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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog

#forthebabes, #indegodiaries

Indego Kids in The House!

Indego Africa kids! A celebration of where creativity begins...

We love the magic, joy and playfulness of childhood and our new line of pattern-happy kids items is inspired by this childlike spirit of fun and adventure! We spent a day with two of the cutest kids around - Peter & Genevieve - to explore the world through Indego colors. We adventured into enchanted forests, frolicked amongst magical flowers, and brought some of our favorite patterned stuffed animals along with us.

Afterwards, Peter & Genevieve told us some of their favorite moments from the day and shared insights into their world of childhood wonders. Here's what they had to say:

What was the best part of today?

Peter: The best part was when we took the picture of me and Genevieve walking over the bridge at a wedding (ed. note: this shot was peter's idea) 

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Peter: An engineer because I like to build things!

Genevieve: A doctor so I can help people & a teacher so I can teach kids how to read books.

What item did you like wearing the best? Why?

Peter: The bow tie because its handsome.

Genevieve: The dress because its beautiful. 

What makes you smile everyday?

(both): Summer, beach & pool!

#indegodiaries, #new, #summer, #funwithfriends

Girls Off Fifth

Janelle from Girls Off Fifth styled our newest jackets & jewels!

Originally posted on Girls Off Fifth

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I recently met up with friends from do-gooder brand, Indego Africa, in the Meatpacking District to shoot these oversized blazers that give pattern play a whole new meaning. From women artisans in Rwandato your closet, they’re the perfect piece to make a statement this summer. And the jewelry….so good. Also handmade, each piece is unique in its own way. The star cutout or horn toggle bangles are my absolute fave! All profits fund educational training programs for the women who handcraft these very same products. Empower women while looking chic? Now that’s a no brainer.

Look 1

Indego Africa Oversized Collar Jacket

Elin Kling for Marciano Skirt (similar)

Indego Africa Jewelry

Auxiliary Reese Cross body Bag (on sale now!)

Komono Sunglasses

Vince Camuto Sandals (try these or  these)

Look 2

Indego Africa Oversized Blazer

Zara High Waisted Boyfriend Jeans (similar)

Indego Africa Jewelry

Repetto Booties

#community, #indegodiaries, #summer, #funwithfriends

Fun With Friends! A Day With Thread & Silk

We love doing fun things with friends! That’s why we were so excited to do a photo shoot with Thread & Silk – the ethical fashion creation of Chloe Guss, a once-upon-a-time Indego intern.

Thread & Silk creates one-of-a-kind luxury vintage shirts using 100% recycled fabrics. We love the way these whimsical, eye-catching pieces look with our jewelry & accessories – whether playing off our cowhorn & tin necklaces or accented by our brightly colored textile turbands.

Check out some of the looks we put together below – we hope you love them too!

 

 

For more on Thread & Silk, click here    |   To shop our featured pieces, click here

#collaboration, #summer, #handmade

Summer Vibes Have Arrived - Prymal x Indego

Summer vibes have officially arrived with the launch of our Indego Africa x Prymal collaboration! This ultra-cool collection features iconic panama hats with a fun, socially-conscious twist: each hat is handmade by artisans in Ecuador and accented with the colorful yet delicate hand-embroidery of the Ibaba cooperative in Rwanda.

We are so excited to partner with Prymal whose mission is to create high quality, luxurious products that strengthen Ecuador’s local economies and preserve the environment. We love their commitment to sustainability, empowerment, and beautiful artistry throughout every step of their artisan partners’ production process.

To create a panama hat by hand is a long, meticulous process that has been passed down from generation to generation in Ecuador. To get started: weavers pick out pieces of straw and cut them to the length they wish to work with. Dipping their fingers in water, they split the fiber razor thin, and weave outwards from the center of the crown using a wooden crown form as support {the greatest weavers work only by the light of the moon or when the sky is overcast.} 

Once woven, each hat has four to six inches of loose straw remaining around the brim. This excess is then woven backwards, forming a thin but strong band around the brim. 

To give the hat its final, classic shape, artisans use either an iron over a wooden form or a steam hydraulic machine in a process called “blocking.” Last but not least, an internal band is sewn into the hat and a decorative  trim – in this case, hand-embroidered by artisans in Rwanda! - is attached before it’s ready for final sale.

The final product? A timeless yet vibrant hat that mixes empowerment with chic & effortless style, from the white sandy beaches of Ecuador to the rolling green hills of Rwanda. Now that’s what we call a win-win.

#inspiring, #artisans, #education, #leadership academy, #indegodiaries, #impact

Congrats Grads!

We are so proud to announce that on April 30th, 2015 the first class of students graduated from our Leadership Academy – an advanced business education program dedicated to building Rwanda’s next generation of powerful leaders, businesswomen, and entrepreneurs!

