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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #collaboration

Indego Africa for Target

#collaboration, #artisans, #forthebabes

When it comes to collaborations, Target is the OG: Isaac Mizrahi, Rodarte, Alexander McQueen, Jason Wu, and the list goes on (and on). Lately they’ve nailed it with Who What Wear and Marimekko, and we can hardly wait for Sugar Paper’s line of office essentials (complete with a high gloss desk!) launching in early July.

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​originally posted on Cricket Circle.

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To tide us over, Indego Africa’s line of print-happy pieces for babies and kids launched today. The nonprofit design company partners with a group of Rwandan women who hand-sews the easy-breezy summer pieces, and all profits go to educating those women, who are moms themselves. Check out the cheerful collection below and shop it at target.com.

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Mama Moments: A Chat with Ariane Goldman of HATCH!

#mothersmonth, #mamamoment, #collaboration

To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we teamed up with one of our favorite maternity brands—HATCH—to create a collection of sleek & comfortable tee shirts (and a onesie!) that are hand-embroidered by the lovely artisans of the IBABA cooperative in Rwanda.

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We sat down with superstar mom, entrepreneur, designer & founder of the HATCH collection, Ariane Goldman, to chat about the collaboration and hear her thoughts on motherhood, starting a business & more. Read on for her insights & inspiration!

 

As a company that celebrates motherhood around the world (and that has some mamas on our team!) we love, love, love the chic and timeless maternity clothes that are staples of the HATCH collection. We know you started this brand while you yourself were  pregnant (the ultimate inspiration!)—can you tell us a little bit more about  that process? 

A: As you said, I came up with the idea for HATCH while I was pregnant with my older daughter, Charlie, and was completely underwhelmed by what was out in the market for pregnancy. I just ended up buying bigger sizes of brands I wore, but the clothes didn’t really fit the right way and of course I never wore them again. So many women make the choice to have kids – and it doesn’t mean we stop caring about how we look or how we want to feel. HATCH was born from the instinct to be yourself, style-wise. In other words, to wear clothing that you would wear not pregnant too—clothing that looks and feels good whether you’re pregnant or not.

We are so excited to collaborate with HATCH on a collection of cute & comfortable tees made for moms, by moms in Rwanda. Why were you excited to work with Indego Africa and what do you think makes our collection special?

A: I’ve always tried to support initiatives that help mothers succeed and thrive, and of course even more so since HATCH was founded. Indego Africa is such an extraordinary organization because it empowers women to work on something they love and to hone beautiful artisanal skills. I jumped at the chance to work with such strong artists and their advocates. 

This May, we’re holding our very first Mother’s Month, which is a celebration of motherhood & the incredible mamas we work with in Rwanda. You have two (adorable!) little girls, can you tell us some of your favorite things about being a mom?

A: I don’t even know where to start. They inspire me to be better and smarter. To work faster and harder. And they’re sweet and funny. I love it all.

As a superstar entrepreneur and a mom of two, we imagine your life is pretty busy. What thoughts or insights would you give to our partners in Rwanda who are also starting their own businesses & managing families? 

A: Believe in your vision and other people will too. Don’t get deterred…there are hard days, but you’re building something that’s your own, which is invaluable.

If you were to buy a gift for a new mom (or yourself!) from Indego Africa, what would you get and why? 

A: I try to make the spaces I spend time in feel unique and light and full of little surprises, so the home objects are calling me…those woven banana leaf baskets. I’m obsessed with them. But for a new mom, I might opt for a gift that’s softer and sweeter – one of those gorgeous throws to cuddle up with the new babe. Honestly, everything you make is so beautiful and special. You can’t go wrong.

To shop the Indego Africa x HATCH collection, click here

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Celebrating Motherhood – HATCH x Indego Africa

#collaboration, #mama

As an organization that celebrates motherhood around the world, we are so excited to announce our partnership with HATCH! One of our favorite mama brands, HATCH is known for its chic and timeless maternity clothes that are perfect for before, during, and after pregnancy.

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To celebrate Mother’s Day, we teamed up with HATCH to create a capsule collection of hand-embroidered t-shirts for mamas (and onesies for the babes!) that celebrates comfort, creativity, and the joy of motherhood. The collection features 100% linen (and oh-so-comfy) HATCH t-shirts and classic cotton onesies, with cute phrases and icons that are hand-embroidered by the talented artisans of the IBABA cooperative in Rwanda.

 

We are so excited about this collection, made for moms, by moms, in Rwanda. Scroll down to see images of our HATCH x Indego Africa products, as well as behind-the-scenes looks at the handmade process behind the collection’s hand-embroidery. PLUS, keep your eyes peeled for more exciting features to come in the month of May, including inspiring quotes and stories from the mama-makers of IBABA and an exclusive interview with one of our favorite superstar moms, HATCH-founder, Ariane Goldman. Shop the collection here!

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The F-Word is Out at Story!

#community, #collaboration

We are so excited to be part of STORY’s newest installation, the F-Word! Launching on March 7th, just in time for International Women’s Day, the F-word is about celebrating Feminism and the amazing stories of women around the world (involving many other F-Words like Future, Fun, Fierce, and Family, to name only a few).

