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Accenture Song Hamburg Flips the Script on Fashion's Exploitation of Global South


Campaign with sneaker brand ekn for new vegan sneakers spotlights the fashion industry’s unethical model

Accenture Song Hamburg Flips the Script on Fashion's Exploitation of Global South

Hamburg’s Accenture Song is working with eco sneaker brand ekn to launch a new vegan sneaker, the first ever to be designed in Bangladesh and manufactured in Portugal. The unique design, named ekn কাঁঠাল Kamthala, is a creative collaboration between the Frankfurt founded shoe brand and rising female Bangladeshi designer, Rokaiya Ahmed Purna.

The ekn কাঁঠাল Kamthala, design based on a jackfruit

The idea behind the project is to create a ‘sneaker as a symbol of respect’ - aiming to reverse some of the unethical supply chain practices, pollution and exploitation that have been synonymous with the big players of the fashion industry for decades. 

As a product that’s designed in Bangladesh and manufactured in Portugal, the ekn কাঁঠাল Kamthala - Bangladeshi for jackfruit, the country’s national fruit - makes a bold statement, demanding a radical rethink of how fashion brands work with the Global South. By reversing the ‘designed in the Global North, manufactured in the Global South’ paradigm, the project calls upon the industry to stop unethical manufacturing practices there and instead explore the creativity of designers based outside of the West. 

The creative agency behind ‘Designed in Bangladesh. Made in Europe’ is Hamburg-based Accenture Song, formerly Kolle Rebbe. Group creative director Alexander Grapp and his team developed the project from start to finish alongside ekn, including introducing Rokaiya Ahmed Purna to the footwear brand - and creating the design language, packaging, launch campaign film and photography around the product.

Alexander Grapp, group creative director at Accenture Song and initiator of the concept, says, “Made In’ labels not only brush over the unjust conditions that people in the Global South often work under – they also reinforce harmful stereotypes about creativity and production in the so-called ‘First’ and ‘Third World’. They presume that American and European design is superior to that of the countries where brands outsource their production, which is simply not the case. All of this is what we wanted to challenge with this statement. And along the way we learned and were continually inspired by the creativity and resilience of designers from Bangladesh like Rokaiya. We hope this makes people think!  We’d like to invite more companies and brands to work in a different way with countries like Bangladesh and beyond - and to harness the talent and creativity that is clearly waiting to be more widely recognised.”

Putting Respect First

Ekn was founded in 2015 by Noel Klein-Reesink, after years searching for the perfect skate shoe and working for New Balance and adidas. His experience working at Hess Natur showed him what impact fair production has on people’s lives and the environment.  He saw a clear need for well designed, thoughtful and sustainable sneakers, hence ekn’s long term mission statement is "Made in friendship" - an alternative to inhumane and environmentally degrading practices.

He says, “The shoe is a statement - a sign of respect. Because in a fair world there is no privileged side of the arrangement. If fairness is the goal, we should share our aspirations.” 

All ekn’s shoes are produced in Portugal from sustainable materials, with the aim of providing high-quality footwear without the social and environmental harm caused by most similar manufacturers. 

In addition to being a passionate advocate for gender equality, responsible consumption and production, promoting indigenous textiles and innovation, and empowering women and girls in her home country, designer Rokaiya Ahmed Purna has become known for her astute craftsmanship and unique play on colours. Harmonising traditional designs seamlessly with contemporary luxury, her RAP label has built a reputation for redefining Bangladeshi traditional cultural fabrics in just two years. 

The ekn Kamthala is inspired by the designer's homeland: Bangladesh. The wedge sole and the yellow elements are inspired by a ripe jackfruit. The prickly look of the fruit is taken up at the front, otherwise the shoe is kept in a structured grey - just like the bark of the jackfruit tree. The shoe is handmade in Portugal with vegan materials and guarantees durability and absolute comfort. 

Rokaiya Ahmed Purna says, “In Bangladesh we have a very rich cultural tradition and heritage, which I try to implement into all of my work. My own roots and childhood memories also influence my designs; the inspiration for the ekn Kamthala comes from the jackfruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh, which I have a deep relationship with: as a child there was a tree right in front of my house where I would play, and draw, and nap under.

We’ve become used to the term ‘Made in Bangladesh’, not ‘Designed in Bangladesh’, but the new generation of Bangladeshis are starting to think differently and act differently. And as part of this generation, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to create change. I’m living the dream of so many people, so it’s an opportunity which comes with a lot of responsibility.”

Adds Klein-Reesink: “We were specifically looking for a designer in Bangladesh, since the country houses the production of fast fashion like no other. We did some research and came across Rokaiya and her work. Then, after our first conversations we were really convinced about her talent both as a human being and a designer.”

All profits from sales of the shoes will be going to Bangladesh. “One idea is to set up an NGO or creative hub that could offer the creative people of Dhaka a new place to work,” comments Klein-Reesink. “We are looking for talented designers in other countries to create an ongoing series of shoes.”

The limited edition ekn কাঁঠাল Kamthala is now globally available online here.


Agency / Creative
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Categories: Shoes, Clothing and Fashion

Kolle Rebbe, Wed, 01 Feb 2023 13:08:23 GMT