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Michelle Obama flies the ethical flag in Ashley Pittman bangles handcrafted in Kenya

Michelle Obama makes a symbolic gesture wearing Ashley Pittman bangles at the closing dinner of the US-Africa Leaders Summit at the White House.

13 August 2014

President Obama welcomed leaders from across the African continent for a three-day US-Africa Leaders Summit last week - the first such event of its kind. On hand for the closing dinner, First Lady Michelle Obama flaunted her impeccable style in an acid-yellow dress by Prabal Gurung and a stack of Ashley Pittman bangles on her arm.

In a symbolic gesture captured in this photograph of the American president and his wife posing with Uhuru Kenyatta - the President of Kenya - the First Lady wore a stack of horn and bronze Nene Bangles by Ashley Pittman, made by artisans in workshops in Kenya.

Ashley Pittman's eponymous line of fair-trade jewellery is handmade in Kenya from bronze, horn and East African semi-precious gemstones as well as other indigenous materials. Pittman is particularly fond of the different tonalities of horn from the Kenyan Ankole cow and is proud to source her material from sustainably farmed cattle.

What few people know, however, is that a great deal of the collection is overseen by the British jewellery designer Penny Winter from her workshops at the foot of the Ngong Hills just outside Nairobi. "We help with design and production," explains Winter, who is renowned for her mix of vintage and Swahili aesthetics. Settled in Nairobi since 1997, she turns to local artisans to craft her pieces. Very often, more than one craftsman is involved, and Winter feels strongly indebted to the local community's skills, which she has successfully united in a sustainable and profitable business venture.


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