Change Makers Collective w/ Nana Sacko: transforming pre-loved fashion with natural dyes

Welcome to Change Makers Collective; a series of conversations with people who’s actions are having a positive social and environmental impact. As well as hearing about their work, just as importantly, we want to be inspired to live more consciously.

For our blog episodes, we are delighted to share with you the wonderful work and vision of Nana Sacko, who uses the stunning powers of nature to transform preloved clothes.

"My inspiration is our nature and all the beauty that it holds"

Please can you introduce yourself, telling us a little about your background and where you got your idea for setting up Sacko?

My name is Nana Sacko a 36 year old woman, wife and mother of two living on the Swedish west coast. I'm born and raised in Sweden by a Danish mother and father from Mali, west Africa.

I have background in Fashion with many years of experience working with textiles within retail, production buying and design. Working with these different areas has given me insight and understanding of the different parts of the chain and deeper understanding of the full process. Sustainability has always been at the forefront of my mind and is something I personally find both interesting and important. Fashion is a huge part of who I am and a way for me to express myself. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can enjoy beautiful things in a more sustainable way and at the same time reduce my carbon footprint.

During my maternity leave with my second son I felt a huge need to be more creative and do something that was only for me. With sustainability on my mind I wanted to use what already I had around me.

I found that we had a wardrobe full of clothes that would be passed down from my oldest to my youngest son. Some of the clothes was a bit stained or tired and needed new life so instead of replacing them with new ones I started to remake them. I experimented with natural dyes at home extracting colour from our kitchen waste such as avocado skins and stones, onion peels and flowers from my mother's garden. I documented parts of my process on instagram which became like a visual diary of my work. People seemed to enjoy what I did and the interest for natural dyes was clearly there. I continued to dye and up-cycle clothes for my friends and one thing led to another and I opened up a small scale online shop - SACKO (@shopsacko) to be able to do more of what I love. SACKO is focusing on exactly that: the love for natural dyes in combination with second hand and vintage garments. It became the perfect outlet for my passion, creativity and sustainability focus all in one.

You juggle your career with raising a family, how do try to get that balance between the two? 

Setting realistic boundaries has been important to me and something I constantly have to remind myself of. Having too high expectations can result in an overwhelming feeling and block you from actually doing anything at all, so I decided to start small, and allow my brand to grow organically. The main goal is to create and it should be joyful doing it.

I'm primarily a mother, meaning my children and family comes first. The kids grow up so fast and I want to enjoy every moment I can with them. But there is also a part of me that wants to work and needs to create in order to be happy so I'm listening to that voice too. The balance for me has been trying to avoid doing both at the same time. Working around kids can be perfect for some families, but it wasn't harmonious for us so I needed to separate them. I plan my time to the best of my ability which means a lot of late nights but being able to create and work with my hands also gives so much energy and to me it is a form of meditation.

What is your vision for the future of Sacko? What inspires you to keep doing the work you do?

My vision is to create unique pieces that are harmless for us who wear them using a process that is kind to mother nature. I want to create a flow where I keep things circulating; working with natural materials and natural dyes that have low impact on our environment and that are a natural part of our ecosystem.

My inspiration is our nature and all the beauty that it holds. I want to go back to basics, working with my hands and be a part of a movement where the art, workmanship and quality is highly valued.

As a community we are about educating and embracing change, can you share any tips or tricks with our audience that will inspire them to live more consciously?

Focus on changing the things that make the greatest impact and allow yourself to take baby steps as long as you actively thrive for a change. Look at your lifestyle and make necessary changes. The areas that feel most challenging can be an indication on where you should start. Ask yourself how and where do I consume, what do I eat, how do I travel, how much plastic are we using and so on.

Personally my biggest challenge was consumption and how I need to minimise and slow that down. I make second hand my first choice for every purchase, and before I buy something I always ask myself if I will keep it forever. If the answer is no I will try to find ways to borrow or rent instead.

As people who know me will agree, I love beautiful things and to adorn myself! But that doesn't necessarily mean that I have to own everything. Creating more myself has reduced my lust for shopping leaving me with much better feelings about the choices I have made.

What was the last thing you learned? Can you recommend a brand or person to follow that will enhance our learning and enjoyment within the sustainable lifestyle space?

I recently had the great opportunity to participate in one of Aboubakar Fofanas classes in mineral mud dye. I grew up around these Malian textiles, also known as bògòlanfini, and to get a better understanding of how they are made meant a lot to me on a personal level. Aboubakar Fofana is a natural dyer specialising in indigo, textile art and design. He is a great source of knowledge when it comes to natural dyes, fashion industry, sustainability issues and textile history. His Instagram (@aboubakarfofana) posts always have an important message to tell. One of the many things he shared in the class, and that remains with me, is that clothes should work as our second skin and protect us. Dyeing textiles with natural dye stuff such as plants allows our bodies to absorb the properties of the plant and benefit from it. In synthetic dyes a lot of toxic chemicals are used in the process that are

harmful for our bodies and for our environment. I learned that black is the most toxic color of them all, and that made me think of all the black garments I wear and how they potentially effected my wellbeing. Not to say that I will never wear synthetic dyed clothes again, but I will be more mindful in my choices and I want to wear naturally dyed clothes more because I believe in the good in them.

To learn more about Nana's work please see her website:

Inspired by our Change Makers Collective series? Hear and learn from our other guests by checking out our IGTV conversations.

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