FROM SECOND HAND IN LOME TO SECOND LIFE IN PARIS

It is common for western charities to collect used clothes and ship them to Africa as aid. But these goods, discarded by well-intentioned Americans and Europeans, are rarely given to the end-users as charity; instead the donations are mostly sold to exporters who make huge profits selling second-hand goods in markets all over the continent. While some African countries have banned the importation of second-hand clothes in a bid to protect local clothing and textile industries, in Togo the second-hand clothing industry – worth an estimated US$54 million – is booming.

Amah Ayivi is a Togolese designer and stylist living in Paris and the founder of Marché Noir (Black Market), a cult pop-up boutique and fashion brand that encapsulates the afropolitan aesthetic. After painstakingly selecting the items that reflect his personal style from the huge 45-kilogram bales that fill warehouses in and around Hédzranawoé Market, Ayivi takes the second-hand clothes that originally come from Europe and North America as charity and ships them to Paris where he curates and sells them as chic vintage clothing at a considerable profit.

Ayivi’s subversive business model repackages western cast-offs as desirable items of value back in the west. Marché Noir also provides the perfect example of the potential of the circular economy to curb the excesses of fast-fashion and empower African entrepreneurs in the Global North.