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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

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#community, #indegodiaries, #makersmonth, #sneakpeek

#MakersMonth is Here!

We are so excited to announce the launch of our first-ever #MakersMonth — a July-long campaign celebrating the incredible artistry and skill of the master-makers who handcraft our products! Throughout the month, we’ll be giving you insider, behind-the-scenes looks into how our products are made. Whether exploring the exquisite crafts of our artisan partners in Rwanda or the global design partnerships that bring our new, innovative collections to life, we want to share with you the unique stories behind our products, our brand, and our mission to do good through good design. Read on to find out what we’re up to this July and how you can get involved!

This #MakersMonth, you’ll find…    

  • in-depth features on the handmade processes and unique stories behind our products and collections! {on the blog}
  • a stunning artisan portrait series with the beautiful and talented mama-makers of Umutima Cooperative launched on our partner ONE’s blog & shot by another partner, hazel & pine! 
  • weekly exclusive giveaways for our wonderful followers & supporters {like you!}
  • an inside look into our studio visit with designer, artist, and collaborator, Tamar Mogendorff
  • a full-day pop up shop & party on July 22nd in Nolita, NYC featuring lots of bright products, special partner & project installations, discounts, drinks, small bites & more! {come & invite your friends!}
  • a brand new #Makers Video, giving you an up-close-and-Indego look into the incredible crafts and techniques behind our products
  • a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the design process & inspiration of our Creative Director, Deirdre King
  • and…a VERY special announcement{you won’t want to miss this…}

We hope you’re as excited as we are about all the fun things we have in store this month! Be sure to follow us on social media and check out our newsletter {sign up here} so you don’t miss a beat. We hope you’ll join in the conversation and help us share our love for good stories, good design, and the art of the handmade this #MakersMonth! 

Our #MakersMonth Pop-Up party is sponsored by Sixpoint Brewery & Insomnia Cookies

#education, #leadership academy, #impact

Meet The New Leadership Academy Class

We are thrilled to welcome the newest class of aspiring leaders, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen to our Leadership Academy! Following a highly successful first semester filled with incredible business innovation, peer-to-peer mentorship & entrepreneurial creativity, we can’t wait for what the next six months have in store.

Our second group of 25 students began classes on June 9th, 2015 which kicked off with an orientation and Google Chromebook training session. Since technology use is an integral part of our curriculum (and our students’ ability to access international markets!) we have put that at the forefront of our semester this year to ensure that all of our students start at the same level.

The second week of classes focused on inventory management and cooperative organization – lessons designed to help our partners lay the foundation for successful businesses. During Week 2, we sat down with some of our students (at break-time – they’re busy!) to hear more about their thoughts on the Academy and goals for the future. Here’s what they had to say:

Rebecca Ingabire, Advisor at Agatako Cooperative (25 years old)

“I wanted to enroll in the Leadership Academy for the opportunity to work with other women, build my confidence, and open my mind. Education is important because it will allow me to acquire the knowledge I need to compete in the labor market and grow and develop as a person. Someday, I’d like to open my own mini-market as well as a public speaking club where I can practice my communication skills.”

Therese, Cocoki Cooperative (39 years old)

“As a Student Fellow, I want to help other students in the class learn and also to improve my own knowledge about how to run a business. I’m most excited to learn bookkeeping and computer skills.”

Uwase Agatha, Auditor at Imirasire Cooperative (39 years old)

“I want to participate in the Leadership Academy in order to gain the knowledge needed to effectively perform my duties as an auditor. I am most excited to learn about wealth management and recording financial transactions. Education can help you to become a leader in your cooperative because when you are educated, people have more confidence in you to lead them. I want to become more innovative at making products and be a really good entrepreneur by 2017.”

Leonie Mukarukundo, Vice President of the Hope Cooperative at The Ingenzi Knit Union (36 years old)

“Education is important because it gives you knowledge. It will help me to help my children. My goal for them is to attend school through the university level and get the education that I did not have the chance to receive.” 

Chantal Nyirambali, President of Imirasire Cooperative (50 years old)

“I am most excited to learn about marketing and leadership. Education is important because it helps you to get advanced knowledge and allows you to grow. My goal is to be able to fully provide for my family and be a role model to women in my community.”

Aren’t these women just amazing?! We certainly think so! Stay tuned for more insider info throughout the semester on our partners’ progress in and outside of the classroom – there will surely be much to share!

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

Click here to learn more

#indegodiaries, #collaboration

Indego Kids with Hazel & Pine

We are so excited about our new kids clothing line, celebrating the magic and playfulness of childhood through bright, pattern-happy dresses, shirts, rompers, and more! To capture the spirit of this colorful collection, we teamed up with one of the photography gurus of Hazel & Pine – Ashley Turner – for a fun photoshoot at the very spot where our kids line is made: the Umutima Cooperative in Nyamirambo, Kigali, Rwanda!