The Leadership Academy opened its doors for the first time last October to welcome 25 eager students from across 9 of our different partner cooperatives. The goal? To provide these ambitious women with the knowledge and skills needed to bring their businesses to the next level {for more on the launch & selection process, see here}

Six months later, we could not be more thrilled about how well the semester went. The students approached each lesson with incredible curiosity and enthusiasm, paired with a steadfast determination to master all of the material, even at its most challenging. The results? They’re already making sweeping changes at their co-ops – turning them into better-run, more productive & creative businesses that, in turn, will generate more income for all of our artisan partners. They’re also paying it forward by educating and mentoring other women along the way, creating a powerful multiplier effect in communities across Rwanda. 

We held a graduation ceremony at the Academy on Thursday, April 30th to recognize these students’ incredible achievements, and were joined by proud family members, Rwandan government officials, NGOs, and media representatives there for the occasion. We were especially excited to welcome our guest of honor – Rwanda’s Minister of Trade and Commerce, Francois Kanimba, who delivered the event’s keynote address.

Mr. Kanimba congratulated us and our artisan partners on what he called “a brilliant initiative” (!!!) and spoke about the central role women have played in rebuilding Rwanda over the past 20 years, noting that most of Rwanda’s small- and medium-sized enterprises today are run by women. Despite these impressive numbers, he recognized that women continue to face substantial challenges in bringing their businesses to scale, with limited skills and lack of access to markets, finance, and technology – validating the critical importance of programs like our Leadership Academy. 

Rosine Urujeni, our Country Director, and Karen Yelick, our CEO, spoke about the inspiration and vision behind the Academy, noting that the idea came directly from our artisan partners who were eager for opportunities to further advance their education. The curriculum was built by Indego Africa staff and Board members to address the topics most relevant to successfully running an artisan cooperative in Rwanda, incorporating English lessons and technology use throughout. 

Karen described the personal salience of the Leadership Academy for her. As someone with a life-long passion for education, she is driven by a deep desire to provide women in Rwanda with the same kind of life-changing educational opportunities that have done so much for her. She, and the rest of the Indego Africa team, are thrilled to see this dream coming to life.

Two of the Leadership Academy students spoke to the group as well, showing firsthand the powerful impact the Academy had had on them. Rose and Daphrose (the President and a member of the Ingenzi Knit Union, respectively) praised the depth and intensity of the Leadership Academy’s classes, as well as the transformative role that technology is already beginning to have on their businesses. 

They also made a very special announcement: the 25 students of our first Leadership Academy class are banding together to open up a store of their own! Using the skills they have learned, they will go into business with one another, seeking to build a market for their diverse handmade products in Kigali! We could not be more proud to see these empowered, independent entrepreneurs taking initiative and working together to create more opportunities for themselves and their families. We look forward to sharing more about this exciting venture!   

As these students go back and take the lead in their co-ops and their communities, and as a new Leadership Academy class begins this June, we are so excited for all that lies ahead. Thank you so much to all those who have helped make our Leadership Academy such a success – from our team members, to our Boards, to our amazing community of supporters – none of this would be possible without you.

And, most importantly, congratulations to the first graduating class of our Leadership Academy!

The Leadership Academy is generously supported by the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund. 

Click here to learn more

#artisans, #mothers, #inspiring

Celebrating Moms

Our partners in Rwanda are not only talented artisans and entrepreneurs, but also mothers – strong, determined, loving women driven by the desire to create beautiful lives for their children. These working moms strive everyday to provide for their families. Whether it’s making sure there’s food on the table or earning enough to send their children to school, they never cease to inspire us with their passion, dedication, and dreams for the future.

We chatted with some of these amazing moms to hear their thoughts on motherhood and what it means to them. Here’s what they shared with us:

 

“Just hearing my child call me mom brings joy to my heart.” – Jeanne, 36 years old, 1 daughter

“When you become a mom, you start to think differently. All you think about is your child – how will you provide for them? Will you be able to send them to school? It fills your every thought.” – Emelinne, 45 years old, 1 daughter, 1 son

“I want my children to have a good life – to have knowledge, jobs, families, and homes of their own. Right now we are poor, but I look forward to a day where we will rise above it.” – Juliet, 40 years old, 4 daughters, 6 sons 

“I am so happy to see my kids grow – to see them healthy.” – Odette, 30 years old, 1 daughter, 2 sons   

“I hope my kids continue to study and to graduate from school. I want them to have the life I never had.” – Josephine, 41 years old, 1 daughter, 3 sons

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful moms in Rwanda! 

