Rethread Africa, a Kenya-based company, wins Kshs 34 million in global fashion contest

Kenyan-based company, Rethread Africa, is among the winners of the 2023 Global Change Award, known as the Nobel Prize of fashion. Rethread is among 10 global innovations that won €200,000 (Kshs 34.2 million) each to support their development in making the fashion industry planet positive.

Rethread Africa’s submission showcased how bio-based synthetics can be extracted from a variety of raw materials. By turning waste from sugar and corn production into bio-based synthetics, this innovative material uses far fewer resources while upholding the same qualities as petrol-based alternatives. These textiles naturally decompose if discarded.

This development reinforces the growing trend of sustainable fashion in Kenya where the Ministry of Environment estimates that the country generates approximately 22,000 tons of textile waste each year.  In 2019, the government launched the National Textile Policy, which aimed to boost the local production of textiles and garments using sustainable practices.  According to a survey conducted by the Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB) program, 60 percent of Kenyans believe that sustainable fashion is important.

“Over the next 12 months, we hope to get our fabric into the hands of fashion designers, creatives, and brands. We want to get our fabric past the R&D phase and into textile stores at a comparable quality, if not better, than petrol-based synthetics. To do this, we hope to increase the impact we have on smallholder farmers and expand the farmer base beyond Kenya,” says Charles Oyamo, the CEO of Rethread Africa.

Karl-Johan Persson, H&M Foundation board member, commented: “We have an urgent opportunity to support innovations that could transform the entire fashion industry – that’s why we’re doubling the grant and the number of winners. We’re giving these innovators a total of 2 million euros and access to our accelerator program – but we’re also giving the industry an opportunity to connect with these brilliant innovators. I’m excited to see the impact these innovators will make on the industry.”

Christiane Dolva, Strategy Lead H&M Foundation, added: “There’s a wide range of solutions among this year’s winners. If scaled, I believe they could have a real impact on the industry – which needs a holistic transformation if we are to reach a planet positive fashion future. We look forward to working with the winners during the accelerator and help enable their innovations to accelerate and scale.”

Initiated and launched in 2015 by H&M Foundation as the first innovation challenge of its kind, the Global Change Award is a global innovation challenge seeking bright minds that can reinvent fashion and change the way it is seen, worn, and made. Over 35 innovations have received a combined grant of 7 million euros and become key members of GCA Alumni, a valuable network for connection and collaboration, supported by H&M Foundation and its partners.

The Global Change Award, known as the Nobel Prize of fashion, was launched in 2015 as the first innovation challenge of its kind. Since then, over 35 innovations have received a combined grant of 7 million euros. This year, 10 global innovations won €200.000 each to support their development in making the fashion industry planet-positive.

Kenya-based innovation Rethread Africa is among the 2023 winners, receiving €200,000 each for their contributions toward a more sustainable fashion industry. This is the second time a Kenyan-based innovation has won the award, Green-Nettle Textile was among the winners for 2019.

H&M Foundation launched the GCA to provide new tools and solutions to enable the transformation of the textile industry. Innovation has the power to do it, and previous GCA winners prove it. Already, several alumni are used by or in collaborations with global brands and businesses, realizing the positive impact they can have on the industry and beyond. Neither the H&M Foundation nor the H&M Group takes any shareholder equity or intellectual property rights in the innovations. The winners can collaborate with whomever they want, and the aim is to find innovations that allow significant change for the entire industry.


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