Hazel & pine's mission is to bring to life inspirational moments from around the world. We just love their stunning visual imagery, filled with sun-soaked, wanderlust-inspiring photos that transport us to new and exciting places. We collaborated with them to create a one-of-a-kind photo series showcasing our latest collection for little ones, and couldn't be happier with the results!

Featuring the adorable children of Umutima's makers, alongside those of Umutima's creative advisor, Monica Tabet-Gugolz, this photo series beautifully celebrates the playfulness, joy, and creativity that our children's line is all about. And really, does it get any CUTER than this!?

Here's what Ashley of hazel & pine had to say about the shoot & her partnership with Indego Africa:

"We’ve had our eyes on Indego Africa’s aesthetic for a while now, and love how the design is so refined and inspired by the textures, colors, and culture of East Africa which are some of our favorite in the world.  

Walking into the Umutima cooperative I was welcomed with the bright spirits of the women and children, which is a common part of the culture here and definitely plays a part in what makes East Africa so special. But the women of Umutima in their tailored traditional dresses and the bright light shining into the workshop were a true reflection of Indego’s design and radiant kids collection, not to mention the community of strength they all speak together through their work.

As we all walked around Nyamirambo, I was inspired by the clean lines of the local architecture, the exotic colors, and tropical plants to highlight and bring to life the joy and playfulness of the children’s line."

#funwithfriends, #collaboration

Fun With Friends # 2 – Fox Fodder Farm

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we love flowers – especially the wild, blooming beauties of Brooklyn-based floral & garden design company, Fox Fodder Farm.

Founded in 2011 by Taylor Patterson, Fox Fodder Farm is known for its enchantingly vibrant & lush floral arrangements. We met the lovely Taylor in the spring of 2013 and immediately knew we wanted to bring her into the Indego family. Taylor sketched us some beautiful vase designs, the ladies in Rwanda worked their magic with locally-sourced materials, and voilà! Our best-selling vase collaboration came to life that very holiday season.

Since then the Indego Africa x Fox Fodder Farm collection of unique vases has grown in popularity (J. Crew even took notice and added them to their spring 2015 home collection!). Made up of recycled glass bottles and topped with woven palm leaf, the elegantly rustic feel of these vases plays off the delicate beauty of our favorite flowers perfectly. 

We recently visited Taylor’s to-die-for Brooklyn studio (read: floral scent heaven) and asked her to show us how she would expertly arrange these vases. Here’s what Taylor had to say about the vases & the flowers she loves to pair them with!

"I love these vases because I have always been attracted to the woven baskets and vessels but they never hold water. As a florist I love to use what I can for flowers, so the fact that these vases have the woven look that I love plus hold water is perfect. These vases compliment anything that has an interesting shape and structure. "

The Foraged Feel

raspberry foliage and anything else you can cut from your yard

Perfectly Feminine

a few spray roses

Structured 

foxglove flowers, these are special to me and have great structure & shape

The Minimalist

yellow beaded iris, these are seasonal for spring and also have great structure & shape with a pop of color

#inspiring, #impact, #community

Fighting HIV/AIDS through economic opportunity

More than 200,000 people between the ages of 15-24 live with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. Even more are affected by the disease – struggling with taking care of ill family, or dealing with the loss of parents, guardians, or other relatives.

Originally posted on one.org

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At Indego Africa, we see firsthand the devastating effects that HIV/AIDS can have on individuals and communities in Rwanda. That’s why we are thrilled to partner with CHABHA (Children Affected by HIV/AIDS) to help provide employment & vocational training to the ISANO cooperative – a group of talented young people, all of whom are affected in some way by HIV/AIDS. CHABHA is a nonprofit that partners with community-based organizations in Rwanda and Burundi to support children and youth affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty. The young people CHABHA works with come from the poorest families in their communities, with parents or guardians who are unable to provide for them.

When discussing HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, it is important to acknowledge the 1994 genocide that contributed significantly to its spread. During those 100 days, an estimated 250,000 – 500,000 women were raped, often by known HIV+ men, as a weapon of genocide. Today, survivors and their families continue to struggle with the aftermath of this devastating violence.

While young people in Rwanda, and around the world, are often the most vulnerable population affected by HIV/AIDS, they are also determined to rise above it. The young people of the ISANO cooperative – an Indego Africa & CHABHA partner – are no exception.

ISANO is a weaving cooperative in the Kicukiro district of Rwanda. It was founded in 2013 by entrepreneurial high school student, Celine Mudahakana (in partnership with CHABHA’s Project Independence Initiative) in order to create a sustainable source of income for young people affected by HIV/AIDS. Most of ISANO’s members had dropped out of school because they could not afford to pay the fees. Without education or income-earning opportunities, these young adults and their families were living a life of abject poverty.

