Tackling Our Textile Waste through Creative Initiatives

Image Credit: Nana Kwadwo Agyei Addo, Accra Studios

Textile waste is a global problem, and we witness some of its devastating effects firsthand here in Ghana. For one, Accra is home to one of the world's largest second-hand clothing markets; Kantamanto Market. Vendors there must purchase bales of clothing from the global North's second-hand and charity industry without knowing the condition of the contents. The bales contain clothing in various states, and it’s estimated that 40% of the items are unfit to sell due to soil or damage. As you can imagine, cheap fast fashion has not helped the situation. Not only is this model financially precarious for vendors, but the discarded items also pile up, polluting our waterways and landfills, contributing to flooding and fires.

Image Credit: The OR Foundation

Overproduction is the biggest single factor when it comes to textile waste, and we are happy over in our small corner, not participating in that. But knowing the damage that textile waste causes, we do have many internal initiatives to handle our own scraps, making sure that as little as possible enters the waste stream. For starters, we minimize our waste by cutting garments one by one, and dyeing custom lengths per size we produce. For offcuts we do generate in our production, we offer a free giveaway program to whoever can use the pieces. This has resulted in all kinds of beautiful things. All of us at the office take pieces to tailors to have custom clothing made. In our artist residency program, we encourage participants to use our offcuts in the work that they produce. Even the tiniest of pieces are used locally to stuff cushions and furniture. We are proud to say we throw very very little fabric away.

In addition, we also have a buyback program that encourages customers to return their unwanted used Osei-Duro clothing for store credit. These clothes are donated to our Reruns program, which is run out of our Vancouver studio. The program happens twice a year and teaches women in recovery in the Downtown Eastside fashion e-commerce skills. Reruns is a paid training opportunity that prepares women to re-enter the workforce. Along with customer buyback returns, we donate all of our damages and seconds to the program. The trainees repair the clothes and prepare them for an online sale, with the funds from the sale reinvested into the program.

We also produce new items from our offcuts whenever we can! Our children’s clothing are all made from our scraps, as well as the Tamale rag rugs that we sell. Our tote bags also use our left over pieces, and we recently developed an exciting silk patchwork textile. Sometimes we collaborate with other brands to create new products using some of our offcuts, recent collaborations include the Better Basics x OD Napkin sets and the Wenlin Studio x OD Pouches.