It is very difficult to know where to start with 4Shift as the range of gorgeous hand-made accessories and the project behind the brand are equally interesting!
The brand and the collections
4Shift has been founded in 2009 by Ahmed Moobe with, in the background, the idea of changing the face of charity. The brand offers a range of beautiful unisex scarves, made of organic cotton and died with pesticide-free colours, as well as ornately decorated leather sandals. All products are sourced from Malindi, a holiday resort on the south east coast of Kenya.
The designer, who originally is from Somalia, made the choice of focussing on Kenya a few years ago when he started to think about his project, for two different reasons. The first one being safety, as unfortunately these last years’ developments in Somalia do not augur well for peace and the country is still in need of a stable government. The second reason is that Ahmed Moobe lived in Kenya for quite a while before moving to the UK, and fell in love with this beautiful and peaceful country, as well as with its inhabitants.
He couldn’t help but notice, though, that if Kenya is very rich in wonderful resources, the poorest don’t benefit from them. The designer also observed that even the best-intentioned charities have to spend quite a large amount of the funds raised into administration costs, and the rest does not always fall into the right hands. Determined to make a useful contribution to the system, and most of all, to modernise it, Ahmed Moobe was in search for the next great idea, a different path that would directly help people onsite. Working in fashion, the idea came up quite naturally!
The concept behind the brand is to help people in Malindi by acting directly on local economy, working with local workshops and creating jobs, but also by redistributing part of the money generated by the business to people. 4Shift is working with three local workshops at the moment. Starting a business is certainly not the easiest thing, particularly when you are on your own and with such a project in the background, and even though success doesn’t happen overnight, 4shift is making a great debut!
Obviously the products themselves have a lot to do with it! All ranges are very carefully produced, with beautiful patterns and beading work, not necessarily Kenyan, but African style-inspired, and impeccable finish. The scarves, also called Kikoys, come in a range of 12 models and combinations of colours, such as Sand & Olive, Terracotta & Ochre or Old Gold & Teal Blue, perfect for the Autum/Winter season, but also much brighter colours like Orange & Crocus or Tutti Frutti.
The brand offers mainly summery products at the moment, but the designer is working on developing new products such as belts, for instance. In parallel, he also aims to expand his market to sunnier countries such as Florida for instance, where this kind of products sell all year.
At the moment, aside from the website, the brand is distributed in 3 stores across London, respectively in Holborn, Islington and Hoxton. 4Shift will also be present with Dark Room in a pop-up shop at the prestigious department store Le Bon Marché in Paris, in November and December.
4Shift has been created to support local economy in Malindi, through trade and, in addition, a percentage of the profits go the Lea Mwana Children Centre. The designer chose this centre among others as it is really about helping people, without any kind of discrimination. Sadly, as he explains to us, it happens sometimes that people with disabilities or dealing with HIV, or just belonging to the wrong ethnic group, won’t get any help. Besides, to provide schooling for these children means looking at the bigger picture, ensuring they get a worthwhile future, rather than just giving money for immediate needs – although the latter is obviously vital too. This centre depends mainly on donations and sponsorship by individuals and groups, as well as on tourists’ donations. For more information, visit www.leamwanchildrencentre.com.
Ahmed Moobe is also developping a second project, more specifically about helping educate orphan boys and girls, who lost both parents through HIV/AIDS and have now to live with grandparents or elderly relatives that cannot afford school fees. Like lots of children in the region, Bestina Syrias, now 15, lost both parents and had to go and live with her uncle. Unfortunately, he lost his job and was then unable to provide for her, struggling himself to survive. Left with her grandmother, Bestina couldn’t go to school. The designer has been supporting the young girl for a couple of years, paying for school fees and other requirements, and intends to keep doing this until her education is completed. The idea is to expand this project to many other children, as the business grows. He confides how difficult it is to decide who “deserves” to be helped but since you cannot help everyone, you have to prioritise how urgent or desperate the situation is, and which one is the worst case scenario. Whatever the business generates, a big part of it will go to this project. The deal being that, when the children are grown-up and educated, they have to sponsor other children, like a snowball effect.
It’s long-term thinking, and 4Shift is definitely not just about business, it’s also about modernising how charities work, setting an example and helping others.
But to think of 4Shift only in terms of a humanitarian project wouldn’t be fair to the collections. Whether it is the scarves, the sandals, the studs, and the soon-to-be-commercialised stunning belts, all products are really like little pieces of art – and are unique. So if you are in London, go have a look at the shops mentioned below or just order online at www.4shift.com (delivery worldwide)!
4Shift e-boutique: http://4shift.com/
Dark Room – 52, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3LL – www.darkroomlondon.com
Chiki Chic – 85, Leonard Street, London EC2A 4QS
Fenton – 2, Shillingford Street, London N1 2DP