#forthebabes, #indegodiaries, #artisans

Featurekins: Interview with Creative Director, Deirdre King

Originally posted on Babiekins -- Indego Africa is a nonprofit organization that partners with female artisans in Africa to distribute their handmade goods. Partnering with Indego Africa offers the female artisans the opportunity of selling their goods within a global market, which results in empowerment, independence and educational opportunities for the artisans. The brand offers ethnic style jewelry, home decor and a new whimsical nursery line. Deirdre King, Creative Director of the brand, chats with us about the organization’s origin and mission. She also shares some sound advice and lets us in on what inspires her.

Tell us about the origins of Indego Africa. What is the organization’s mission?

Indego Africa was officially started in late 2007 by Matt and Tom Mitro, a father and son duo. While living in Africa, they were inspired to start Indego after seeing the entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiastic resourcefulness of African women. Matt and Tom were especially moved by the way these women overcame poverty through entrepreneurship. Having developed a sense of commitment to helping these women, they founded Indego Africa years later. Both Tom and Matt remain intimately involved as members of Indego’s Board of Directors.

We believe that empowerment is the key to creating social change. Indego’s mission is to help women in Rwanda break cycles of poverty through economic empowerment and education. We partner with women artisans in Rwanda and sell their beautifully handcrafted products through our e-commerce site, boutiques worldwide, and collaborations with independent designers and brands. We pool profits from sales with grant support and donations to fund job skills training programs for our artisan partners in business management, design, technology, and English literacy, providing them with the knowledge and skills to engage independently with global markets.

Where are the female artisans that produce the items based? How does Indego Africa go about locating and establishing these connections?

We work with female artisans all throughout Rwanda – some close to Kigali and many in further, more rural regions of the country. Having an Indego team on the ground in Rwanda is our key to finding new partner artisans and cooperatives! We partner with women all across the country and many times hear about these small artisans groups through friends of Indego, volunteer recommendations, other nonprofits and design companies and general word of mouth. We think (and hope) that Indego has given our artisan partners a renewed confidence in their skills and in their futures. We are their business partners and take our professional relationship with them very seriously. In turn, we see that they are proud to be members of the cooperative and look forward to building their own businesses to be independent, strong and long-lasting.

As Creative Director of the brand, what fuels your creativity?

Like many creative entrepreneurs, I find inspiration daily – in both the expected (instagram, travel, design trends) and unexpected (my old baby clothes, knick-knacks I’ve collected throughout the years, my husband’s colorful vintage surfboards) ways. I crave inspiration and find that those days I feel inspired-to-create helps my productivity skyrocket! However, I would say my creativity is really fueled by the knowledge that success in my job – whether through designing a popular product, creating a beautiful campaign, landing a killer account – means there will be truly positive impact on the artisan communities that produce our products. There is nothing more empowering for me in my role than knowing that I am supporting the empowerment of our partner artisans.

We would love to know more about your journey as a creative in the world of nonprofit. What advice would you give other creatives that may want to follow a similar path?

I get asked this question a lot and the truth is: I was very lucky to join a small organization while it was at a growing moment and when it needed someone to take the reigns of the creative side of the business (ie I was in the right place at the right time). However, I also worked and created and hustled around-the-clock, learned on the job and from others and taught myself everything else I needed to know to help grow the position I stumbled upon into a successful career.

My advice – if you find something with the potential to become that career you’ve always dreamed of, do whatever it takes to get it there. Work your butt off until you see rewards and even when you don’t (they’ll come!). Also, remember that traditionally non-creative industries don’t have to stay that way forever. We take design and branding just as seriously as we take our organizational mission and social impact and make sure the one is always supporting the other.

Indego Africa just released a nursery collection. What prompted this venture?

Being pregnant! Last year, as I started to think about decorating my daughter’s nursery and plan for her arrival, I discovered so many beautiful companies and brands that took design for babies & kids to a level I never knew existed. I fell in love with the whole industry. I got so excited about the idea of surrounding my daughter with handcrafted pieces and of course immediately thought of the amazing women we work with in Rwanda. The prints in Rwanda are extremely unique and beautiful and everything is truly created with love and a gentle touch. The nursery collection story and product fits right into our brand and the women really enjoy making the pieces! Most of our artisan partners are mamas themselves – with motherhood being the drive behind their determination to work so hard to provide for their families – and it has been really fun to get their advice and thoughts on the line. It was a seamless venture and one we are really excited to show our customers. Our tagline is “By Mamas, For Mamas, For the Babes.” How fun is that?

More about Deirdre:

My go-to outfit consists of: jeans, sneakers and a henley. In my make-up bag you’ll find: cherry chapstick and bobby pins. Since becoming a mom: I have more patience. I could eat: tacos everyday. On my playlist you’ll find: Country music My daydreams are: about saturday morning pancake making with my family. The quirkiest thing I do: is take the cheese off my pizza.