Who Cares About Sustainability in the Creative Manufacture Sector? Deloitte Retail Trends Survey Sheds Light

by Daphne Kasambala
Photo: Weavers using sustainable natural grasses in Swaziland. Credit: Nest

Sustainability and ethics have become regular buzzwords within the global fashion and lifestyle manufacture space, gaining prominence several years ago because of horrific events in apparel factories that were a direct result of unethical practice to satisfy ‘fast fashion’ demands. More recently, calls for increased sustainability have been driven up in volume by pressue to reduce the impact of climate change. 

Over the years, we’ve seen initiatives of all forms (sincere and otherwise), by players in the sector to show that they’re engaging in more ethical sourcing including fair wage practice, use of organic fabrics, responsible product packaging, energy efficiency, alternative fuels and optimisation of logistics. 

We have to ask, while more companies are practising ethical sourcing, does the end customer really care? If so, how are they living their values when shopping? This is an important question for Meekono because of the role we play to identify and highlight emerging trends for our community of artisans, producers, value-adders and wholesalers so they may in turn intensify existing good practice or adopt and innovate new ways of working to not only address the demands of the consumers but also to contribute to a better world.

At the start of 2022, retailers were cautiously optimistic about their ability to move past Covid-19 and all of its challenges. There was a sense that technology, innovation and new business models would allow the industry to capitalise on emerging consumer behaviour and take a big step forward to shape the future shopping experience.

However, market conditions have been made more challenging driven by the fuel crisis, scarcity of raw materials, rapid inflation, which is putting a dent on the ability of the consumer to spend, and the war in Ukraine impacting supply chains.

Despite the challenges, product and business model innovation continues. Also, there is a revival of traditional ways of doing things: customers are preferring to shop from familiar local retailers, buying quality over quantity and less often, repurposing, reusing and recycling.

The third study of its kind by Deloitte of more than 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ shows that consumers are increasingly making conscious decisions with sustainability and the environment in mind. We dove into the results of the survey to find the elements that should be taken into account by players in the African creative manufacturing space, and those who retail their products.

Deloitte found that more consumers are being more proactive in their pursuit of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, whether by choosing brands that have ethical or environmentally sustainable practices and values, or by no longer purchasing certain products because they have concerns around the brand's ethical or sustainability practices or values. 

Consumers have also become more socially conscious when purchasing clothing and footwear, choosing brands based on their sustainability and ethical practices

Increasing consumer interest in sustainability is also being reflected in purchases of beauty products, with consumers more likely to choose brands that have environmentally sustainable and more ethical practices and values.

What do consumers consider a sustainable product?

When asked what makes a product sustainable, the majority of consumers indicated that it was biodegradable or made from recycled materials, followed by being responsibly sourced, had minimal packaging, was carbon-neutral and, supported biodiversity. However, when considering a purchase, consumers are more likely to value durability and repairability over recyclability or biodegradability.

Consumers are paying attention to ethical working practices and human rights issues when they shop for clothes and footwear. And looking across all categories, consumers value conserving biodiversity, water and other natural resources, as well as adopting circular practices, including the reuse, recycling, refurbishment or repair of goods.

What are the main barriers to consumers adopting a more sustainable lifestyle?

The primary reasons for not adopting a more sustainable lifestyle are related to cost, lack of interest in the issue of sustainability and not having enough information.


What do consumers need to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle?

Given that the primary barrier to becoming more sustainable relates to cost, it’s not surprising that making it more affordable to choose sustainable alternatives leads every other consideration, with nearly one in two citing it as the main area to address. Next, consumers would welcome better schemes to remove plastic and packaging and more clarity on disposal and recycling.

While consumers are looking to businesses like ours to make products more sustainable, the majority would also be willing to take more responsibility if they had the right information. Consumers want greater clarity on how to dispose or recycle an item, how sustainable products or services are, and better signposting of ways to renew or repair a damaged item. 

It's up to us to work in partnership with our retail buyers - those who have direct contact with consumers - to create and develop sustainable products that stay true to their design heritage, and to be transparent about the creation process. Fortunately, African design culture is very firmly rooted in respect of the environment and use of materials that are available in abundance.

Our A-Z Guide to Black Panther Wakanda Forever

by Daphne Kasambala

This weekend, the much anticipated Marvel sequel to the cultural sensation, 'Black Panther' will be on our screens. In the four years since the first blockbuster, a lot has changed. We lost Chadwick Boseman, who played the titular role, and we're still getting over the global epidemic. In a recent interview, Lupita Nyong’o expressed that “audiences can expect a tribute to the late Chadwick and believe that in the world, we are all dealing with the COVID pandemic, have suffered a great deal of loss, and are extremely aware of our fragility." 

