Heather Chaplet was a theater maker when she decided to pause her stage aspirations to perform in the real economy. She was determined to apply her design talent to proving that we can make fashion harmless: that we can look good and treat people and the planet with respect at the same time.
She chose to base her work in West Africa primarily because she knew it would take time to establish production and so it would need to be a in a place she loved. West African dance had been a part of her training as a performer and her musician husband, Nils, was also attracted to West African culture through the music of the region. She chose to settle in Burkina Faso after a research trip in 2009, where she visited all the organic cotton producing countries in the region.
She has not been disappointed. Burkina Faso is rich in traditional culture and has a history of radical political courage. In 2014, the people of Burkina refused to allow the president a fifth term and insisted on democratic elections. The climate is full of hope and struggle to form a truly representative and participatory government, accountable to the needs of the many, not the few. Their inspiration is based on the ideals that were put into application in the 80's by the previous president, Thomas Sankara. This revolutionary leader had a lasting effect on the national psyche. His efforts to equalize the genders, protect the environment and reject global corporate interests for an antonymous economy are goals people in Burkina understand, making it a little easier to establish a business along the same principles.
There are enormous challenges working in one of the poorest countries, land locked on the African continent with none of the infrastructure that we take for granted in Europe and North America but we are generously rewarded with the feeling of addressing crucial needs and working toward our goal to truly make fashion harmless.
How is Xoomba making fashion harmless?
- by using only local and organically grown materials
- by working with local artisans to transform regional resources into yarn, textiles and clothing, creating sustainable livelihoods in a depressed economy
- by minimizing pollution related to transporting raw materials abroad
- by using low impact, fiber reactive dyes and treating the waste water to avoid ground water contamination
- by increasing the demand for organic materials like organic cotton
- by showing it is possible to do ethical business so others have the confidence to do likewise
Xoomba refuses to use conventional or GMO cotton. We are committed to using cotton grown in Burkina Faso, certified organic by Ecocert and GOTS and certified fairtrade by FLO (Fairtrade International) For more information about the devastating effects of non organic cotton agriculture see The Environmental Justice Foundation and Cotton's Overall Impact.