Seeds & Stories is a women-led social enterprise based in Bigodi, a rural village in Western Uganda, that uses fashion as a tool for women empowerment and environmental regeneration. We believe the fashion industry can be transformed into a driver for social and environmental change.
Our group of local women artisans are the heart and soul of our brand. Each Seeds and Stories product is made from a combination of innovative materials, modern designs, and techniques passed down through generations. Our artisans are empowered to use their skills to create beautiful products, while preserving their cultural heritage and representing their region. As a result, our fashion items are an expression of the creativity and talent of their makers. We honour this practice by telling the story of each artisan in every product that is purchased.
Since all of Seeds & Stories' products are made in house by our artisans, we are deeply involved in every step of an item’s creation, from farming to packaging. Clients can be sure that all of our fashion items are ethical, made in harmony with nature, hand-dyed and handcrafted, vegan and made to last.
We carefully choose our materials so we can meet our environmental values and goals. Our commitment is demonstrated by using materials that are either biodegradable, reused, or recycled. We invite our clientele to participate in this process, by providing them with information on how to extend the life, repair, repurpose, or compost our items.
Locally Sourced Materials:
Seeds and Stories utilizes rich natural fibres that are indigenous to Bigodi and the surrounding region.
This includes palm leaf (Ekiido), millet straws (Enduuko/emberya), colona maranta, papyrus stems (Emyooro), banana fibre (Ebigogo) and raffia.
These materials are sourced from the artisans’ own gardens, local farms, and the Bigodi Swamp by biodiversity experts.
We only use organic and responsibly harvested plant-based fibres and dyes as well as organic waste.
Likewise, we use 100% natural dyes: food waste, foraged plants, leaves, seeds, roots, clay and rainwater (Enjura) to dye our fibres and fabrics.
Local plants used for dyeing include, the Eyakihongo, Omufwooka, Omuyembe, Omusororo, Omuguusa, Ekizaali.
Cultural Heritage Materials :
Barkcloth is an amazing mono-material made from the Mutuba Tree that contains only the bark fibre, and requires little water to produce. Besides being an environmentally friendly alternative to water-intensive fibres and a natural vegan alternative, barkcloth also has healing properties.
An interdisciplinary research team led by Dr. Kirsten Scott is investigating barkcloth’s potential as an eco-fashion fabric and the health benefits of wearing it. The surface texture, colour, and tone of barkcloth varies from tree to tree and from how long the textile was sun-dried. This regenerative natural material is fully compostable and enriches the soil. Please have a look at BOFTA's Website to know more about this UNESCO protected product.
Together with our partners TEXFAD and Magezi Gad, Seeds & Stories is exploring the potential use of banana fibre as a viable alternative to synthetic, silk and cotton fabrics. We are working to create fabrics of different weights and thicknesses for our garments and accessories. Banana fibre creates a healthier environment for those who wear and make it.
Waste- Free Materials
We do our best to save materials from the landfill. We accomplish this by purchasing second-hand fabrics from local markets, using second hand sewing and embroidery threads, and repurposing tires for shoes.
Our past training sessions have focused on using food waste such as jackfruit seeds to make colourful jewelry and natural glue from tree sap. Nothing goes to waste, as we use every scrap and material leftovers to make small accessories.
Seeds & Stories embraces circular economy principles and employs as much as possible zero waste patterns. From harvesting to sourcing, from zero-waste production methods to packaging, each product is carefully designed and made in house. We follow an “under one roof” approach which allows us to have complete control over supplies, production methods, schedules, and ethical working conditions. Seeds & Stories operate according to the 4R-approach: reduce, reuse, regenerate and recycle.
Our products are not mass or machine produced but made by the hands of our artisans, at a slower pace.
Stitching hooks (empindo) and needles (enkiizo) are the only tools that are used.
Our woven accessories are made by our exceptionally skilled artisans using traditional basket weaving techniques ( kuruka ebiibo) that have been passed through generations.
In a similar manner, our artisans either hand stich our barkcloth, fabric accessories and upcycled clothes or use a manual sewing machine.
Water is scarce, particularly in rural Uganda. Thus, we only use harvested rainwater in our production processes.
Each natural fibre and fabric is dyed by hand, using different processes and techniques, without the use of toxic chemicals.
Some of our methods include natural dyeing, eco-printing, resist-dyeing, block printing with natural dye pastes or hand-painted with plant and earth pigments.
