Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0047 EAT on Wednesday 13th July 2022.
Where one sees trash, one woman sees style and beauty. Fashion designer Faith Aweko is that visionary woman.
Aweko is the founder and design head of Reform Africa, a line of bags made from used polythene bags. Instead of clogging the water drains and filling the trash heaps, her team puts the kaveera to good use, making backpacks, totes and toiletry bags.
Growing up in Kampala with a hair stylist mother, Aweko was immersed in an aesthetic consciousness from an early age. Making jewellery with friends as a teenager allowed her to experiment with paper, stones and scraps of cloth. That ability to see the potential in otherwise unpopular materials is serving her very well today.
While attending the Social Innovation Academy (SINA), Aweko held court with thinkers striving for social impact. During her two years at SINA in Mpigi, learning how to scale and market gave structure to what was once just an interesting idea.
Unlike other designers, Aweko does not sketch. Every bag is unique and the shapes of the colour blocks reveal themselves through the process.
That’s the beauty of recycling…it’s only you who owns that pattern,” she says of her creations. The kaveera picked from trash are washed and steam-pressed into sheets, and then cut and sewn into the several bag styles offered by Reform Africa.
Their stylish backpack is having its day in the sun. It has the dual benefit of being hands-free as well as ergonomic, comfortable for carrying heavier items over a distance.
“Creatives and freelancers carrying their office with them wherever they go just love these backpacks,” she said.
Now Aweko is trying to expand her line to making raincoats and ponchos, which are very well suited for the kaveera material. Reform Africa also lends pieces to fashion shows and film sets near Kampala.
In her daily life, Aweko uses several of Reform’s own zipper tote bags, and swaps them out to match her outfit for the day. Her tip for not leaving her house keys or mobile phone in yesterday’s bag is to keep these essentials in a small toiletry bag, also made by Reform.
Reform Africa bags are now available in at least ten shops around Uganda and abroad. Each bag purchased provides another school bag for a rural child, teaching us all that indeed ‘it is not waste until you waste it’.