Le Tings

Harris Elliott is uniting the tongues and tastes of global Africa with his clever upcycling project

Le Tings weaves oral narratives of the African diaspora into mischievous designs with a purpose that goes way beyond use. Masterminded by Harris Elliott, the brand’s key offering, the ‘Scandal’ tote bag, is crafted from recycled rice sacks that have been sourced from Accra’s Kantamanto market and patchworked together in London. Each design is zero-waste and one-of-a-kind, its imperfect perfections building a dialogue around cultural value. With collaborators including The Revival, Nkwo, Bevan Agyemang, Julianknxx, Lucy Barlow and Labrum, Le Ting is a product of Elliott’s community, which he’s nourished across more than two decades as a trailblazing creative director, visual storyteller and educator. And most recently, as part of the Black Oriented Legacy Development Agency (BOLD), he co-curated ‘The Missing Thread’. The landmark 2023 exhibition at Somerset House showcased the immeasurable influence Black talent has had on British fashion since the 1980s. Here, he discusses all things Le Tings.

What is your take on sustainability in the West African context?

Life in West Africa has always been driven by sustainability. Communities are reared on the basis of not wasting anything – whether that be from your plate, your wardrobe or in your environment. It has been in the DNA across the whole continent for centuries, so people need to be careful not to fully embrace the disposable nature of cultural and digital progression at the cost of their intrinsic practices and life journeys.

“This is Le Tings – the design dialect of the diaspora”




How did the idea for Le Tings first take shape?

I was driving home one night and I saw a ‘Lettings’ agency sign with the first T missing – ‘Le Tings’ – which had me laughing all the way home. The mash up of French and Jamaican is incompatible yet in that phrase is a regality that conjures up a boastful nature. It feels so Jamaican to combine a foreign word to present yourself with style. Jamaican patois is a hybrid of English and broken English with Jamaican phonetics, which much like reggae, uses an in-between beat to create rhythms that visualise meaning through sound. That got me thinking about other nation tongues that use Creole, Pidgin or slang and are constantly evolving while many teachings and phrasings are being lost. So, I began creating a concept to acknowledge the uncelebrated commonalities within the African diaspora that starts with language and are so often discarded or undervalued. All of these references come together succinctly in the street market, where unfiltered visuals and sound clash and converge with energy. This is Le Tings – the design dialect of the diaspora.

What is its mission?

It’s a place to be playful, to take ephemera and that which seems incongruent and celebrate the artistic merit of these cultural tropes, which the African diaspora does so effortlessly as a means of resourceful unspoken excellence. We work closely with The Revival, sourcing used rice bags from Accra and repurposing them into desirable tote bags. We are turning waste into cultural wealth by selling these items to an international audience while ensuring the traders are paid fairly for their waste items. All of our designs hold a message; they present perennial narratives and object expressions.

Walk us through the journey of a bag.

Discarded 25/50kg rice sacks are collected by The Revival from different sellers and waste piles in Kantamanto Market. The Revival team FaceTime me so that I’m able to make a selection from the bags they are sourcing. The sacks are brought to the UK, where we then carefully cut and collage different visualisations together. Circularity is our mindset. We source from what is discarded, so our rhythms are based on availability rather than the supply and demand mantra. And we encourage the person who buys the bag to engage with the narrative of rethinking waste and preserving culture.

What are some of the stories you’re telling through your designs?

With our hoodies we recreated the infamous ‘Ghana Must go’ print. We like to call it Ghana Must Go Forward. And we’re developing a new line of bags in collaboration with the brand ALA by Tianan Ding, which has a technique of printing onto kitchen roll. I was looking at the connections between China and Jamaica so the first designs combine Chinese flowers and Jamaican motorbikes with the tissue paper backing. 

The slow fashion movement is growing in Africa. What wins should happen next in this space?

We need to see funding for factories and work spaces where people can access machinery and skills training, and more exchange programmes for those who want to widen their reach. When we began Le Tings, the goal was to have ‘Made in Africa’ labels inside. To have this be a seal of approval and hold the same desirability as ‘Made In Italy’ or ‘Made in England’ should be the ultimate goal. We want the world to perceive items made in Africa as an alluring sign of originality and quality.

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