Those who have been lucky enough to watch the previews confirm that the movie processes those feelings of grief and frailty in a sympathetic and respectful way whilst inspiring viewers to feel hope and courage to face the future. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. 

Donning our African design focused lens, we just love the Black Panther franchise for the meticulous attention to detail given to the set and costume design - which draws from many different aspects of African culture. No opportunity is wasted. So if you're getting ready to go catch Wakanda Forever, arm yourself with a spoiler-free guide to what to look out for as you enjoy the action!


The film's worldview, which envisions a radical utopian future and incorporates peoples of Africa and the Diaspora, first appeared in the 1950s as a response to the injustices experienced by African Americans. It is still used by artists like Erykah Badu, Solange Knowles, and Janelle Monae. It can be found in literature (check out Octavia Butler's sci-fi novels), art, and music.


Although Wakanda is a fictional nation, the BaSotho people of the Kingdom of Lesotho are significantly influenced by the Wakandan Border Tribe. If you spot the cast in blankets with geometric motifs, they're likely to be inspired by the Basotho.

The Basotho are a herdspeople who have resided in southern Africa since the fifth century. They ride horses across the highlands and wear characteristic wool blankets called Seanamarenas, which in Sotho means "to swear by the Chiefs."


The all-female Dora Milaje royal guards' outfits and Black Panther's Vibranium-infused fighting gear represent the pinnacle of Afrofuturism, incorporating conventional African geometric patterns that resemble mudcloth patterns. Also Nakia gets her own combat suit which is different from the other royal guards. 


Dance and drumming is a natural form of expression across many cultures in Africa, found in sad and happy times. We enjoyed it during several of the ceremonial moments of the first Black Panther movie, and we're expecting it at some of the key moments in this movie, like at T'Challa's funeral, which is a symbolic way to honour the dead.


Take note of the Wakanda elders from the five tribes. Black Panther's collective wisdom is unlike any other Marvel superhero, because he draws from the council sessions. The concept of an Elder's Council is common across Africa, from smaller family units to larger communities and tribes.


Everyone present at King T'Challa's funeral is seen in the film donning all-white clothing. The practice of wearing white in African cultures represents the desire for a loved one to be reborn. It conjures up images of T'Challa wearing white as he passes through the ancestral planes in Black Panther, which ties him to his loved ones. 


It is often said that African narrative expression is a partnership between the mouth and the hands, and so our hearts were warmed when we saw the warm greeting handshake between T'Challa and his younger sister Shuri, as well as the high-fiving that is customary for those who are laughing together. When we watched the trailer to Wakanda Forever, we also glimpsed a signature hand-shake between Shuri and her new ally, Riri.


As with many cultures around the world, the hair or headgear is a way of announcing one's social standing, or indeed marking the occasion. Black Panther takes no shortcuts and we're here to appreciate the awesome Lupita Nyong’o’s thick hair locs treated with oxidised red clay and shea butter inspired by the Namibian Himba people, the modern plaits worn by Leticia Wright’s Shuri, the turbans inspired by the Sahel tribesmen, the simple and practical everyday headscarves, or the natural curly tresses. 


The headdress game of Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) has improved, or perhaps it's because her role has grown in prominence since the first movie. Along with the iconic white architectural headdress worn at the funeral, we also saw a woven black isicholo (headdress). The headdress is a component of Ndebele and Zulu culture; married ladies to this day frequently don it at important cultural and ceremonial events.


In the all-female army, Dora Milaje jewelry serves as both decoration and protection. It's wonderful to see the exquisite gold and silver jewelry of the Fulani and Tuareg tribes appear among the Merchant and other tribes. Jewelry was also employed by Talocan and its inhabitants (who were Mayans and Mesoamericans-inspired) to signify social rank and status.


Anyone who's ever had any association with East Africa seems to own a sisal woven Kiondo bag. Spot them in the street market scenes!


Isaach De Bankole’s Elder of the River Tribe wears a lip clay plate, a body modification practiced from 8700 BC among the Sara people and Lobi of Chad, the Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique and the Suri and Mursi people of Ethiopia. This rather brutal look is balanced in the movie with modern, stylish Sapeur-like clothing of Congo.


Ah...the music! The background soundtrack from the start to the ending credits features both traditional and contemporary African and Diaspora sounds, including hip hop, SA House/Ampiano, African drumming, and Senegalese singer extraordinaire Baaba Maal. We love that even Rihanna came out of retirement to be a part of Wakanda. 