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Our favorite F-word? Femininity! To us, celebrating femininity is about celebrating the (many!) wonderful qualities of women around the world—especially the women we partner with in Rwanda & Ghana. We are thrilled to be able to showcase some of our partners’ products and stories at the F-Word, and we hope you’ll stop by to check them out!

 

Here are all the deets: STORY is a unique retail concept store that reinvents itself every four to eight weeks. The F-Word will run from March 7th – March 27th at 144 10th Ave. at 19th St. For more information about STORY and the F-Word, click here

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Fun and Friendship Bracelets with Frieda & Nellie!

#indegodiaries, #funwithfriends, #collaboration

We love, love, love the bright and bejeweled friendship bracelets of NYC-based jewelry company, Frieda & Nellie. Co-founded by real-life best friends, Stacy Herzog and Sarah Berk, Frieda & Nellie combines intricately patterned knotted bracelets (a throwback to the founders’ summer camp days) with rare vintage jewels from the 1920s-70s to create fun yet sophisticated collections of jewelry in which each piece tells a story.

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We teamed up with Frieda & Nellie to create a custom collection of friendship bracelets, which celebrates our shared love of vibrant colors, eclectic combinations, and, of course, the beauty of friendship! Our limited edition Frieda & Nellie for Indego Africa bracelets (handcrafted with heart in Rwanda) feature neon-bright patterned friendship bracelets, which are accented with cowhorn buttons for a unique, eye-catching look. We sat down with Sarah and Stacy to chat about our collaboration and hear what they had to say on inspiration, design process, entrepreneurship, and more. Read on to get the inside scoop!

So, let's start at the beginning. How did you two meet and what inspired you to create your ultra-colorful (and coveted!) jewelry line, Frieda & Nellie?

Stacy: We met during the summer of 2006. I was a wide-eyed college sophomore interning in New York City at Natori lingerie for the summer. Sarah worked there. We hit it off and ended up spending lots of time vintaging, painting and making things together. Frieda and Nellie came to be after a trip I took to Ecuador in 2009. I came back with lots of amazing, vibrant friendship bracelets and was so inspired that Sarah and I started making new bracelets like the ones we’d learned to make at summer camp when we were tweens. We started mixing the patterns we created with embroidery thread, rhinestone and metal vintage pieces we picked up at flea markets and vintage stores in NYC on weekends.  

Sarah: We were walking by my apartment in Gramercy Park when an editor from Women's Wear Daily grabbed my wrist and asked who made the bracelets. We said: “we do!” Next thing we know we are featured in a story called "The New Deals" and had huge orders within a few days. 

We love your mantra "Reuse, Repurpose, Reinvent!" What does this phrase mean to you and how does it infuse your jewelry and design process? 

Stacy: The vintage pieces we use to make the core of our jewelry are storytelling pieces. We love that they have had a history before we discovered them—that each piece has already lived a life and meant something to its owner(s) and then, rather then sitting in a jewelry box collecting dust or be thrown away, we are able to give it a new life by making into a new piece and incorporating friendship bracelets somehow. 

At Indego, we are endlessly inspired by the incredible women we work with in Rwanda and Ghana, so naturally we love that Frieda & Nellie was inspired by two awesome women in your lives – your grandmothers! We’d love to hear a little more about them and how they influence you, whether in life, business, or design.

Stacy: Nana Frieda was a very strong New Yorkie woman. She wore the pants in every relationship she had…She continues to inspire me to stick to my guns and stay true to myself. 

Sarah: My Mammaw Benton was so creative and could make and do anything.  She could see a picture of an outfit in Vogue, be inspired to make something beautiful, and then cut it out without a pattern to fit perfectly. She taught me to sew and to embrace my creativity in all sorts of ways. She was such a strong, hard working, creative powerhouse of a woman.

What motivated you to collaborate with Indego Africa?

Stacy: We love what Indego Africa stands for. We strive to empower women and love how proactive Indego Africa is. We are honored to work with such amazing women to create such beautiful and special things!

Many of the amazing women we partner with in Rwanda and Ghana are aspiring entrepreneurs. As two rockstar entrepreneurs yourselves, what advice would you give to them?

Stacy: Try not to be intimidated. If you have an idea, try it out and amazing things may happen. Most importantly: obstacles are going to make you, your ideas and your business stronger, tougher, better and stronger!

Sarah: You can't plan it out too much, sometimes you just need to jump in full force and figure it out along the way.  Also, I truly believe that you have to love what you do to be successful at it.  So embrace it all, and have fun doing it.

To shop our Indego Africa x Frieda & Nellie  collection (for you and a friend – or two!), click here

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland…

#collaboration, #funwithfriends, #forthebabes, #indegokids

There’s something majestic about the winter—its cool, cleansing air, silky white snows and bare-leaved trees that awaken the landscape with their stark geometry. As a child, winter was a time for fun and adventure—a time for wonder, for play, for sledding and for snowmen. We love the way hazel & pine captures that spirit in their most recent photo series featuring our Indego Africa Kids Collection!

