It’s in the bag: A story of upcycling, fashion and persistence

When you walk the winding alleys of Gikomba market in Nairobi, giant piles of used clothing represent a sort of afterlife for previously-loved garments. Here, and other markets, is where you will often find Mohamed Awale, 29, rummaging like a man on a mission.

He is the co-owner of Kenyan indie-fashion brand Suave, which (by its own admission) breathes new life into old.

The brand markets and sells vibrant, uniquely Kenyan bags, laptop sleeves, slim fold wallets and satchels – all made from materials sourced from second-hand traders, factories and tanneries. Suave uses off-cuts and unwanted morsels to create vivid and fashionable accessories.

A self-confessed lover of bags, Awale had the idea to create his own brand shortly after finishing university at the age of 24. His first job in the corporate world was completely channelled into finding and paying for a workshop space and getting the first materials for production. But, he still didn’t know which kind of bags he wanted to make.

He remembers the day he first thought of using second-hand clothing as a production material.

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