Our clothes and fabrics are properly washed using natural detergents and soap.
We make our own paper from recycled paper and from local fibres such as papyrus, banana fibre or backcloth.
Thus our packaging and labels will be designed to be reused, compostable or recyclable. We will use plant-based inks and local gum arabic to handprint all our labels and cards.
Barkcloth is harvested annually from the Mutuba Tree, during the humid season and then, in a long and manual process, beaten with different types of mallets to soften the material. After peeling off the bark the tree is then rubbed and covered with banana leaves in order to protect it and allow the bark to regenerate.
The bark of the tree regenerates and can be harvested for 40 consecutive years. Finally, the material is left to dry in the sun. Please read more about the process on BOTFA's Website.
Processing Banana Fibre
The development of Banana Fibre is done in partnership with TEXFAD and topic matter expert, Gad Magezi. After collecting agricultural banana waste, a banana fibre extractor is used to create a thread like material. The only machine used during the production process is the banana fibre extractor. Finally, the fibres are hand spun and woven in manual looms.
Conventional agriculture and fashion are among the industries that most contribute to global carbon emissions. The vast amounts of natural resources and harmful chemicals that both industries use have a massive impact on the environment, not to mention on people. Fast fashion is destroying our planet and exploiting people around the world, especially women in developing countries.
Seeds & Stories strongly believes by switching from conventional agriculture to regenerative farming, we could turn problems into solutions. Regenerative agriculture has its roots in indigenous practices and since it works with nature, not against it, it has the potential to create a range of environmental and social co-benefits: soil restoration, increased biodiversity, improved water cycles, maximised community resilience, enviromental regeneration, and livelihood enhancement.
Here at Seeds & Stories we are committed to making things better. We want to produce soil to soil products that will create social and economic opportunities for local women, as well as have a positive impact on communities, animals and the planet. Hence, we have set a goal to only use local raw materials that have regenerative properties in local ecosystems, namely increasing soil fertility, enhancing biodiversity and increasing the rate of carbon sequestration from the atmosphere into the soil contributing, in this way, to climate change mitigation.
Our first step is to develop a pilot project that will transform degraded land into a permaculture demonstration site. This site will allow the local community to learn about regenerative agricultural practises that will help build community capacity in the future. In particular we plan to cultivate a diversity of crops, cereals, vegetables and fruits, and trees using climate appropriate techniques, and the promotion of native plants and wildlife.
Secondly, we are interested in buiding a Carbon Negative Workshop in our farm using local natural building techniques. The site will utilize renewable energy, with rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment systems. This building will be the central space for our vocational and literacy training, product research, and resource centre. This will allow us to offer a safe, clean, and healthy working environment to local women. Having our own space, a permaculture designed farm, will allow us to put in place effective and efficient production processes – that generate no waste, reduce water usage and run on renewable energy. It will allow us to design, create and sell products in a closed-loop incorporating innovative and creative solutions to regenerate natural resources.
Seeds & Stories wants to develop regional integrated fibre systems where natural fibres are sown, grown, harvested, processed, spun, naturally dyed, woven and sewn in Bigodi through regenerative practises. In this way, we can play an active role in restoring ecosystems, regenerating natural resources, creating meaningful livelihoods and help build resilient communities.
Seeds & Stories does not depend on supply chains but uses what is locally or regionally available. Seeds & Stories is focused on building strong, trusting, sustainable relationships with a small group of suppliers who share our values and mission and have the highest standards of ethics and environmental management.
The circular economy is based on 3 basic principles: eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate nature.
In Uganda we will keep waste associated with transportation to a minimum. We plan to take steps to reduce our use of fossil fuels for transport, including low impact transport options such as public transport. It is common in Uganda for items to be dispatched on public buses. For international orders we plan to offer our customers the opportunity to offset their postage related emissions. Likewise we plan to support carbon offsetting projects.
Regenerative fashion is made through regenerative agriculture and only uses fibers that come from regenerative farms, playing, therefore, a role in healing the planet. It contributes for a better planet for all people, animals and future generations.
Regeneration goes one step further than sustainability. Rather than mitigating the negative impacts on the environment, regeneration focuses on amplifying positive impacts. We do this by reversing environmental degradation, restoring a healthy relationship between people and nature, and making communities more resilient to climate change. For us regeneration is all about improving the world from how we found it, and to do so in perpetuity.