Rahma the Label: Ethical Fashion, Made in Ethiopia

How often do you buy new clothes, and feel proud wearing them? I mean not just because you look great, but because you know what you are wearing was made with real care, and that the people who made them are equally cared for in their labour? Well, Rahma has begun her own ethical fashion label, creating beautiful clothes made by people who love what they do…
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Where did your interest in the fashion industry begin?
I think from a pretty young age, I can remember how my mum dressed and how she even used to dress me. Looking back at photos from when I was like two, even. My mother dressed me up a lot! Even my hair was done pretty flamboyantly, like braided with beads at the end. I also think having a culture as rich as an Ethiopian one helped. My parents always played music in the house and enjoyed watching the music videos. They were always wearing colourful clothes and dancing and having fun in the videos.
So this translated to wanting Ethiopian culture to play a big role in your label?
 Yeah, sort of. It took me a while to actually want to do a label that was influenced by Ethiopian culture. I always wanted my own business and I knew I would eventually end up doing it. When I studied fashion I didn’t know what type of label I wanted, because by that time I was very much influenced by the Western world, and my culture was just something I had at home.
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It wasn’t until I learnt how clothes were made and the process that most brands use in places like Asia that made me change.
 Then I became more interested in ethical fashion. I wrote a thesis on it, but relating to ethical clothing in Australia.
Writing the thesis made me question what I wanted out of fashion – what type of clothes I wanted to make and what I wanted the fashion to be. Then I traveled for a bit and it all made sense when I went to visit my family in Ethiopia.
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And what did you learn about ethical fashion and the process of how the clothes were made which most interested you?
I learnt that a lot of people don’t really know what ethical fashion is, or where their clothes come from, and that it’s hard to actually make sure that the clothes are being made ethically. There’s no real guarantee because some brands rely on working with a middleman to make things happen. I felt like there was this disconnect with the process of making clothing. And I didn’t want that for my label.
I wanted to know who I worked with. I wanted to create textiles with artisans, because it was a craft that I admired. I believe that they are an important part of the process, so it made sense in my head that having an ethical brand would be the result.
Most brands cannot establish an ethical environment because they are disconnected to the whole process. That’s not an excuse though. With how big the industry is, you can always find a way. It just depends on what you value as a person and as a brand.
So do you feel like the majority of the fashion industry has failed to prioritise ethics in the making of clothes? 
Yeah, for sure! A lot of brands are starting to understand the importance and are making little changes. I also think its important for consumers to be questioning these brands too. Slowly brands will have to prioritise ethics, however, because the demand hasn’t slowed down. It can make it hard for labels to want to change their business model.
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And by prioritising ethical clothing with your own brand, is there anything else you have to sacrifice?
To be honest, I don’t feel like I have sacrificed anything at all. I set up the business with the intention of making quality fabrics and working with people that have learnt artisan techniques that not many can do. Being ethical means I work with people that love what they do as much as I do, from the farmers that supply the cotton to my sewers in the studio that help me turn the fabric into actual clothing. It has actually benefited me if anything.
I have formed great relationships and we inspire each other every day. The best thing is that we are creating jobs and I get to work with like minded people that want to build a more ethical and sustainable platform for the future.
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Interview by Alex Howlett

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