Sonder: Nkuli and Otto - fashion educators

Year Founded:
Project Stage:
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Education is one of the key factors contributing to the the problems of the fashion industry. We believe there is a lack of responsibility from brands, designers & consumers. We want young designers as we believe they will be at the forefront of engineering a paradigm shift in the future of fashion.

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

What If Fashion Would Give More Than It Takes?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Fashion is currently based on materialism and consumerism. We are wearing other people’s misery. People are unaware of how polluting the manufacturing of garments are to the majority of the world. We believe people the top of the fashion world has to acknowledge the effects of the creation of their products. If we start with the next generation they will generate a new view in the value (social and environmental) of creating clothing.

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

We will create a platform for young designers and those involved in the supply chain in order to create a space for sharing, exchanging and designing solution addressing the issues in the industry. We want it to be standard in the curriculum of educating designers. A selected number of representatives from the different industries will meet for a number of days and participate in active workshops, dialogues, field research & processes. Using our skills as process designers, curate the space and facilitate the processes. The end result will be several actions & solutions that will be implemented in the real world. This interaction will in turn bridge the gaps between designers, workers, manufacturers and consumers on a new level.
Impact: How does it Work

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

As process designers we support groups and organisations to move from point A to B. The solution lies within the system and allowing the people in it to delve deeper and reflect on what could be improved by providing them with the opportunity to experience life changing perspectives that can be gained by being in an unfamiliar context. By using various design thinking approaches conducive to learning to prompt ideas from the various voices of participants working together in diverse groups. Together they will be faced with honest, vulnerable situations in order to empathize, ideate, prototype and test solutions. The aim is to generate understanding of what it means to produce and connect to the roots of the product.

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

In South Africa we have been testing alternative materials, natural dyes and creating t-shirts made from hemp. We are currently deepening our understanding of fashion by connecting and building relationships with local and international designers to form solutions that can be implemented to fit all stakeholders. We aim to implement these workshops as research shows that interdisciplinary workshops give great value to bridging cultural gaps and diversity into prosperity. We hope to break hierarchical systems down into flat structures where everyone can discuss on the same level. The aim for the future is to create a chain of reactions: design education will adopt this approach as a key factor in the curriculum to highlight sustainable means to production through these meetings that involve diverse cultural and social inputs.

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

Over a decade ago something happened in the food market. Organic, fair trade and ecological foods became a trend. To be healthy became a trend. Fashion needs to change its trend. If it became a trend to buy sustainable clothing then it would solve a major problem. If next generation designers proposed sustainable products as a trend (slow fashion products) instead of fast cheap manufacture that are harmful to both the makers and consumers. The next generation of innovators, the next leading designers can change this with the right mindset and tools.

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

This is where we would need sponsorship from investors, universities and design education programs that share interest in our project to provide us with facilities and funds to create these meeting spaces. We see a big trend in the environmentally-socially impacted projects and initiatives. As a project that is still very new, we are not able to fund ourselves thus here is where we would need support.

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

I had an interview with Amy Hall from Eileen Fischer (EF). EF is a brand that has been working with sustainable fibers and active social projects since 1984. Amy told me the real “Aha- moment” for EF was when she visited one of her factories in Asia in 2012 and saw the conditions were far worse than she imagined. A big realisation was even if demands were set for suppliers from America, they did not adhere to the conditions until she acted on it herself. Through confronting these issues hands-on she gained an understanding of the importance of engaging on-site.

Founding Story

One night on a farm in Swellendam, South Africa, Nkuli and I shared our dreams for the future over a bottle of wine. Me: a Swede, passionate jeans nerd interested in sustainable fashion, hemp fabric and slow fashion. Nkuli: passionate about patterns, African fashion history and social movements. Even though we were born 15.000km away from each other, from diverse cultures and experiences we found our dreams were connected through the stories we shared; dreams about clothing, style and change. We both sought change in the problems and unaddressed issues in the world of fashion. We loved our diversity and decided to join forces to create a more sustainable future within fashion.


The team consists of me, Otto Kubista and Nonkululeko Mlangeni. We are building our future in sustainable fashion. We are passionate and we have a diverse team. Otto; is focused on material and dyeing. Also the business model design. Nkuli, has a focus on social impacts and the concept development as well as the fashion components. We are both process leaders and interested in facilitation and seeking to expand our team.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

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

Advocate/Organizer, Consumer, Designer, Researcher, Retail Representative - Mass-merchandise Chain, Other [please specify].

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

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Law Enforcement, Researchers, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Supplier - contractor, Trading Companies, Women, Youth, Other [please specify].

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

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Recycling or Circular Economy, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency, Other, [please specify].

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

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Enforcement, Organizing, Standards, Training, Other, [please specify].

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

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, 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, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, 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?

I am in S.A building a brand. Focusing on hemp as material. Working with organizations locally.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

I am working with Nkuli. South African interested in starting a clothing brand. Together we are forming a brand.