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The two cuties photographed below spent a day playing outside Indego-style, wearing some of our pattern-happy textile rompers and shirts, along with hats and vests from our Handspun Hope organic merino wool collection. They even brought along two of their favorite friends – our hand-embroidered sleepy star bunnies! We love how our Indego brights play off the classic winter whites – the perfect way to add a pop of color to any wintry day! Now we want to jump outside in the snow…

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#FunWithFriends : Hazel & Pine

#funwithfriends, #collaboration, #indegodiaries, #forthebabes

As you may already know, we love having fun with friends - like the photography gurus of Hazel & Pine! These talented ladies recently photographed our Indego Africa kids line - a colorful collection of pattern-happy dresses, shirts, rompers & more. We love the way Hazel & Pine captures the magic, joy and playfulness of childhood - which is what our Indego kids line is all about. Don't believe us? Take a peak for your self!

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Chill.

#collaboration, #inspiration, #funwithfriends

West-Africa-born, NYC-based fashion & lifestyle blogger, Fráncia Cooper, radiates global chic. Her blog – frannycoop.com – is a treasure trove of inspiration featuring gorgeous style images, beauty tips, travel diaries & more. We were thrilled to team up with her to photograph our new fall collection of wide-brimmed felt hats, cozy handmade knits, Ghanaian brass jewelry & more. Scroll down to see the shoot images and read what Franny had to say about Indego Africa, global women’s empowerment, and the fashion industry.

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originally posted on frannycoop.com

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“I am beyond excited to share this powerful collaboration that I did with Indego Africa for the launch of their Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. The entire collection is an absolute gem - cozy knits to warm you up, wool hats to complete boring outfits, capes to shield you from winter’s shiver along with the cutest brooches for a more refined look. What’s even more charming about this brand is that all items are handmade in Ghana and Rwanda. 

It was such a pleasure working with the Indego Africa team. Indego Africa is a non-profit social enterprise and lifestyle brand that supports women through economic empowerment and education - confronting poverty by helping female artisans become independent business women. All of the profits from sales are used to fund educational training programs for these women. 

In today’s world, why women should support women in business goes without saying. What’s understated, however, is why women in the fashion industry are lacking in positions related to design. It is a little unnerving to think about how many male designers have positions of power: think Olivier Rousteing, Raf Simons, Marc Jacobs, etc. Of course their talent warrants the merit of their success, however, isn’t it a little counter intuitive how the male gender rampantly controls the design of women clothing? You would think that since our clothes are made for the female form, female desire, and overall female experience they would be designed by us. Patriarchy has its place even in the garment industry and this is something that should not be overlooked. I support brands like Indego Africa because I’d like to see more women empowered in design positions in hopes that the fashion industry can become equal.” 

We love Franny’s passion for women’s empowerment & the way she rocks all things Indego! To check out her blog, click here.

Shop our Fall 2015 collection

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Babies & Bolgas!

#collaboration, #forthebabes, #ghana, #babiesandbolgas

Babies…bolgas…babies & bolgas! We were so excited about our newest kiddie clothes & fresh-from-Ghana basket collections that we decided to put them together in a brand new, oh-so-cute photoshoot!

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The wool vests & hats you see in the images below are made by the artisans of Handspun Hope - a True Vineyard Ministries {link: http://www.truevineyard.org/what-we-do/handspun-hope} empowerment initiative that employs  58 people in Rwanda to handspun & dye 100% organic merino wool {to learn more about our partnership, click here}The bolga baskets, a traditional Ghanaian craft, are handwoven out of locally-grown straw and are the latest addition to our quickly growing Ghana collection.

We hope you love these photos and the handmade-with-heart  products in them! You can shop these collections here PLUS find some new made-with-love-in-Rwanda goodies for you and your little ones. Think wrapped wire flamingos, our best-selling “I Heart Bunny,” and our go-to print rompers and bloomers styled for fall.

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Back-to-School with The Great Lakes Goods

#community, #indegodiaries, #collaboration, #funwithfriends, #leadership academy, #back to school

We are so excited to introduce you to our newest partner, Rose Lazar: the founder, designer, and talented maker behind The Great Lakes Goods. Known for her whimsical handmade prints, magical wall charms, and finely-crafted wooden objects, Rose infuses each item she makes with humor, good vibes, and a love of handmade design that we simply can’t get enough of. That’s why we are so exited to launch our new custom collection of Great Lakes x Indego Africa products featuring hand-drawn notecard sets and moon & star garlands. But wait – there’s more!

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In addition to being our partner-in-design, Rose is also a supporter of our Leadership Academy in Rwanda. Through September 22nd, you can buy any of our Indego Africa x The Great Lakes products and your purchase will go towards our Back-to-School Campaign to support education for women in Rwanda!

Click here to shop these one-of-a-kind handcrafted products and keep reading to find out Rose’s thoughts on the power of education, her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and why she supports Indego Africa.

When we hear the word education we think of opportunity and empowerment. What does education mean to you and how has it helped you become the person you are today? 

To me, education is something that you never outgrow. There's always a chance to learn something new whether it be from a book you read, an experience you have, a conversation between two people or even a negative experience with something. Whatever triggers that thing inside of you that makes you want to learn more is a very powerful thing. Education to me means never losing sight of that feeling. Education has helped me in that no one ever told me there was a limit to what I can learn. To this day when I figure out how to do something it's an incredibly satisfying feeling.  

