Idia'Dega: Global Eco-Design Collaboration

Idia'Dega: Global Eco-Design Collaboration : Connecting Indigenous Artisans in Africa and USA

Pittsburgh , United StatesOlorgesailie , Kenya
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Idia’Dega is a global eco-design collaboration connecting Indigenous artisans to co-design and develop contemporary apparel.  By developing creative and economic partnership directly with Indigenous communities and to one another we hope to reshape the fashion system.  

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

There was a global Indigenous eco-design creative circle invested in each other’s creative, cultural, economic and environmental well-being?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The continued persistence of the current fashion system to see Indigenous artisans as: labor and not creative actors, developing a shared economic benefit and eliminating Indigenous makers as anonymous inspiration. The lack of connection and there for impact of Indigenous communities on each others and their own sustainability. Changing the fashion system from opaque and anonymous to transparent and personal.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Creating a true creative and economic collaboration with Indigenous artisans. Developing a global Indigenous eco-design collaboration, a creative circle invested in each other’s creative, cultural, economic and environmental well-being. Co-designing and developing all products together. Creating a network using both traditional and technologically modern ways to communicate and design. Living, working and designing directly in Indigenous communities and connecting them through a software application to create a virtual studio for design development.


2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to launch the OMWA Maasai + Idia’Dega global eco-design collaboration funded 114%. 2015 Advancing Blacks Arts grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. 2015 Indiegogo crowdfunding 130% funded.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

By creating a true creative and economic collaboration with Indigenous artisans we establish a new platform to develop. Developing a global market for Indigenous-made products and new ways of working. The idea is not to “teach a woman how to fish” we respect her talents grown from thousands of years of cultural development. The goal is provide a viable lake where she can fish. Tale is one of the widow artisans in OMWA she said: “By seeing the new designs we created it gave me the confidence to develop new ideas to create something that others would love.” Love = new customers and an economic incentive to do more. We believe by extending our global creative circle to other Indigenous artisans the opportunities are endless.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Because most of the women of OMWA had not attending school, holding pencils to sketch during our initial design session was the first time for 99% of them. Using skills and talents as the basis for economic growth and not aid, is the goal of this collaboration. Establishing customers from Africa, Asia, Europe and America the economic infusion in the impoverished Olorgesailie community is essential. Girl children who were not attending school are now enrolled, food security has increased and the digging a water well. Mpuyuk of OMWA said: “For the widows this is their only source of income.” The men see increased economic stability provided directly by the women. We can impact the key areas of change the women of OMWA are seeking, these include: Sustained food security, education for all children, access to water and power and finally, more stable housing.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

To disrupt the current fashion system which is opaque and impersonal with one that is transparent and personal. We want the customers to know who made their clothes, how, why and with what. Move Indigenous design away from anonymous inspiration of fashion brands in the West to create a source of creative collaboration. We want a global Indigenous eco-design collaboration with dozens of workshops all connected by a virtual studio and creative circle. A circle invested in each other’s creative, cultural, economic and environmental well-being.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Distribution Consistent inventory development and meeting the demands of fashion market through online and analog retail. Resources Establish sustainable material inventory. Infrastructure Eliminate any barriers to product development direct and indirect within artisan communities. Marketing create ongoing materials across the globe and through various media. Develop showroom to ensure ongoing placement in global markets.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The key difference is our model of true creative and economic collaboration. As well as the goal to connect Indigenous artisans globally. The Indigenous designers are a Creative Force not Labor Force. There are several amazing brands doing great work such as: Maiyet, LemLem, Fashion 4 Development, Made, Indigenous, Suno, and KikoRomeo to name several. Additionally Idia’Dega is head by an underrepresented design in America, as a Black American designer there is a personal investment in the success of the collaboration.

Founding Story

It began with enthusiastic and naïve emails as I was finishing up a visiting scholar stint in Singapore. I emailed John Kamanga, Maasai elder and director of SORALO, a Maasai-led conservation group in Kenya. My hope was to start the collaboration via email. Kamanga said “Tereneh just come to Kenya. You need to sit in the circle with the women first.” Only then did I understand that before you can start collaborating you need to create community. Following Kamanga's advice I went to Olorgesailie and for several weeks, "sat in the circle." For such it long time it seemed that I would fail in my quest. Finally, Mpuyuk of OMWA agreed to work with me only then did we begin to design.


Tereneh Mosley, creative director, USA. John Kamanga and Samantha Russell of SORALO, sustainable and technical support, Kenya. Elizabeth Kilakoi, OMWA Manager and English translator, Kenya. Esther Mpuyuk, OMWA Chairwoman. Jennifer Bidii, Leather artisan and design adviser, Kenya. John Maina, Idia’Dega coordinator in Kenya. Haudenosuanee team to be created in November 2015 in USA. Board of Advisers to be established in late 2015.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]


Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Consumer, Designer, Researcher.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Researchers, Retailers - Specialty Store, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - subcontractor, Technologists, Trading Companies, Women, Youth, Other [please specify].

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Gender Equality, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Organizing.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?
● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?
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