At Indego Africa, we believe deeply in the power of education and economic empowerment to transform lives. That’s why we are thrilled to partner withISANO to create beautiful woven products – like a loomed linen spring scarf collection – that provide its artisans with opportunities to earn sustainable, fair-trade income and to learn valuable business skills along the way.

Opportunities like these not only help young people affected by HIV/AIDS escape from poverty, but also help them gain something of immense value: hope. By developing useful, life-long skills, and building self-confidence in the process, ISANO’s artisans are now looking towards the future with hopefulness, rather than despair. They are seeking new ways to grow their cooperative, generating innovative business ideas, and – to quote our long-time artisan partner, Emelienne – “dreaming dreams they did not know it was possible to dream.”

We are honored to work with these brave young people who are not only creating brighter futures for themselves and their families but also serving as role models for others – showing them that they too can take ownership of their futures.

Celine, ISANO’s founder, is thrilled at all the progress that the members of ISANO have made. Her dreams for their future? “I want [ISANO] to influence other generations,” she says, “[I want them] to bring more people into this project and other projects like these so that all young people who do not have opportunities can have the chance to become financially independent.”

We couldn’t agree more and are deeply excited to continue to work with and support ISANO and CHABHA in the years to come, helping more young people to develop life-changing skills.

You can learn more about Indego Africa and the ISANO collection here.

#indegodiaries, #diy

Hanging Basket Bouquets: A How-To!

We are all about summer for sun, fun, and – of course – beautiful flowers!

We fawn over luscious peonies, vibrant hydrangeas, and all manner of wild-looking, too-beautiful-to-blink summer florals. That’s why we’ve designed the perfect way to bring these blossoming beauties into your home: Indego Africa hanging baskets! Here’s what you’ll need to decorate your space with flowery love from floor to ceiling:

So channel your inner flower child y’all – it’s time to get planting! 

Shop Indego Africa hanging baskets here

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

Meet The Graduating Class

We are so proud of the first graduating class of our Leadership Academy! After six months of advanced business & leadership training, these 25 talented & ambitious artisans are off to do great things (including opening a store together in Kigali!).

As we welcome in our newest class of 25 students, we want to take a moment to hear from some of our a-m-a-z-i-n-g recent grads about their time at the Academy. Below they weigh in on this past semester, sharing favorite classes, proudest moments, and what they’ll miss the most.

Immaculee, Agatako Cooperative

I enjoyed the class on defining leadership because it helped us understand the qualities a good leader should have, which I believe will enable us to work well with other members of the cooperatives.

Jacqueline, Twiyubake Cooperative

I was so proud when I was able to teach the lesson on inventory to the rest of my colleagues at Twiyubake because I understood the topic so well. Being able to share this knowledge and put it to use was a huge moment for our cooperative.

Annociata, Abasangiye Cooperative

I’ll miss our break times because this was when people shared their stories. I found them all so interesting.

Anne Marie, Cocoki Cooperative

My proudest moment was being able to use a Chromebook for the first time, and use the Internet for research.

Claudine, Imirasire Cooperative

I will miss the teaching most. We got thorough explanations of each topic to ensure that everyone understood.

Lenatha, Imirasire Cooperative

My favorite class was the one on filing and safe-guarding the cooperatives’ records because in my cooperative, we hardly kept our documents but after this lesson, we learned how to file and keep every document especially important ones like our rent agreement.

Immaculee, Ibyishimo Cooperative

My proudest moment was when Rosine {The Leadership Academy’s Head Teacher} told me that I had leadership qualities and that I spoke like a leader when giving a speech.

Epiphanie - Ejo Hazaza Cooperative

I enjoyed the class on working with banks because I learned how to ask for a loan and how to manage the cooperative’s money well.

Illuminee – Covanya Cooperative

I will miss being around the other students. They are like my family.

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing the inside scoop from some of our impressive Leadership Academy graduates! We can’t wait to share what they do next as they take the lead in their cooperatives & communities. Stay tuned for more insider info soon-to-come on our newest class of entrepreneurial all-stars whose Academy semester has only just begun…

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

Click here to learn more

#inspiring, #collaboration, #funwithfriends

Inspired By Aelfie

We are so excited to partner with textile designer Aelfie on a collaboration inspired by our shared love of bold color, eccentric design, and, of course, the art of the handmade. Aelfie is the visionary behind the beautifully handwoven rugs, whimsically embroidered pillows, and geometric home décor pieces of her eponymous brand.

