Meet Adam Foya, Tanzanian Entrepreneur Who's Impacting Artisan Fashion
Tanzania is situated on the East coast of Africa, on the Indian Ocean. The country hosts wildlife reservations and mountains, Mount Kilimanjaro being one. Indians, Persians and Arabs have all tried to take over this archipelago nation. But, what does this coastal nation have to do with ethical shopping? A lot in fact.
Ethical shopping has become a growing sector in recent years. Consumers are taking note to the products they buy, since films like Blood Diamond and documentaries on fair trade coffee and ethical fashion have come out.
According to the Fairtrade Foundation, 77% of Britons say they are care about fair trade. Why? Because careful humanitarian-thinking consumers in the West consciously do not want to support labels where workers in developing nations aren’t being paid fair wages, or whose lives are in danger to produce products, or who are just being mishandled all around.
Seele has featured companies like The Little Market and To The Market, who sell fair trade goods from around the world, which enable local artisans of small villages to sell their products safely and at market value. But now we’re turning to the artisans, and one in particular, Adam Foya who lives in Tanzania’s commercial port, Dar es Salaam. Adam is a trained Economist, turned banking officer, turned development practitioner, turned academic, turned entrepreneur. Adam now designs and sells apparel, bags, and accessories with his company, Xarafa Clothing & Accessories. And, through his business he is bringing entrepreneurial innovation to East Africa. He also works in collaboration with other businesses like, Kwetu Africa Design and The Ovid Collective
SM: Where are you from and what is the need in your city and nation?
XC: I am from Tanzania, born and raised in different regions of this big, beautiful country with diverse nature and people. The nation needs business people and entrepreneurs who can provide good quality clothing with professional services.
SM: What led you to start Xarafa Clothing & Accessories?
XC: For me, designing has mostly been a self-taught process that continually provides opportunities to learn and grow. As an Economics graduate who grew up with a mother who used to be a seamstress, I gained valuable and practical knowledge just watching her sew and interact with clients and her colleagues.
However, prior to setting up Xarafa Clothing, I had three different careers: I started off as banking officer, then I moved to working as a development practitioner, and then lastly to academia before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. During this period of about seven years, I would say that my journey into fashion design was largely driven by curiosity, the love of art, and the mindset of trying to put ideas into life.
SM: What types of items does Xarafa Clothing sell and what is your most popular item?
XC: Xarafa sells men and women's clothing including casual, office wear and textile for interior design. Fashion accessories are mostly gym/fitness bag and shopping tote bags.
Our mostly popular items are gym/fitness bag,chino Kitenge styled pants and casual shirts.
SM: Do you have a background in business or design?
XC: Training in Economics has exposed me to many concepts, such as consumer analysis, and it has equipped me with analytical skills that are important in business. Prior to the fashion business, I engaged in a wide variety of businesses ranging from agribusiness and food catering to selling second-hand shoes and clothes.
SM: Why Dar es Salaam as your base?
XC: Being the commercial capital city of Tanzania, Dar has about 10% of the country’s population hence a wider customer base that encompasses people of varying purchasing powers. From the production side, due to the presence of the port, all raw materials are readily available and, in comparison to other regions, there is also an abundance of skilled manpower.
SM: What is one misconception about Africa you want to break with Xarafa?
XC: That Africa can't provide high quality products and deliver on time.
SM: Describe African beauty in terms of artisan work? What makes Xarafa's work different from other department store items?
XC: The colors of the Kitenge cloth, which is the common name for the African print in East Africa, is one of the most compelling elements of this work. The colors are usually vibrant and expressive, and the practice of mixing different fabrics in one item enhances its beauty while ensuring that no single item in any store is alike. At Xarafa, solving customer problems in practical ways always informs and inspires us during the designing and production process.
SM: Does Xarafa feature work of women artisans? If so, how are they empowered?
XC: Currently our production system involves outsourcing in making of the items. We always make a point to work with seamstresses as part of our team.
SM: Where do you envision Xarafa being in 10 years?
XC: Our vision and prayer is that Xarafa will be a recognised regional brand with a wide reaching distribution that creates local meaningful employment from a Xarafa-owned factory.
SM: How can people specifically pray for Xarafa and African artisans?
XC: Prayers for wisdom and knowledge in handling the growth of the business in changing times is essential. For African artisans, we need to pray for increased creativity, skills, and perseverance in order for them to be able to achieve their God given potential.
SM: How can people purchase your items online?
Xarafa Clothing & Accessories