Givenchy’s creative director Matthew M Williams shares the vital importance of collaboration on the uplifting educational project at the new Al-maawiya campus in Kenya

Mathew M Williams

Matthew M Williams, creative director of Givenchy and co-founder of 1017 ALYX 9SM, Martin Howell, entrepreneur and co-designer of the learning environment at the Al-maawiya School, and architect Nico Jeuch opened up a conversation with CNC’s BA (Hons) year 2 student Antonia Centioni. They talked about empowering children through play-based learning, equipment, and state of the art architecture at Al-maawiya campus in Lamu, Kenya. Antonia Centioni interviews and reports…


Fashion is an industry not best known for its ability to drive positive societal change. However, in recent years more designers are using their platform to support social solutions and innovation.


Beyond the glamour of show season, many brands and designers work tirelessly behind the scenes to change the industry’s global impact and give back. Matthew M William’s is one of these designers, the Al-maawiya project aims to uplift, inspire and demonstrates how fashion has the means to drive positive change.


Kids in Motion Charity Organisation 


The Al-maawiya project was established in 2014 and supports primary school children. The concept of the innovative school encourages children by nurturing their talents and abilities in a holistic learning environment. The school’s promotion of meaningful engagement ensures that each child has access to healthcare, sports, and the visual arts supporting all in reaching their full potential with a view to future self-sufficiency. 



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Matthew M Williams on The Power of Collaboration 

“I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of this project over the last few years alongside Kids In Motion. We have now built a brand new school for children who previously had little to no access to education, this includes an art centre, 12 classrooms and a multi-purpose sports court”. – Matthew M Williams 

Through their shared ideology and common goals, the realisation of this multi-collaborative project reaches both the local and wider community. Matthew, Martin, and Nico are part of a powerful team, striving for positive change. By identifying their areas of expertise, resources and respecting the existing community, they have manifested an inspiring concept for education. A learning environment with the potential to grow, allowing room for play and imaginative exploration for future generations. 


Martin Howell on Play-Based learning: 


There are two crucial components to this unique project. Firstly the style and approach of the “play-based” learning framework implemented by the organisation ‘Right to Play’ and secondly the architecture, the very thoughtfully laid out design of the school. 


“When kids move they can actually absorb more information. So this whole curriculum is how do you teach kids everything that they need to know, whether that is mathematics to physical education to any subject, you can develop games to teach them through this.” Martin Howell 


The learning strategy is woven into the fabric of the school curriculum making the approach cohesive and accessible. Children are encouraged to be active both physically and mentally. This is a joint learning experience for the learners and educators. The teaching staff have adapted to the new learning approach and are applying play-based learning methods into their lesson planning. It is a careful balance of formal and informal learning blended together.



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A post shared by Martin Howell (@howelltheowl)


Nico Jeuch onTransforming the Landscape 


Architect Nico worked with local contractors to source and develop the best possible solutions and materials. It was important that the school had flexible spaces and was designed with the intention for future expansion. The design facilitates group learning both indoors and outdoors where children have the space to share and develop. The design considers the local community and welcomes intergenerational use through its open ended-approach.

The school operates as an environment where the local community can come together and share experiences including gardening, crafts, and storytelling. 



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The modern approach of Nico’s MangoTree construction project design combines local low-tech solutions and structural concepts including the use of natural light and sustainable resource management. The spacious rooms and roof construction allow enough light to enter the classrooms and prevent the heat from accumulating. This is exactly what convinced Almaawiya e.V. to join forces with the young architect to realise this project. 


“It was really great seeing moving desks around in the classrooms, classes outside teaching about plants and kids sitting reading. This was exciting for me to see because when you design a project you try to envision how it will be used afterwards, and usually it’s not the same, it gets used differently and I can learn a lot from this”. – Nico Jeuch 


Empowering Equipment 


“Often schools in Africa just get pen and paper because that’s our idea of what a school should have so play is definitely not prioritised, I think that was huge. A big moment was when the kids were looking at the Nike boxes where I was like wow… There’s a priority here on play-based learning equipment”. – Martin Howell 



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Through Matthew, the project received a donation of Nike products. This is a huge component to play-based learning, equipping the children to feel empowered in the space. The equipment is on the same level as thier learning environment and allows for play. 

“For us, it’s a lifelong involvement, a lifelong project and that’s the reason why Matthew wanted to get involved. He wants his kids to visit where he can teach them about all of these things, he’s planning on doing that with us for a long time”. Martin Howell on Matthew M Williams 


How To Get Involved 

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