Tunisia is among the top 15 garment suppliers in the world, representing 96 per cent of Europe’s total textile and apparel imports. But with high production comes high waste. The country generates 31,000 tonnes of pre-consumer textile waste each year, according to a study from UNIDO.
There is an urgent need to make the sector more eco-friendly through sustainable fashion, ensuring that the design, manufacturing, distribution and end-use produce minimal environmental impacts on the people and the planet.
To help combat the country’s textile waste, start-up AGARUW has introduced new alternatives of eco-friendly fashion and décor products in the Tunisian market. “We are an online marketplace and brand that provides a space for artisans and designers to showcase their eco-friendly, recycled fashion products,” said the startup’s cofounders.
The start-up was founded in 2019 by Mejda Khaled and Mohamed Dhaouafi. Khaled is a textile engineer, as well as a fashion artist and art designer with more than eight years of experience. She was one of 15 entrepreneurs selected from an application pool of nearly 700 start-ups who participated in the Africa ClimAccelerator – first pan-African accelerator focused on scaling the most promising climate-focused innovations.
“The fashion industry is the second-most polluting industry globally, after oil and gas. Small designers and artisans who are less known and more eco-friendly are being pushed out by bigger brands. This is what led us to create this platform – to not only support these local artists but also push for a more sustainable fashion industry,” explained Khaled.
She added that AGARUW is Tunisia’s first start-up with an online platform dedicated to eco-friendly products and supporting local artisans and designers.
“Our aim is to tackle over-consumption and the huge amount of waste and pollution created by the fashion industry and which affects the entire globe. In addition, there was a need to protect traditional artists’ work,” said Khaled.
The start-up’s business model works in three ways:
- The firm operates as an online marketplace that promotes handmade, recycled, and eco-friendly products made by local artists and artisans.
- The AGARUW brand enables the company to recycle plastic, leather, wood and other fabrics to create fashion items.
- The company encourages recycling and empowerment of women and marginalised groups by enabling them to gain more skills, boosting their work and providing them with business opportunities.
Khaled has vast experience organising international and national art exhibitions aimed at empowering local designers and artisans by providing a platform for them to showcase and sell their handmade and eco-friendly creations. AGARUW also engages local artisans and designers in environmental conservation initiatives.
“We provide resources for anyone who is interested to learn fashion skills through online classes and also provide the materials they would need to start their small businesses. Our platform also empowers clients to customise the products for sale, to increase our brand value and boost loyalty,” said Khaled.
With plans to expand across the continent, the start-up is projected to impact at least 6.5 million users across three regions of the country: Tunis, which is the capital city; Monastir, which is the textile hub; and Sousse, the country’s third economic city.
The Africa ClimAccelerator was designed to enhance the development and deployment of innovative technology to accelerate climate-positive business solutions for a net-zero Africa. From January to June 2022, programme was delivered by partner organisations GrowthAfrica and the Carbon Trust, supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (‘GIZ’) exclusively on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘BMZ’).
An original version of this article was published here on 25 April.