At our Leadership Academy, students are learning the skills they need to start their own businesses. As the  founder, owner, and designer of The Great Lakes Goods, what advice would you give to these aspiring entrepreneurs? 

The advice I have for aspiring entrepreneurs is: don't be afraid to take a chance. Whatever you want to do might seem crazy to some people but if you 100% believe in it, the passion you have for it will shine through it and convince everyone around you that your crazy idea just might work. Just be prepared to work hard for want you want to do.  

We love the whimsical handmade awesomeness that is The Great Lakes. What inspired you to work with Indego Africa? 

I wanted to work with Indego Africa because I had already been a fan, buying up your products when I would see them in boutiques around NY. When I investigated who and what Indego was, I thought it was fantastic! Taking these super traditional handicrafts and making them contemporary through color and styling. Then on top of it supporting a community of women makers. I was honored to be asked to work with Indego as I think it's a super inspirational community.  

We are honored to work with The Great Lakes and to bring you beautifully handcrafted products that empower women to achieve their dreams. To shop our Great Lakes x Indego Africa collection and support our Back-to-School Campaign for women in Rwanda, click here

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Fun With Friends #4: A Collaboration with Handspun Hope

#inspiring, #collaboration, #funwithfriends

On a farm at the base of Rwanda’s majestic Virunga Mountains roam a flock of sheep. Tended and cared for night and day, this herd is part of the Handspun Hope project – a True Vineyard Ministries initiative dedicated to employing and empowering Rwandan widows.

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Handspun Hope employs 58 people in Rwanda to hand-spin & dye 100% organic merino wool. We are thrilled to now call them an official cooperative partner and to launch our brand new collection of winter-weather must-haves – hand-spun, knitted hats and vests for adults and kiddies alike!

Handspun Hope began in 2007 when Diana Wiley, Executive Director of True Vineyard Ministries, traveled to Rwanda on a trip with an international relief organization. While there, she was deeply moved by the genocide widows she met and struck by the stark conditions of poverty in which they were living. 

On that very same trip, she came across a livestock-sharing project at a church in Musanze, Rwanda’s northern province. She observed that while various families in the community were receiving sheep to cultivate, they were mostly using them for sustenance. That’s when it occurred to her: “what about the wool?” From there, Handspun Hope was born.

Handspun Hope seeks to create sustainable employment and income-earning opportunities for women in Rwanda by helping them make high-quality yarn from local sheep’s wool. While wool-spinning was once a common practice in Rwanda, the skill was completely lost after the 1994 genocide. Diana {after teaching herself!} taught a group of women in the community how to spin wool using a drop spindle, eventually upgrading to spinning wheels to increase their productivity, as well as the quality of the yarn.

She and the True Vineyard Ministries team also bought a plot of land in Musanze and began importing sheep from Kenya to populate it. While they began with 25 sheep, they have since grown their flock to 150, and continue to expand it with the goal of creating a sustainable supply of wool in Rwanda and, accordingly, more employment opportunities for local women.

We love Handspun Hope’s mission and philosophy, as well as the incredible handmade process behind their products – one that spans nearly a year to reach its completion. Over the course of eight-month cycles, a shepherd tends to Handspun Hope’s sheep - caring for them day in and day out, keeping them clean, and feeding them with the best possible minerals and nutrients to ensure that they remain as healthy as can be.

When their wool has grown to its optimal length (and the longer the better), the shepherd begins the process of shearing the sheep, shaving off the wool by hand. The artisans then triple wash it clean, picking out any grass or pieces of debris that may remain. They card {i.e. disentangle} the wool, comb out the fibers, and feed it into a spinning wheel, making one ply at a time and feeding it back into the wheel to create whatever thickness they desire.

Once the yarn is ready, the women dye it by hand using local plant and vegetable material – like flowers and onion skins – or 100% organic imported dye. The final result is richly saturated, vibrant, high-quality {and eco-friendly!} yarn that is perfect for making soft and luxurious accessories and apparel items.

While historically Handspun Hope’s artisans have made yarn and sold it to other companies to work with {rather than creating finished products} we are very excited to share that for the first time - for our order - the artisans hand-knit the yarn to create each item themselves {a skill which, we might add, they learned for the first time last year!}

We are thrilled to partner with Handspun Hope and to support an organization that is creating products that are truly 100% Rwandan-made. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this inspiring group & check out our collection here:

*photographs courtesy of abbey henderson
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House Of Tayo: Rwandan Entrepreneurship, Creativity, & Design

#artisans, #collaboration

Entrepreneurship, creativity, awesome design…these are a few of our favorite things and just a few of the reasons why we love House of Tayo! Founded in 2011 by Rwandan entrepreneur Matthew Rugambo, House of Tayo is a locally-made clothing and accessories line with a mission to showcase African sophistication and style. We partnered with them to create a collection of Dutch wax fabric bowties featuring the brand’s iconic bold colors, vibrant patterns, and distinctive Rwandan flair!

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Matthew was inspired to start House of Tayo by his experiences living in the United States as a college student. He wanted to create something that would challenge people’s perceptions of Rwanda and showcase the country as a place of innovation, creativity, and beautiful design. While Matthew did not have a background in fashion, he was inspired by Rwanda’s incredible artisans and tailors whose work, he felt, was greatly under-appreciated and under-utilized. 

