We're launching some beautiful new products from Quazi Design including bowls, earrings, and necklaces, which can be viewed here!
Quazi Design is a handicraft business based in Swaziland that empowers local women to make upcycled jewelry and home goods while earning a sustainable permanent income. We talked with Doron, co-founder at Quazi Design, on how their business is becoming a leader of sustainable and fair trade design.
Can you tell us a little about Swaziland and why you decided to base your design company in Southern Africa?
I came to Swaziland in 2008 as a design intern for a local established craft company, after graduating in Theatre Design in the UK, and the placement lasted for a year. From that experience I felt that I had found the direction I was looking for – a business model which combines hand skills, innovative design and ethical principles! I was then offered to lead Quazi Design, by Anthony and Jan van Ryswyck who own a magazine distribution company. I joined Quazi as a director and became the driving force behind the business, developing it into a sustainable working business model. The concept was started before I came on board, as the two brothers were keen to start a social enterprise and help the Swazi women, and also recycle their waste magazines. It was exactly the challenge I was looking for!
Where did the name Quazi Design come from?
It is a play on Swazi Design.
What inspires Quazi Design products? Do you do any collaborative work with other designers or design studios?
Our product collection is motivated by a range of interesting techniques; including layering magazine pages to recreate the impression of wood, as if transforming the material back to its original form. We have also developed the simple rolled paper bead technique, making it our own.
Recycling is the crux of our business; the women work at tables made from old cupboard doors, shelves in the office are made from magazines and egg cartons are used as storage units!
I am the in-house and main designer and we have recently started an internship programme, inviting graduates to come for 6 months to learn about product development and to assist in expanding our range.
My aim for the next few years is to collaborate with design studios, as I believe that collaboration is the future of design.
What's the best part of working with artisans in Swaziland?
I would have to say that working with the women in Swaziland is humbling and gives me perspective on life; they are role models and are keen to learn new skills, keen to grow the business and work great as a team.
You're a founding member of the SWIFT Swaziland Fair Trade Network. Can you expand a little on the backstory?
SWIFT was founded with the assistance of COFTA (Cooperation of fair trade in Africa) in 2009, and with the assistance of several local craft companies who are pioneers in Fair Trade in Africa. Quazi had just started then and I was keen for the business to become part of the World Fair Trade Network. Over a few days we created the strategic plan for the NGO, its goals and principles and mission and vision. It has since acquired funding from Comic Relief in the UK for a 3 year pilot programme, the first in Africa, where local craft organisations are assisted in trainings to develop their business. The programme works with informal businesses, single artisans working on the side of the road, to export businesses like Quazi and established local businesses that have been exporting for many years. One of the paramount outcomes of the SWIFT programme and of being in Swaziland is the sharing of best practices between all the craft organisations. For more info https://www.facebook.com/
Thank you again, Doron, for taking the time to speak with us! We look forward to working with you soon and learning more about new products you and your artisans are making!