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ARISE 100 Women: Ann McCreath

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Words Bim Adewunmi

KikoRomeo designer Ann McCreath set up the Festival For African Fashion And Arts (FAFA) as a creative response to the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008.

Ethical fashion makes good business sense no matter where you are in the world, says McCreath, because it encourages designers, producers and financiers to take a 360° approach to their work.

What drives you?

I am very driven, I always have been. I am passionate about people and issues, and when something inspires me nothing will stand in my way, I just find a way round the obstacles.

What do you see as the future of Africa?

I find it so exciting – it's young, creative, techie and sporty. Very colourful.

Why is ethical fashion important to the future of Africa?

As the economies of Africa grow we need to be conscious of what rapid growth may be doing to our less connected people… and our environment. Ethical fashion encourages the creator and producer to consider many different factors in making their creations sustainable. At the same time it is a challenge as it needs to feel home grown, rather than 'the latest ideology from the West'.

What are the main misconceptions when it comes to women in your industry?

I don't really know. The only one as regards myself is that people may think they can't reach me, whereas I am actually very approachable and down to earth.

What are the challenges to being in the fashion industry?

There isn't much of a fashion industry – there was a big textile industry in Kenya, which is now very low and consequently [it is] difficult to find quality fabrics. There is a big garment manufacturing industry [though and it is] so easy to stitch bigger orders. Interest rates are currently astronomical (24%) and so impossible to borrow locally.

What advice do you have for anyone starting out in fashion?

Love it, as it's a very difficult environment so you have to be resilient and passionate. Also acquire as many technical skills as possible as you will need to help others improve their skills, as training schools are often poor. Find a good financial person to make sure your passion doesn't divert too much money into heaps of 'I'll never find it again' stock of amazing textiles etc.

In boardrooms and parliaments, on television and the stage, women are increasingly making their presence felt across Africa and on the world stage. The inaugural ARISE 100 list champions just some of the remarkable women shaping modern Africa today.

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