Today, Matthew employs entirely local artisans in the production of his clothing and accessories line, including the ladies of our long-time partner co-op, Cocoki! He seeks to create economic opportunities for local makers, while also building and redefining the homegrown Rwandan fashion scene. 

Matthew wants to show people in Rwanda that careers in fashion are possible and that there are many different ways to get involved – from manufacturing to designing to blogging to marketing. He hopes to empower Rwanda’s youth to take risks and start new businesses in the fashion industry that will contribute to the country’s aesthetics, culture, and design identity {which is why he offers internships at House of Tayo throughout the year.}

While producing handmade products in Rwanda can sometimes be a challenge {in terms of access to equipment and materials}, Matthew thinks it makes House of Tayo all the more innovative. For example, he said: “When you don’t have everything at your fingertips, it forces you to be more creative. When I couldn’t find clasps for our bowties, I decided to use cow horn instead – which is now a staple of our line. I would never have come up with that idea if I had had access to everything.” (Ed. note: stay tuned for these bowtie beauties for your guys coming soon!)

Matthew encourages other budding entrepreneurs to also turn would-be negatives into positives – to think on their toes and use what they have around them make their creative vision a reality. And we love that about him.

What’s up next for House of Tayo? Matthew hopes to expand his brand into a full fashion line, selling shirts, jackets, pants, and blazers, which we’re sure will be just as stylishly dapper as everything else he makes. We can’t wait to see what he has in store! 

In the meantime, to shop our custom Indego Africa x House of Tayo collection, click here

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The Hand Embroidered Beauty of IBABA

#makersmonth, #inspiring, #collaboration

We love the beautiful and stunningly life-like embroidery of IBABA – a group of 40 talented women who work in Rutongo, Rwanda. The IBABA cooperative is remarkable not only for the impressive artistry and skill of its artisans but also for the history behind it.

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The women of the Rutongo area first learned the art of embroidery in the 1970s from a group of Belgian nuns that, eager to provide young women with a source of income, established an embroidery training center and workshop for them in their village. For years, the workshop flourished, at one point employing over 300 artisans. However, its success came to an abrupt end in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide ravaged life in the region and forced the cooperative to disband.

In 2011, French sisters Veronique and Pascale Gamard traveled to Rutongo, Rwanda and went on a quest to find the artisans who had worked with the nuns all those years ago. They discovered that some of the former embroiderers were still living in the village, but were struggling to get by without customers to buy their goods or a market for them to engage with. 

Touched by the women’s stories and realizing their immense potential, Veronique and Pascale decided to band together and help the embroiderers realize their dreams: to reopen their embroidery workshop and earn sustainable income through their beautiful craft. 

Today, IBABA employs 40 women, each of whom spend their days creating exquisitely detailed, uncannily lifelike and intricately designed pieces for customers like us, including hand-embroidered baby clothes, whimsical market totes, framed art pieces & more.

We chatted with Veronique, IBABA Co-Founder & Artistic Director {as well as a graphic & interior designer} about her design process, inspiration, and so much more! Keep reading to get the inside scoop on all-things-embroidery.

What embroidery techniques do the IBABA ladies work with & who teaches them new skills?

When I began working with IBABA they mostly did traditional stitches using a wooden hoop, but every time I taught them a new skill – like chain-linking, cross-stitching, or even beading – it turned out they already knew how to do it or could simply look at a picture and figure it out themselves. They really are amazing.

How often do you go to Rwanda? What is your favorite part about your time there? How do you manage the workshop when you are back in Paris? 

I go to Rwanda at least four times a year, for four weeks each time. I live right on the cooperative grounds & work closely with the artisans each day I am there. 

My favorite part is watching the women take designs I have sketched and turn them into beautiful final products. Every time it’s a new experience – each design comes with a new surprise.

When I’m back in Paris, I sketch my designs by hand on pieces of paper, scan them, and send them off to Rwanda with details about the colors, threads, stitches, and fabrics I have in mind. The artisans then review them and then get back to me with any questions or thoughts they have.

What makes IBABA’s work unique? 

In Rwanda, there aren’t many groups that work with embroidery, so there’s that to begin with. But IBABA is unique because of the way we combine the women’s amazing skills with my design aesthetic, which is influenced both my time in Rwanda & in Paris.

What inspires you? 

I love to work with traditional designs and change them up to make them more modern, colorful, and fun. Kids designs are also something I’m especially passionate about – they are so cute and perfect! But all in all I am inspired to see the women working everyday and to know that what we are doing is helping them to live better lives and learn something new everyday. 

We think that’s pretty inspiring – don’t you? To see more of IBABA’s incredible craft & shop their hand-embroidered beauties, click here!

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Fun with Friends #3 Tamar Mogendorff

#makersmonth, #community, #collaboration, #funwithfriends

When we were planning our goings-on-about-town for Makers Month, we knew we had to include a visit to one of our favorite Brooklyn-based makers and beloved partners - designer Tamar Mogendorff! Not only is she a mentor and inspiration to the entire Indego family, but she created some extra special installation pieces (along with the help of the ladies of Ibyishimo cooperative) for our July 22nd pop-up shop.