We collaborated with Aelfie to create a line of  bright limited-edition plateau baskets, handmade by our partners in Rwanda, which are the perfect way to add a striking pop of color {and conscience!} to your tables, walls and surfaces. Here’s what Aelfie had to say about the collection:

“Each design is comprised of disjointed shapes in vibrant hues. The bowls are a remembrance of Rwanda's recent history and an optimistic artifact of the present. It has been an honor to work with such talented artisans and a company so fiercely committed to ethics and aesthetics.”

Below are some hand-picked-by-Aelfie images of the inspiration behind our collaboration & the pieces that came out of it! We hope you enjoy them & get inspired too. 

To shop our Indego Africa x Aelfie baskets, click here

#artisans, #education, #impact

Investing In Education With Same Sky!

At Indego Africa, we believe deeply in the power of education to transform lives. That’s why we are so proud {& excited!} to partner with Same Sky to provide their artisans with entrepreneurial education through our business training program!

Same Sky is a trade-not-aid jewelry company that works to create employment opportunities for women in Rwanda {and the USA} who are struggling to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Their vision is to give a second chance to all women living under the same sky {hence, the catchy name} and now they want to take their vision even further by providing their artisans with education. We couldn’t be more on board!

The inaugural semester of our Indego Africa x Same Sky business training program began on June 5th with 16 of Same Sky’s artisans in the class, all of whom are also members of Avega Agahoza (Association of Widows of the Genocide). Having faced profound hardships in their lives, these women are eager to further their business education, take their entrepreneurial skills to the next level, and create better opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities. 

Through our business training program – taught by our very own Education Associate, Modeste Ngabonziza – these 16 students will learn lessons in: cooperative management, growing and expanding a business, budgeting, strategic planning, and leadership skills {the same business curriculum taught at our partner co-ops}. With this valuable knowledge, women will be able to become confident empowered businesswomen and lift themselves & their families out of poverty.

We are thrilled to partner with a company like Same Sky whose mission so much aligns with our own. Here’s to education & empowerment for all women in Rwanda & under the same sky! 

Learn more about Same Sky >

#impact, #inspiration, #artisans

How You Can Change the World by Shopping!

While many of us wish to make a positive difference in the world, it can be hard to figure out how to do it. As individuals, how can we drive change in our communities and around the globe? Where is a good place to start? One answer – which may surprise you – is…shopping.

Originally posted on one.org

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Yes, that’s right – from the groceries we eat to the clothes we put on our backs, the decisions we make everyday about what and what not to buy can profoundly impact the world in which we live. This line of thinking – often called “conscious consumerism” – is on the rise as buyers are becoming increasingly invested in the way that products are made and the effects they have on people and the environment.

At Indego Africa, we believe deeply in the power of ethically made products that empower the people who create them. That’s why we partner with more than 800 female artisans across Rwanda, providing them with opportunities to earn fair-trade, sustainable income for their beautifully handcrafted products. We sell these pieces around the world, and pool 100% of the proceeds from sales, along with grants and donations, to fund education programs for the very same women.

While we are just one of a growing number of socially responsible brands, we want to share with you why we love what we do and hopefully inspire you to jump on the shopping-for-a-cause train too!

  1. Each product provides a woman with a real, living wage. We believe in paying our artisan partners fairly, honoring the incredible skill, patience, and creativity that goes into their work (some products, like our colorful plateau baskets, each take 2-3 days to make!)
  2. With increased income, women are able to care for themselves and their families. Most of our artisan partners are mothers, and like all moms they want nothing more than to create beautiful lives for their children. We are deeply inspired by their determination and proud to see them earn enough not only to provide for their families’ basic needs – like food and housing – but also to invest in their children’s futures by sending them to school.
  3. All proceeds go towards education. We believe that education is the key to empowerment. That’s why we provide our partners with a range of educational opportunities – both at our Leadership Academy and onsite at their workplaces – to help them develop the life-long knowledge and skills they need to thrive as confident businesswomen, creative entrepreneurs and powerful community leaders
  4. There is something distinctly special about a product that is handmade. We love to shop products made with love and care – to feel the soul and craftsmanship in every stitch. It is a way of connecting with artisans around the world – of sharing in their culture and traditions and celebrating their remarkable crafts.

As you can see, empowering women through artistry and education is a cause we are deeply passionate about. But now we want to turn it over to you: what causes are most important to you? What companies are out there fighting for them too?

As Olivia Wilde, actress and co-founder of Conscious Commerce, likes to say: “your dollar is your vote.” By choosing to direct the money we already spend towards products and companies we believe in, we can not only make a difference in the world but also send a powerful message to corporations that we will not support products that are harmful to humanity.

It may sound simple, but as consumers we have more power than we think. By introducing a little bit of passion and purpose into our purchases, we can make a whole lot of difference.

To see more of our products, made with love by women in Rwanda, please click here.