Ryan Coogler and his advisers have had the opportunity to explore Mayan and Mesoamerican culture thanks to Namor's introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The septum piercing, which was typical of Mayan civilization and frequently represented the water and sun gods and served aesthetic objectives such as making the wearer appear fierce, is featured on Namor. We first encounter Mayan wall markings and architecture at Talocan. Namora and other warriors' exquisite clothing, which flows with grace, is another example of beauty. 


The little-known Omo Valley/Lake Turkana area of southern Ethiopia/northern Kenya is rich with distinct cultural practices and traditions. Think face paints, lip plates, metal jewellery, shaven and plaited hairstyles, floral headpieces.


Look out for influences from the Yoruba, Igbo and Akan peoples of West Africa, the Bambara, Maasai, Himba, Tuareg, Songhai and Fulani, among others.


We salute the regal Queen Ramonda, mother of Black Panther, but also the queens with a small ‘q’. According to Coogler, Black Panther was an opportunity to illustrate the importance of women, a chance to show a side of feminine beauty and strength we don’t see in most mainstream media, from the all-female Dora Milaje army, the fearless Nikai, and tech-savvy Shuri. It seems that this theme is carried into the second installation and we're very much here for it.


Without Colonialism and Christianity (often branding traditional medicine as ungodly and uncivilised), many think African traditional herbal medicine would have flourished. In Wakanda where Western intervention did not exist, modern and traditional African science work side-by-side.


In the iconography and symbols inscribed into the furniture, walls, street signage and costumes of Wakanda, you can see clear links to ancient African languages and symbols including the Nsibidi, Punic, Adinkra, Hieroglyph and Mudcloth inscriptions. Timbuktu’s buildings are given the Afrofuturistic treatment, and watch out for the Sudano-Sahelian architecture of the peoples of the Sahel and Sudanian grassland regions of West Africa, south of the Sahara, and the Shona architecture of modern-day Zimbabwe, with tall cylindrical towers built out of stone.


Black Panther blends the glorious textile traditions from around the continent, including: Mudcloth, Kuba, Kente, Maasai Shuka, Kitenge/ Ankara/Wax Print/Indigo-dyed Brocades, Aso Oke, hand-woven cottons, raffia, leathers, wools and furs. UBUNTU The underlying tenet of Black Panther seems to be the very concept of ubuntu itself, that people need others to be fulfilled. 


Vibranium is a fictional rare metal the Wakandans have fought to keep hidden; a subtle message examining what alternative future African countries could have had without the exploitation of their mineral resources. 


One aspect of the Black Panther films is that there's no such thing as a truly ‘bad guy’, as we typically understand figures like Thanos to be. “You're attached to these characters,” Winston Duke stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly,  “They are actual individuals in your eyes. Consequently, you experience pain when they do. When they succeed, you also succeed. And it appears that we lack antagonists. We have adversaries. There are others who simply desire different things.” We concur! We already know from the clips that Namor's introduction will result in a different level of dialogue, and we believe we are prepared for it.


Look out for the graceful, balletic fighting technique of the all-female Dora Milaje, maybe inspired by the Donga stick fighting tradition of the Surma warriors of Ethiopia, and a traditional wrestling by the formidable Serer wrestlers of Senegal and the Dinka Bor of South Sudan. Bear in mind the Agojie, a military corps of women who served under the Fon king, who ruled over a nation including present-day southern Togo and southern Benin - make sure you catch 'The Woman King' starring Viola Davis - which depicts these unique women while it's still in cinemas. 


‘Wakandan’ language is isiXhosa, a South African language known for its distinctive ‘clicks’. John Kani, who plays King T’Chaka, suggested that dropping in the odd sentence would add authenticity. The cast delivers one ‘Wakandan’ accent with lyrical Southern African inflections, elongated vowels, and strong "R's.. 


Yaa Asantewaa (1840–1921) remains a much-loved figure in Asante and Ghanaian history for her role in confronting the colonialism of the British. We drew a link between this real-life African legend and Ramonda, Queen Mother of Wakanda, for their shared matriarchy, love, courage, and pride. 


We’d like to think that the Warrior Tribe of the Jabari, led by the powerful and rebellious M'Baku, was inspired by the great armies of Africa like the Zulus, whose most famous general was Shaka, with some elements from Hannibal’s Carthagian army that gave the Roman army a run for their money.

What we also found interesting:

The wall markings at T'Challa’s memorial or funeral mimic mudcloth designs. In a recent interview, an exclusive showed a conversation between Nakia and Okoye outside of the palace grounds, and the architecture is similar to Benin with the clay wall structures—a rustic aesthetic. In the same interview, Lupita Nyong'o mentioned that Chadwick Boseman would bring his friend Jabari to the set daily where he would play the drums for the cast. Jabari was cast in Wakanda Forever, playing the drums at the funeral.