What comes to your mind when you think of organic T-shirts that are made in Africa? I can imagine how difficult it is to imagine one, since organic African T-shirts do not have a specific look. The Baffs Company, based in Crawley, United Kingdom can give you a perfect image of an organic T-shirt made in Africa.
The Baffs brand produces 100% organic T-shirts, made in Africa. The cotton of which the T-shirts are made of come from Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADU), based in the Northern part of Uganda. Also, the T-shirts are traded fully under Fair trade. Never, in the history of T-shirt production has a company taken such a unique approach, whereby the founder is also African. Baffs is taking a conscious step and moving towards a direction that more companies of the western world are heading to. This all makes us interested in knowing the process of this T-shirt line and the challenges of Fair trade production.
The word Baffs is Nigerian slang used to describe a fashionable wear, “I Like your Baffs”, means: “I like what you are wearing”. The word Baffs is not much used as it used to be. To some Nigerians, the word is rather considered an old slang. Yet, the new The Baffs brand focuses on consumers who are socially conscious and who want to make a difference through their purchasing habits. It also focuses on consumers who want to take part in the positive representation of Africa and its people. We spoke to the founder Ade Durojaiy about Baffs and Fair trade production.
The Baffs collection
The Baffs T-shirt collection consists of a line for men and a line for women. Both of the collections consist of white T-shirts with various prints. Each print has a different meaning. For example, The Africa Puzzle is currently the best selling design for both sexes. “The puzzle, which has the form of Africa becomes whole when the pieces are put together. It is about our connection with one another, our need for unity.” Ade explains.
The T-shirt with the print called The Beats means that Music is an important part of African culture. This design is something which reflects the way that Africans feel, act and interact. “It pays homage to that but also asks us to create our own music, dance to our own beats.” Ade elaborates. This print is designed for men.
T-shirt with the print called The Life is inspired by an experience of Ade whereby he had a trip to East Tsavo National Park, Kenya. The creation of this print is based on that he noticed that there was always some life around the tree. He believes that the Tree of Life also has a spiritual meaning across many traditions.
Ade first developed the idea for Baffs about 6yrs ago, but he did not get the ball rolling until 2009 when he started researching the brand, the designs, the suppliers etc. And when asked what his greatest challenge has been so far, he answers:” It’s taken a lot to put Baffs together, a lot of determination and flexibility. I think the greatest challenge has been to keep going, to act, review, and redesign but yet keep things going. Is not easy because sometimes you come across so many obstacles you just want to pack up and call it a day”
Ade chose for Fair trade, because he is convinced that the overall benefit for all is far greater than the challenges. He explains that a few years ago, there was nothing like fair trade, he believes that it will soon be accepted and finally and hopefully become the norm.
The parts of the production process which are under Fair trade are the sourcing of the raw materials (Organic Cotton) and the production (sewing of the T-shirts). Ade explains that there are a lot of challenges with fair trade, for example the pricing and the marketing aspect: buying and paying premium for Fair trade products is still not the normal, even though consumers and retailers know about the damage to the environment of normal production, they are still reluctant to make ethical decisions.
Awareness of Fair Trade in Africa
Baffs sources and produces in Africa but the T-shirts are sold outside Africa. According to Ade, Africans know what is good about Africa but the world does not. That’s why the market of Baffs is abroad. In terms of Fair trade, Ade believes that the awareness in Africa is present in terms of production.
Even though Fair trade products tend to be more expensive than their non- Fair trade counterparts, the goal of the Baffs brand is to stress the ethical status of the Baffs brand and also educate their consumers about the need for organic products. “For now, buying organic is not main stream, so the people who come to us are socially conscious and ahead of the crowd.” Ade says.
The public and Baffs
When asked what the public expects from the success of Baffs, Ade finds it hard to tell. He does explain that as a company, they expect Baffs to keep improving in all areas and that Baffs will be an established brand.
The Baffs can be purchased online via http://www.baffs.co/. Not only is Baffs a unique concept, but they also apply a special way of packaging. If your purchase a Baffs T-shirt, you will receive it in and exclusive Baffs tube. Pretty interesting, don’t you think?