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She invited us to her studio last week for some coffee, conversation and croissants (oh and a sneak peek of what she has in store for us at next week's pop-up!). Here's what she had to say when we asked her if she'd be up for a trip to Rwanda:
"I love traveling and getting inspired by other cultures—by nature, people, craftsmanship, foods—but at the end of the day, to me the magic happens when I’m in my studio, trying things out and doing this or that to create a product, an actual object. To me, the reason to go to Rwanda would be to work together with the artisans there—both to teach them and learn from them and their techniques, materials, ideas, and aesthetics. It's always difficult to give instruction from afar. You miss the part of the experimenting together, finding new ways to create together, and designing hand in hand. I hope to make it there one day and to explore the possibilities of new creations, more materials, and, of course, to get to know the artisans in person. " 

For more details on our Makers Month & July 22nd pop up shop, click here

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A Look Inside Our (First!) NYC Production Partner – BF+DA!

#collaboration, #makersmonth

At Indego Africa, we love to create unique, timeless pieces designed for you to use and wear in everyday life. So naturally, launching an apparel line with everyday chic & wearable fashion items has always been a dream for us. However, designing, pattern-making, and manufacturing clothing can be a challenge for any organization, especially small design companies working with techniques done primarily by-hand {like us!} That’s where BF+DA comes in.

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BF+DA – the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator – is a hub for ethical fashion that provides designers with the resources they need to go from idea to prototype to production to market.  An initiative of the Pratt Institute, BF+DA helps small and emerging companies transform their ideas into successful businesses and manufacture their products in an ethical and sustainable way. One of the ways in which BF+DA does this is through its Production Lab, which offers 3D printing and laser cutting, a sample development studio, and a small-run apparel manufacturing facility, equipped with the latest technology in garment production {and no minimum unit requirements!}

We partnered with BF+DA to create patterns {a.k.a. garment-making templates} for our limited edition printed textile women’s skirts & men’s shirts {now available for sale here}. The patterns were then sent over to Rwanda where our newest partner cooperative, Kaliza, used them to create the very first items on our new, one-of-a-kind apparel line! We chatted with Tara St. James, BF+DA’s Production Coordinator, about why she wanted to work with Indego Africa. She said she was not only inspired by our mission but also by the handmade artistry of our artisan partners and was excited to take part in the process of cross-border creative collaboration that goes into bringing our collections to life. 

We were equally excited to work with BF+DA and to take part in their platform for ethical fashion. We asked Tara, a sustainable fashion expert (and Founder/Creative Director of ethical womenswear label StudyNY) about her thoughts on the future of the industry. Here’s what she had to say: 

“The next generation of consumers is knowledgeable and demanding a lot from designers, brands and companies. Shoppers are careful with their money and want to spend it on things that resonate with them. That’s why I think artisan-made products will have a very big place in the future. Being able to identify with your clothing and with who made it – the fact that it may be unique or individual – is going to be very important going forward.” 

We are excited to see this future of socially conscious fashion unfold and to partner with organizations like like BF+DA that are helping to make it happen! 

To shop our ethically made, brand new apparel collection, click here and stay tuned for our future collaborations with BF+DA (did someone say SWIM?!)

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Indego Kids with Hazel & Pine

#indegodiaries, #collaboration

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!

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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."

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Fun With Friends # 2 – Fox Fodder Farm

#funwithfriends, #collaboration

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.

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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
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Inspired By Aelfie

#inspiring, #collaboration, #funwithfriends

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.

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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

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Summer Vibes Have Arrived - Prymal x Indego

#collaboration, #summer, #handmade

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.

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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.

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#UNCRATEAFRICA

##uncrateafrica, #collaboration, #indegodiaries

Every year, H Project — Canadian luxury department store Holt Renfrew’s unique, socially responsible in-store shop — curates a special collection of products that showcases a distinct culture and celebrates global artisans. Last fall, Alexandra Weston, Holt Renfrew’s Director of Brand Strategy and the driving force behind H Project, traveled with her team to Africa to source one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces for this year’s boutique, Uncrate Africa!

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To create the collection, Holt Renfrew partnered with a series of renowned designers and brands that work in Africa, including cult-favorite jewelry brand and long-time Indego Africa partner, DANNIJO! Sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder collaborated with us to create a unique product line for Uncrate Africa blending their signature style with the magisterial craft & stunning raw materials of Rwanda. The collection features classic DANNIJO bib necklaces accented with East African cowhorn, colorfully patterned sweetgrass bangles, a unique printed-and-batik apron, a classic Rwandan plateau basket with of-the-moment fringe, & more!

We sat down with Danielle Snyder, Creative Director of DANNIJO, and Alexandra Weston, Holt Renfrew’s Director of Brand Strategy, to get the inside scoop about the Uncrate Africa collection. Read on to get their exclusive take on the travel, inspiration, and creative processes that went into making this collection such a beautiful ode to Africa!

photo courtesy of Holt Renfrew

Danielle Snyder, Creative Director of DANNIJO

What made you want to work with Indego Africa, back in 2012?

Our values are aligned and it was an organic partnership.  DANNIJO is rooted in philanthropic initiatives—I cofounded a non-profit that fundraises for grassroots initiatives in Africa in 2007. We love Indego Africa's approach—empowering the women of Rwanda by providing them with skills and economic opportunity. 

