Artesan is a new line of jackets and accessories designed by Anne-Lise Fotso, a TRUE Africa favorite. Fotso has created sustainable statement pieces that are inspired by reclaimed army and workwear. The shine is in the quality African beadwork. Inspired by the Grassland culture, all of the military jackets are hand embroidered with glass beads. A Bamileke whose style is very Parisian (even though she lives in London), Fotso aims to provide income for the skilled women artisans at the Fondation Jean-Felicien Gacha in West Cameroon, where her family is from. We interviewed Fotso last week, just as she was promoting her new Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

Why did you decide to launch this line?

I really believe in the concept of conscious consumerism and making more sustainable living choices. So when you wear something that affects people’s life, it gives you a certain sense of happiness. Artesan was born from a passion for vintage and sustainability and a desire to work with talented artisan communities. After meeting a remarkable group of women in Cameroon, I decided to develop my vision for a neutral gender brand that offers sustainable statement pieces with a story to tell while connecting craft producers in Africa to international buyers.

Designed in London, the idea became reality. It came to place organically and the collaboration with the Fondation Jean-Félicien Gacha who has a longstanding relationship with its artisans was crucial to its development. Together, we were boosting their skills and empowering the women we worked with by creating a market for the work they do. The line is about honouring the past while being firmly rooted in the present through contemporary designs.

Why the Patois collection?

For this first collection, our signature is global fusion, and our repurposed jackets mix borrowed elements from the past to create an effortless style of fusing utilitarian style with the quality craftsmanship of traditional age-old West African techniques.

The Patois collection is inspired by my own Bamileke roots, a dominant ethnic group from the Grassland in Western Cameroon. Growing up in Paris, I’ve developed through my multicultural background a sensibility for things from the past and a sense of style that embraced both my African and French identity. The Patois collection is borrowing and revisiting elements and symbols – like the Ndop, indigo cloth used during ceremonies – from West Cameroon and European vintage through modern silhouettes.

Across Africa, beadwork has an important place and it’s interesting to observe the different techniques and meanings that vary from one country to another. Today, still gloriously using coloured beads, I collaborate with the communities that inspired the collection both in the Bangoulap village (West Cameroon) and the Maasai Mara. Beadwork is a skill that is giving women a voice.

We use vintage and surplus military jackets for our collection because we believe that repurposing clothes is a good way to be sustainable and environmentally responsible instead of wasting resources with new fabrics. Heritage translated into contemporary designs is about stripping luxury back to its essence and re-focusing on craftsmanship, quality and timeless designs.

If you want to support Artesan on Kickstarter, you can do it via this link.