UK based Wild Philanthropy is a travel-driven investment initiative supporting at-risk eco-systems, wildlife and communities. Wild Philantrhopy is working with the Kara community who are facing a crisis in food security as well as the ongoing threat of future expansion of sugar or cotton plantations. A gradual reduction in annual rainfall and a complete failure of seasonal floods of the Omo River have threatened Kara livelihoods, as well as other river communities along the length of the Omo valley.
The Kara people as many other Omo river communities are primarily argo-pastoralists that have depended on the annual flood of the Omo River to grow sorghum, their main staple diet. Rain-fed agriculture has been important but less so. The series of Omo Gibe dams developed upstream have effectively ironed out the flow of the river. Controlled release has been suggested by the operators. However, the reality is that it never materialises. Tthe crops that rely on those floods have failed since 2017 and Kara food security is a growing crisis.
Akaso is a co-creation concept uniting African artists and Belgian designers. Every print on an Akaso garment is designed by the Kara tribe in Ethiopia renown for their body painting art.
In 2014, the founder of this Belgian label took two awarded Belgian designers to Ethiopia, where they worked with six young artists of the Kara tribe – men and women. The Kara are Africa’s most authentic tribe. Their unique abstract body painting art has been documented by the world’s most famous photographers.
Every print is a true reproduction of the original body painting art work designed by a Kara tribe artist either on paper or on their body.
Akaso founder Philippe is also the father of two Ethiopian born daughters. With Akaso he wishes to bring African artists to the design table and give African art a novel contemporary expression. The Kara artists are paid as European free lance designers.
Akaso comes from the Italian 'a caso' meaning 'by coincidence', reflecting the many coincidences that Philippe encountered on his route that brought him to the Akaso co-creation vision. 'There is no coincidence in this life - just follow your intuition, however bold the path may be'.
Akaso founder Philippe Vertriest is also the creative director and designer of the label. As a young child and adult Philippe developed his artistic vein in the Art Academy. He holds a degree in Finance and International Affairs and was trained as a diplomat, speaking six languages. Coincidence took Philippe from the diplomatic career path to the fashion industry, where he initiated as commercial director and subsequently occupied product design roles for 15 years for international Belgian labels in accessories and lingerie. Labels famous for their immaculate quality, it is where Philippe developed an eye for detail. With 20 years of experience in his pocket, he founded Akaso in 2014.