Tandi Fashion is a contemporary and sustainable fashion brand, that empowers women through their uniquely designed, East-African-inspired clothes.
They do not follow fashion trends, in fact, when a specific design sells out, a new print is introduced. As a result, each pattern is unique, a limited edition, while reducing waste! Recently, Tandi fashion have designed two exclusive shirts for the V&A to accompany the new exhibition Africa Fashion – you can buy them here.
The brand is also involved with an African NGO called mothers2mothers, which aims to empower mothers living with HIV to bring hope to other mothers in the same position. With Mothers 2 Mothers, these women are able to work as front-line health workers!
In addition to mothers2mothers, Tandi Fashion supports women living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, Tandi Fashion has helped over 11 million women and children access medical treatments that have changed their lives.
This is just a fraction of what they do!
We at Contemporary Fashion Magazine, asked Thandi, designer and founder, some questions about the brand…
First off, how does Tandi Fashion differentiate itself from other sustainable brands?
Tandi does not conform to the traditional way of designing multiple collections of clothing each year. Instead, our approach to design work is quite the opposite, Tandi Fashion produces limited edition pieces.
These unique wearable designs make their own statement as we combine our love for East African cultural heritage with a conscious approach to sustainability. It is vitally important to who we are as a company that we conduct business in a socially responsible and ethical manner ensuring that we are not wasteful.
Tandi employs local women in Tanzania, where we source our fabric from, equip them with the resources that they need to work and communicate, providing these women with an additional source of income.
In the UK Tandi offers internships to disadvantaged people that are keen to gain experience in the fashion industry. Further, we continue to work with and support non-profit organisations dedicated to HIV prevention and education.
What initially inspired you to start Tandi Fashion?
The idea goes back to my childhood and growing up in awe of my mother’s beauty! She spent her childhood in Kenya. Her style was influenced by East African colours and tradition, but she wore it in her own individual western way. She brought to London the popular, colourful fabrics from East Africa. The kanga forms the basis for my design.
Do you believe that people are shopping more ethically nowadays?
I think consumers have dramatically evolved making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the pandemic. I believe customers are likely to remain loyal if they see brands making a legitimate effort to improve; It encourages innovation while discouraging others that ignore the social and environmental consequences of their actions. I am finding more and more that our customers are engaging with our brands’ ethos.
Your dresses are bold, powerful, and beautiful. How do you find inspiration for new products?
I often travel to Tanzania; in fact, I have just returned from a three-week trip. I fully immerse myself in the different communities.
A few of my team live in Dar es Salaam. Towards the end of my travels, I try to bring to life all that I have witnessed and felt. I believe our new prints are a true mixture of various parts of Tanzania and London. I produce clothes from an East African fabric called the ‘kanga’. What makes a kanga unique is the Swahili proverbs woven into the base of it. The brand allows people to dress to please themselves allowing their customers to ‘wear’ their emotions at certain moments.
I design and work with colours to magnify and empower women and make the customer feel positive and true to themselves matched with proverbs that make them feel good. It is important for the individual to feel good and confident in what they wear.
In terms of ethical practices, how do you see Tandi Fashion developing in 5 years?
It is vitally important to who we are as a company that we stay true to our brands DND, we call it Tandi Fashion’s triangle of support:
1) Empowerment of women, this is about confidence and fashion is a tool to display self-confidence. Enabling women to speak to everyone through their clothing without uttering a single word is so powerful
2) Health, HIV stigma is a serious burden for many people living with HIV. Our brand efforts go towards reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa.
3) Economy, Tandi Fashion employs women in Tanzania and London, providing them with a source of income. I view Tandi Fashion as just a vessel, anyone that interacts with the company from employees, customers, suppliers and service providers are encouraged to fully embrace the brand ethos helping to have a positive impact on the community.
How do you want your brand to be perceived by people? What is the main message you are trying to put across with your clothes?
Offering the customer clothing that has messages in the fabric that is bold and empowering to all, allowing our demographic to wear their emotions.
The Swahili message in dresses is a new concept to the Western market. The fabric is from East Africa; however, the production is split between East Africa and London. Just like many people who live in a city but have heritage that hails from elsewhere, Tandi clothing. Derived from East Africa but born in London
As well as supporting HIV charities, Tandi also supports mothers2mothers – tell us more about why m2m is so important to your brand and its message.
I was in Kenya and watching TV and the government was addressing the nation talking about AIDS/HIV. I learned that HIV diagnoses were highest among people aged 25 to 29 and women face a considerably higher risk of HIV infection than men as 8% of adult women have HIV. I knew I wanted to find the right charity. Our efforts go specifically towards reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa. We have partnered with mothers2mothers charity and 10% of our profits from sales go towards this cause. Our brand is all about the empowerment of women therefore it made sense to partner with mothers2mothers. We also help raise awareness through our events too.