In 2008, Chris Welles went on a family vacation to Kenya. That vacation became the inspiration to create a purpose-driven fashion business that supports Kenyan land and wildlife conservation, as well as local communities.
So how does a vacation inspiration turn into a business? At American Rhino, it all started with an off-road adventure….
During his initial visit to Kenya, Chris was invited to participate in the Rhino Charge, an annual off-road motorsport competition raising funds for the charitable trust, Rhino Ark. Charity + challenge spoke to Chris, so he gathered a team of family members and returned to Kenya in 2010 to participate in his first Rhino Charge. As the only American team in the race, they were known as the “American Rhinos,” and Chris outfitted the team with hats and t-shirts emblazoned with a red, white, and blue rhino logo designed by his son.The American Rhino team has participated in six Charges, raising over $250,000 through generous supporters. As Chris believes, “our role in the Rhino Charge is to be good guests, have a blast, and raise as much money as we can for wildlife conversation.”
Chris thanked the many people and businesses who supported his team by sending them the rhino-logoed shirts and hats, which became such a hit over the years that other people wanted to buy them.
And so, American Rhino began in 2016, born from a genuine love of Kenya and a desire to conserve its land and wildlife, as well as support the local communities.
Initially, American Rhino just produced hats and t-shirts similar to those worn by the team in the Rhino Charge. And while these products were popular, American Rhino felt it was critical to look for ways to design and manufacture in Eastern Africa so the brand could support the local economies and communities where the brand was already participating in conservation efforts. American Rhino also wanted to design collections reflective of the spirit of Kenya that inspired the brand from the start..
Crafted in Kenya
Finding business partners in Kenya who operated sustainably and ethically was - and remains - a priority. Today, over 95% of American Rhino’s collections are made in Kenya and East Africa.
In addition to committing to finding sustainable, Fair Trade, and ethical partners, American Rhino expanded its impact mission by donating 10% of all purchases back to Kenya through the American Rhino Foundation. (read about the Foundation, its partners, and its impact here)
Kikoy is Key to American Rhino’s Effortless Style and Bold Impact
Kikoy is a traditional durable, yet lightweight, cotton textile from the coast of East Africa, particularly Kenya. Initially used as a men’s sarong, today’s uses include unisex wraps, baby slings, picnic blankets, scarfs, table runners, and more.
American Rhino has adapted Kikoy - from its weight to the pattern and colors - with the help of its weaving partners in Kenya. This customized, proprietary Kikoy is American Rhino’s primary material for apparel.