What inspires you about working with artisans in the developing world? 

There is something very powerful about knowing that you're not only creating beauty, but that you're also enriching the lives of women in underdeveloped areas of the world through collaboration.

What do you love about handmade products?

In this day and age so much of commerce feels stale, robotic and manufactured.  Knowing that handmade, artisanal product was made with love and passion—by a human, is a beautiful thing.  

How would you describe the Uncrate Africa collection?

It's very world traveler-chic and speaks to both the Holt Renfew and DANNIJO customer. The lifestyle collection is a curated assortment of bohemian accessories for home and travel.  We took the inspiration behind our iconic bib and created a collection that celebrates its spirit. 

What is your favorite DJ x Indego Africa product in the Uncrate Africa collection? 

The bibs or the tin and horn choker because they're timeless and nothing updates a simple traveler look like a powerful accessory.

photo courtesy of Holt Renfrew

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Alexandra Weston, Director of Brand Strategy at Holt Renfrew

What inspired Holt Renfrew to start the H Project and its "Uncrate" Series?

Holt Renfrew has a unique position as Canada's specialty luxury retailer, fusing luxury, style and culture to continually delight our customers in unexpected ways. In May 2013, we launched H Project Shop – a unique in-store shop of extraordinary products with extraordinary stories.  Each product selected is extraordinary in one of three ways (if not all three!): that the product supports culture, craft and artisans from around the world, that the materials that make the product are responsible in some way (recycled vegan, non-toxic etc.), that the product gives back and supports a meaningful charity. 

Through researching these types of products we started learning the true impact we can have on small communities.  By selling, and therefore supporting, small artisan groups around the world, we were changing lives. The idea of ‘Uncrate a Culture’ was inspired by this and the concept of exploring world regions to source unique products & celebrate the special artisanal stories behind each special piece. 

H Project brings the region to life in-store for our customers to experience; I call it ‘armchair’ travel that you can shop. For H Project, the height of luxury is beautiful, high-quality items that nurture cultures and communities.

You visited Rwanda and spent two action-packed days with our team - what was your experience like meeting the artisans we work with? 

Action-packed says it all! I truly loved every minute I got to spend with Rosine, Grace & Heloise.  The Indego Africa team and the artisans I met were such incredible women.  There was a happy and spirited energy - one of opportunity and growth…but most of all fun!  We sang and danced at almost every stop. The women welcomed us so openly and took the time to show us their craft and tell us their story.

What was your favorite artisan craft to see in action & why?

All the crafts were amazing, but the one that really blew me away was Ibaba, the embroidery co-op.  How the woman recreated images with thread in such detail demonstrated true artistry, dedication and hard work. 

What inspiration did you take away from your trip to Rwanda?

I was inspired by the workmanship and Indego Africa’s commitment to training and teaching, allowing individuals to expand their knowledge and craft further. A connection to the global market can be a hard task ensuring quality, deliverability and the right product – Indego Africa is making it happen and creating a wake of opportunity as they keep moving forward. To be a part of this is inspiring and moving; it embodies the ethos of what Uncrate a Culture is all about. 

How would you describe the Uncrate Africa collection?

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015, Holt Renfrew’s H Project shops transformed into Uncrate Africa boutiques, bringing to life the continent’s cultures, crafts and artisans. Our boutiques will offer a spectacular capsule collection of fashion, accessories, children's apparel, homewares, cosmetics and textiles from over 22 renowned brands, including collections from Dannijo x Indego Africa and also Jill Golden that were produced alongside Indego Africa. Beautiful, handcrafted items like the Dannijo bibs, horn bracelet and choker, beach bags, baskets, coasters, baby bibs, etc. and the Isaro by Jill Golden beaded cuff will be available. Through in-store visuals, window displays and two launch events Holt Renfrew will try to re-create the romance of Africa, while showing off the skilled artisans and their products.

**all photos courtesy of Holt Renfrew

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In Good Company: J.Crew x Indego Africa

#community, #collaboration, #new, #indegodiaries

This spring, J. Crew is bringing a touch of Rwanda to the American home with the launch of the J. Crew x Indego Africa Spring 2015 collaboration! Featuring bright baskets, vibrant coasters, elegant vases, and more, this hand-woven collection is designed to infuse your life and home with beauty, color, and conscience.

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At Indego Africa, all of our products are handcrafted {with love} by female artisans in Rwanda. Our goal is to take traditional Rwandan artistry and craft and make it beautiful and accessible to modern customers – all while providing sustainable income & life-changing education for the women with whom we partner.

We are thrilled that J. Crew – one of our favorite brands and a beacon of American style – has chosen to feature our products and to share their beauty & rich cultural history with their customers.  

We are even more thrilled {and honored!} to have these items included in J. Crew’s In Good Company collection – a curated selection of  “the coolest goods from the brands {they} love – and love to work with.”

We love everything about J. Crew and how they run their business, making chic and stylish products that are accessible and produced in an ethical, socially responsible way. While we may work in different parts of the world, we share a love of simple, timeless design accented with bright, striking pops of color and pattern. It is in this intersection of elegance and fun, of beauty and whimsy, that we often find our inspiration. As J. Crew likes to say: “the magic is in the mix." 

