A lifestyle brand based in Tanzania, Nyumbani Design brings a collection of hard-carved jewelry to Lydali. Each boldly minimal piece is crafted from locally-sourced wood by artisans through the country. If that sounds too good to be true, read on: Nyumbani Design also partners with Trees for the Future, an environmental organization that plants a new tree in Tanzania for every piece of jewelry sold. We spoke with founder Kerry Glanfield to get the skinny on this design company's past, present, and future.
Tell us about Nyumbani Design’s progress since Lydali last spoke with you, back in March 2013.
As a Tanzanian-based brand, it was important for us to build our recognition for modern design within our local market place. We have garnered a resident following by working with other like-minded designers encouraging locally driven growth within Tanzania’s design sector.
Over the last year, it has also been exciting to see sales increase within the US market. Lydali was our first American stockist in 2013 and went onto support the label’s dedication to sustainable design by partnering with TOMS one for one marketplace. Like the TOMS one for one model, we have been proud to work with Trees for the Future over the last two years, an environmental project that has assisted us in the plantation of over 4000 multi-purpose trees in Tanzania for every jewellery piece sold.
What does your design process look like?
I gather inspirational images mostly of architectural shapes, formations and colour that are then translated into product design through sketches and lines. My wooden artisans will then carve and sculpt each design following my directions. For each collection I try to incorporate a new indigenous wood to the range to add a new texture or colour. For AW14/15 mustard yellow from the Jackfruit tree was introduced as an accent colour, a colour known to activate the memory, encourage communication and enhance vision. For SS15, I have designed a monochrome collection with clean modern lines in optic black with cappuccino tan hues and creamy whites to create a fusion of bold simplicity.
You moved to Tanzania in 2010. How do you see the country in terms of development? Have you experienced any significant changes?
In 2012, Dar es Salaam was considered as Africa’s next megacity. This bustling modern metropolis along the Swahili coastline is rapidly being developed in terms of city skyscrapers, rental property and restaurants due to a thriving economy. The city’s expansion has provided resident designers with more opportunities to source locally and advance in insightful architectural structures and product design.
What are the challenges of selling globally while living in Tanzania?
International travel can be expensive, so sales and marketing trips are limited. As the company is still young, I am involved in every aspect of the business that can prove difficult to facilitate when I am away.
Do you have any advice for someone dreaming about starting their own project, but can’t take the plunge yet?
Last December I read Blake Mycoskie – founder of TOMS – book “Start Something that Matters”. I believe this to be an inspirational and motivational tool for dreamers with entrepreneurial spirit who want to “explore, dream, discover”.
Come hang out with us at the Renegade Craft Fair in downtown Los Angeles this weekend! We'll be armed with tons of ethical, handmade goodies for you to take home.
When: July 26 & 27 from 11am-6pm
Where: Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA
What: A free outdoor market of incredible handmade goods, plus delicious eats, great tunes, and hands-on art workshops
We'll see you there!
Zurita is a Chilean brand of apparel, created by Santiago based designer Gabriela Farias Zurita, under the parameters of eco and ethical fashion. We talked with Gabriela, an emerging talent in Latin America, to find out more about her work in the Andes mountains and her approach to sustainable fashion design.
What is ethical fashion for you and why did you decide to direct your work in this line?
I worked in designer creations by more than a decade and arrived to the so called eco fashion pretty intuitively. Environmental and social issues are something that concerns all of us, as consumers, creators, educators. When I create a new product line I always wonder what is the reason behind doing something new when there is already so much in the market and generally becomes a disposable item in less than a year. Here in Chile the alpaca and Andean textile traditions are right there, at hand, and I got captivated by both the technical expertise of the traditional textiles and the worldview of the Aymara world.
Tell us a little about the project you are developing in the Northern desert.
Today I am working on two lines with the Andean weavers. On the one hand I work in a developing products for my brand, under the parameters of fair trade and eco fashion. I design pieces of clothing using traditional Andean weaving techniques and respecting the cultural content kept in these textiles. The pieces are mostly made in the Altiplano and then come to my hands to the capital, where I label, commercialize, etc. On the other line of work I work exclusively at the service of the weavers, through state funded programs, often in collaboration with fair trade certified organizations (in this case Comparte). I have just been working on product development under the concepts of co-design, where traditional techniques are preserved in innovative products that will be later marketed and eventually generate income for the weavers.
