Rhino conservation efforts took a glamourous turn recently when Chipembere took to the catwalk at the Fairview Horse Racing Derby in Port Elizabeth on 13 May 2017.
Chipembere is both a special All African Arabica coffee blend, roasted for a cause by Port Elizabeth-based Mastertons Coffee & Tea Specialists, and a local registered non-profit organisation committed to the protection and conservation of Africa’s rhino, the Chipembere Rhino Foundation (CRF). For every 250 grams of Chipembere coffee purchased, Mastertons donates R5 to CRF to aid their rhino conservation efforts. As a result, CRF has already funded a successful anti-poaching K9 team in the Eastern Cape and continues to train anti-poaching K9s to track and apprehend suspected poachers, and to provide invaluable assistance on poaching crime scenes.
Responsible for placing Chipembere on the catwalk was Samantha Cunningham, a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) designing student who participated in this year’s NMMU fashion show. The fashion show is hosted annually at the Derby Day by the university’s Fashion and Textile Department to showcase garments designed by their second-year students.
This year, Masterton’s Coffee added a touch of “coffee flair” to the Derby Day fashion show with the theme “Out of Africa”. The participating students were briefed to create a garment around a Masterton’s coffee blend, incorporating an African feel as well as elements of coffee inspiration ranging from the beans to hessian packaging bags.
“I knew as soon as I walked into Mastertons and saw the printed and framed Chipembere Coffee Blend hessian bag on the wall that I wanted to use this package in my design!” says Samantha. “I care deeply for animals and the environment and I immediately realised I could raise awareness for rhino conservation at the Derby Day Fashion Show by creating an eco-friendly, awareness-filled dress!”
Working on the project for four months, Samantha used eco-friendly hemp fabric from Hemporium in Cape Town, dyeing the natural fabric brown using actual Chipembere coffee. Among other design elements, the narrow neck and sleeveless design also symbolise the shape of a rhino horn.
“It was my intention that when people see my dress, they would really think about the plight of our rhino and feel in their hearts the need to participate in protecting this precious heritage, even with a simple gesture such as choosing Chipembere coffee,” says Samantha. “I am studying Fashion Design because I want to bring awareness to people through the art of fashion. I really hope that I have lit a spark in some people’s hearts with my creation.”