Merging European and African influences, Adèle Dejak’s designs use reclaimed and recycled materials to create pieces that benefit local artisans.
After working as a freelance typographer and art director for an Italian music magazine, Adèle Dejak moved to Kenya and turned her attention to designing accessories from her home in Nairobi. Harboring a long-standing fascination for jewelry and the use of ‘waste’ materials to make new things, her designs incorporate reclaimed and recycled materials from the local environment, including rice sacks, cement bags, glass, wood, ostrich egg shell, aluminum, bone, brass and cow horn.
Dejak merges European and African influences, and uses locally made fabrics, such as Kuba cloth and kitenge (wax print), to create products that honor and express an appreciation for local culture.
The materials are sourced from across the African continent but mainly from the East African region. Materials often arrive at the workshop in their raw form and are transformed by Dejak’s team of eight in-house artisans and five beaders into the final products. The process can be labor intensive and requires specialist knowledge. Each piece is made by hand, with utmost care and attention can be seen in the final beauty of the products.
The highly skilled artisans come from all walks of life and from different places in Kenya. Adèle Dejak also collaborates with a network of artisans outside of the studio, working to invest in communities in East Africa and training people to learn new skills that will enhance their livelihoods and contribute positively to the local and global community. Current partners include the Dadaab Refugee Camp, home to more than 500,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Uganda and Rwanda who are not permitted to grow crops or keep livestock and have started earning wages by making bags from recycled food donation sacks, and the Wawoto Kacel Cooperative in Uganda, a social arts and crafts cooperative founded by a group of HIV positive women.
The brand recently collaborated with Salvatore Ferragamo on Bags for Africa, has been featured in Vogue Italia, and exhibited at Milan fashion week in 2012 as part of Vogue Talents. In 2011 Adèle Dejak was one of sixteen designers working in Africa chosen to join the Design Network Africa (DNA), an organization dedicated to inspiration and educating African designers and creating “good business out of good design by building a strong professional network to encourage collaboration and sharing to create new visions for business and inspiration.”
Images courtesy of Adèle Dejak