Why is it so important to try to preserve the weaving tradition? Do you think it is possible to combine it with hard-nosed business?
The importance of promoting handicrafts is related to a heritage theme. I do not think that you can go back in time but I do think that maintaining a living heritage enriches society as a whole, even more if income can be generated in the process. The hard business approach doesn’t necessarily understand the spirit of a craft job, which requires more time than produced machine production. However, I do think that there are sustainable programs that can help create a balance and help solve some of the problems with craftsmanship. These programs should be tailored to the people, focus on the people, rather than the money or financial aspect of a business venture.
Can you reflect a little on ethical fashion as a retail trend and its future?
Ethical Fashion is a concept that has existed in the western world for some time already. Here in Latin America is still not well understood. It may become a trend, but I think if it's a trend that doesn’t replace the consumption patterns that we have had for the last decades it won’t make much sense. It is necessary to create a deeper change, a radical social order change is necessary. And I’d rather devote myself to encourage and promote this broader change than to think just about retail.
This week's Producer Spotlight features Proud Mary, a sustainable design company that partners with artisans from around the globe to incorporate their unique forms of artistry. By mixing traditional craftsmanship with a modern design aesthetic, Proud Mary's line of accessories and housewares are coveted throughout the country. We're excited to share our conversation with Harper Poe, founder of Proud Mary and one of Lydali's closest collaborators.
In which countries does Proud Mary work? How did you choose those countries?
We are working with artisans from Guatemala, Ivory Coast, Mali, Peru and Morocco. My goal is for Proud Mary to be a global exploration of textiles, working in countries with strong textile traditions.
What are some challenges Proud Mary faces as a company? How do you see Proud Mary growing in the next few years?
Production capacity is and will continue to be an issue. Most of our producing groups are quite small and can only produce so many units per season. That is why we have decided to grow out to include more groups/countries. This will continue to be an issue that us and most companies like us will have to manage. Finding willing artisans to train is becoming more and more difficult as the younger generation chooses other fields, not necessarily a bad thing as they are more educated and choosing more "professional" careers but this does pose an issue for global handcrafts. I would love to have a Proud Mary specific workshop in Morocco in the next 5 years to produce our shoes. Our shoes have become our biggest sellers and it would be amazing to have a space that the women could come to weave the raffia uppers, as they are currently working from their homes...
More people are jumping in the online retail world with a focus on global artisan goods and ethical clothing. What do you think about this growing trend? Are you concerned about a possible "bubble effect"?
When I started Proud Mary in 2008 there were not many companies working in global handcrafts. The industry has grown TREMENDOUSLY and as a whole I think it's a good thing and healthy competition. Companies cannot rest on the laurels of just being artisan-made and fair trade. There has to be the same design input as in fast fashion companies. As more companies are entering this industry I'm hoping that the bleeding heart stories will start to diminish. I agree that it's important to share the makers story but in a positive way, not to exploit.
As far as a bubble is concerned I think those companies that are focusing strongly on design and establishing a unique aesthetic will survive any "bubble"/"bubble bursting" scenario. I do think there are way too many curated online global artisan and ethical fashion platforms, the ones that require their vendors to drop ship. If you want to start a site to sell product I think you should purchase the product outright from the vendor.
Do you have any recent anecdotes or stories that you would like to share the Lydali community?
I just returned from any awesome trip visiting shoe makers in Morocco. We are training some new ladies to add to our production team and plan on doubling our team in the next year! In addition to Proud Mary shoes we are working with a few other brands to produce a line for them.
How about some advice for someone who wants to start their own business, like Proud Mary, but is afraid to jump in?
When starting any business my biggest piece of advice is to keep going. It's not easy and takes time to establish a strong brand. You just have to keep plugging away and have passion so the grind is fun!
Many thanks to Harper for sharing such insightful words! Lydali is proud to carry Proud Mary's design-driven creations. Check them out below!