For decades Gikomba, one of the biggest open-air markets in east Africa, has been famous for its « mitumba ». These second-hand clothes and shoes are flooding east Africa at a price defying any competition. Every year, an estimated 100,000 tons are unloaded at the port of Mombasa, the entry point to Kenya’s market.

Wholesalers, small retailers and daily workers are collaborating to give a second life to second-hand clothes. When they are dispatched in Gikomba, clothes and shoes are spread among an abundant workforce of tailors, dry cleaners, and dyers, working to reshape the « mitumba » to Kenyan standards. XXL American Jeans and European shirts are resized to fit Kenyan consumers.

This giant workshop, which spreads on the bank of the river streaming through the market, is an unregulated microcosm in the centre of Kenyan capital. Many migrants from Kenyan counties and from other neighbouring countries come here to find a job. Here, public services are missing. Only evangelical predicators, who are preaching directly inside the workshops, seem to be out of the « Kitumba » business.

With its second-hand clothes and shoes, this market is the antithesis of globalization based on single-use hyperconsumption, at the price of high social and environmental costs.

Other photo series from Kenya (here).