in all of this, too. It’s only with the support of dedicated customers that the ethical fashion industry can grow. There’s so much talent in this world, and so many men and women who are looking for employment so they can provide for their families. When you buy a product from a company that is committed to ethical and responsible production practices, you really are changing the world. How cool is that?!
*Millions of people in Kenya live in extremely impoverished communities known as “slums.” Even though this is a commonly used term to describe these areas, we know the negative connotation that comes with this word. To the people living in these communities, the slum is home. It’s where children go to school and people operate businesses. Families sit down in their homes to eat dinner together and neighbors visit one another. It’s a place where normal life happens. It’s also where Slumlove Sweater Company was founded and how we got our name. We began working here because of our love for the people of the Kibera slum. We’ve developed strong relationships in this community over the last decade, and our goal as a company is to provide jobs and resources for the people living here. In other words, our mission is to simply love the slum, a place that receives little love and respect from the rest of the world. We hope to remove the negativity that surrounds this word, and instead focus on the individual lives and stories of the people who live here, because these are the people whose lives you are helping improve when you purchase from us.
Images provided by Ashley Green