Assemblage is a proud partner of The Revival, the upcycling rebels of Kantamanto Market
“We’ve upcycled 300 tonnes of textile waste so far and we’re looking to scale up”
“Kantamanto is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people,” says The Revival’s Yayra Agbofah of Accra’s second-hand market – the largest in West Africa. “It’s a huge maze where 30,000 traders come to sell their goods and where you’ll hear so many lovely sounds and languages. It’s a community where everyone is working in unity and love to make ends meet. And it’s where people from across the country, of all ages and walks of life, come to find good clothes.”
While idyllic in spirit and important to the local economy, Kantamanto also represents huge systemic and environmental challenges. Each week over 7 million garments are shipped into Ghana from textile traders in the U.S., UK, Europe and Asia, up to half of which ends up being dumped or burnt. Due to the rise of fast fashion and overconsumption elsewhere, items have become increasingly poor quality, plus low prices in the market mean local fashion and textile manufacturing have been decimated.
And so, Agbofah has made it his mission to uplift Kantamanto and its people. He started out as a trader in the market 20 years ago, then tapped into his innate stylishness to become a thrifter and personal shopper. He went on to establish AfroDistrict, a collective and consultancy aiming to change the negative perceptions surrounding Africa through fashion and storytelling. This led to the birth of The Revival in 2018 with co-founder Kwamena Dadzie Boison, a non-profit harnessing upcycling culture to tackle textile waste management. “It’s my duty as a member of the community and as a global citizen to use my skills to do something about these problems,” Agbofah asserts. “There are no policies at the legislative or governmental level so our mandate is to focus on practical solutions.”
The Revival’s hands-on approach is manifold. They host workshops teaching upcycling skills to both shoppers and tailors in the market. They have developed online courses and curriculums with the likes of Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and The Hopenclass. And in September 2023, Agbofah gave a lecture at Germany’s Mediadesign Hochschule, which was organised by Assemblage. “Education is a positive way to tackle the issue from the core. We give the next generation of fashion professionals the right way to work rather than following the same old wasteful trajectory.”
The Revival’s atelier employs 60 people from the market to produce their upcycled designs, which they sell everywhere from pop-ups to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Plus, they intercept unwanted winter-weight outerwear to turn into protective garments for bikers and farmers. “We’ve upcycled 300 tonnes of textile waste so far, which is a remarkable milestone, and we’re looking to scale up.” Other projects have engaged with artists in the market to create new signage and public art, making Kantamanto more viable as a tourist destination. “There are so many young, talented people in the market – painters, skaters, musicians and rappers who can use their creativity to beautify the space.”
Add to that collaborations with renowned fine artist Zohra Opoku, menswear duo Art Comes First and vintage connoisseurs Marché Noir and Agbofah, despite the odds, continues to think big. “I want to be able to run down the beach without being obstructed by textile tentacles. I want to see governments taking responsibility for their actions. And I want to see a fashion industry that doesn’t hurt the planet anymore,” he reflects. “The Revival has the potential to become the largest organisation at the forefront of redefining fashion. And Kantamanto can lead the circular economy – a practical recycling and upcycling facility and a place where everyone wins.”