Eseohe Arhebamen-Yamasaki, better known as Edoheart, has a vision. It’s one of rediscovering, rebuilding, and replenishing local traditions and communities in Africa through art. She hopes that by starting small, but dreaming big, her debut lingerie collection will improve the massive problem of poverty throughout Africa through the encouragement of local African textile art traditions. Edoheart’s first collection of three patterned fair trade silk bralette-and-brief lingerie sets are made by small-scale artisans and craftspeople in sub-Saharan Africa. Production of the collection enables local artisans to make a living by bringing money into communities and protecting an ancient art. Although it’s a small step, Edoheart is hopeful that this collection is just the beginning for real change.
When asked why she started with a lingerie collection, Edoheart gave Ecouterre an honest answer. “I hadn’t seen any African print in anything but cotton and wanted something that felt luxurious. Secondly, from a budgetary perspective, with lingerie, there is less fabric needed.”
The passion for traditional African textiles comes not only from her own African roots, but the story of what these prints meant to each community. Edoheart completed her graduate thesis on how the Edo people of West Africa talk and think about color. Specifically Edoheart tells us, “I found out for example, that some colors represent sounds. Red and white and black in a print sound like thunder to the Edos.” The textiles are not just art but a form of communication for each of these individual African communities.
As the use of African textile prints became more of a trend in the fashion industry, Edoheart discovered that production of the prints were not sourced from Africa but in India, Switzerland, and China for a fraction of the cost. This less expensive form of production also comes with a harmful environmental result, as the majority of the processes are toxic and carcinogenic. The traditional processes utilized to create the collection make use of the environment through leaves found in nearby forests and mud gathered from rivers to create the rich fabric dyes. The laborious process requires a familiarity with different plant species and clays in the area to create vibrant and unique fabrics individual to each handmade piece.
To Edoheart, this collection is just the beginning. The artist sees full and individualized representation of the 50-plus countries of Africa inspiring future collections of sportswear and accessories.
The small run of 196 sets of the lingerie collection is available for the next two weeks on Kickstarter and serves as a step in the right direction to empower the African economy.