Above all, we find inspiration in the incredible Rwandan women who handcraft our products. The time, precision, and impeccable artistry they put into all they create is nothing short of amazing, and you can feel the love and care in every stitch.

We are so excited that J. Crew has chosen to celebrate their craft along with us through a collection of bold, bright, and beautiful pieces that evoke the joy and spunk of the women who made them. We hope you’ll celebrate too! Shop Indego Africa for J.Crew here

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Crazy for Cowhorn: Indego Africa x Olivia Knox

#artisans, #collaboration, #impact, #handmade, #africa

If you haven’t noticed already: we’re crazy for cowhorn – its versatility, natural variation, and stark, organic beauty. It looks like you love it too because – due to growing demand for our cowhorn products – we recently began partnering with Uganda-based cowhorn supplier, Olivia Knox, to bring you more of this stunning material!

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Olivia Knox, founded by Olivia Byanyima and Shanley Knox, ethically manufactures products made out of Ankole cowhorn with the dual goal of bringing East African craftsmanship to luxury and lifestyle markets and conserving the indigenous Ankole cow, which is at risk of becoming extinct.

Ankole cows are known for their magnificent horns and are central to the rich culture and history of Uganda’s Bahima tribe, to which Olivia belongs. She says: 

“My people came from the horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Egypt, Somalia – nobody really knows. We migrated with our cows, looking for greener pastures. Our whole life revolved around this cow. It’s a distinct breed - with the largest horns of all the bovine species. We revere it. You find it every aspect of our lives. Our song and poetry. Our dance. If a women has beautiful eyes, you tell her her eyes look like those of a newborn cow – innocent and pure.” 

Despite the historically important role of Ankole cows, Ugandan farmers have begun to crossbreed the species with western cows that produce more milk, and thus, are more economically lucrative. These new cows have increasingly smaller, more brittle horns, and as the crossbreeding process continues, may cease to have horns all together.  

Olivia Knox is working to reverse that. By building market demand for Ankole cowhorn, Olivia Knox is seeking to create economic value for the cows and for the farmers who choose to keep their breeds pure. The stakes of this project are high, Olivia says, “If these cows become extinct, my culture will go with them.” 

Olivia, while raised in Kampala, spent much time growing up on her father’s ranch in Western Uganda where he had 1,500 cows – each of which, she says, he knew by name. While the personal and cultural symbolism of Ankole cows is deeply important to her, so also is the material itself. “It has a natural finish,” she says, “and it doesn’t need be glossed. How many other natural materials can you say that about? The color range is unbelievable – from black to ivory – every piece is different. No one else can ever have the same piece you have.”

We too cannot get enough of cowhorn’s unique and stunning color variations. From pieces that evoke deep amber sunsets to dark smoky nights, the range is striking and truly beautiful. Were Ankole cows to die out it would not only be a loss for Uganda, but for the rest of the world, which would no longer be able to experience the lustrous beauty of their horns. 

Olivia Knox is dedicated not only to conserving the Ankole cow species, but also to empowering the communities in which it works. While at the moment Shanley & Olivia partner with a local factory to manufacture their products, they plan to open up a factory of their own in the near future and to hire local Ugandan women to work there. Olivia Knox's commitment to entrepreneurship, empowerment and cultural appreciation fits right in with our mission and we are proud to betheir partner!

Click here to shop our cowhorn collection and here to learn more about Olivia Knox.

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Indego Africa x Eileen Fisher

#artisans, #inspiration, #education, #community, #collaboration, #indegodiaries

We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with Eileen Fisher on a collection of scarves, beautifully hand-knit by the artisans of the Ingenzi Knit Union (IKU)! These one-of-a-kind lightweight pieces are the perfect way to welcome in the early days of spring and can be found at select Eileen Fisher stores across the country.

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Our partnership with Eileen Fisher is part of the brand’s larger (and, may we add, deeply admirable) commitment to sourcing handmade goods and investing in socially responsible and sustainable business practices. Eileen Fisher works with artisans around the world to handcraft one-of-a-kind pieces that help to sustain traditional crafts and cultures. They have worked with artisans in a range of inspiring locales including India, Ethiopia, and, of course, Rwanda, not only creating beautiful products, but also investing in the well-being of the communities in which they work.

In late 2013, an Eileen Fisher team featuring representatives from their creative, human rights, production, and design departments traveled to Rwanda and spent several days with our staff, visited our partner cooperatives, and learned more about our operations and social impact. Feeling inspired, they followed up with a second site visit in 2014 as the knitters worked to fill their first (of hopefully many!) Eileen Fisher order!

At the end of 2014, we were honored to have the opportunity to apply for and receive an Eileen Fisher Human Rights Grant to help our partner cooperative, IKU, build a socially sustainable future. The Eileen Fisher Human Rights Grant Program is dedicated to elevating the livelihood of the people who make Eileen Fisher products and to help them achieve long-term happiness through social and economic empowerment. We are confident that this grant will help IKU to achieve these goals.

IKU’s artisans will use this money, in part, to invest in improved handlooms, which will increase the volume, quality, and diversity of products they produce. Further, they will be able to hire a consultant to help them with quality control, design innovation, and implementing better organizational systems at their cooperatives.

These opportunities will make a world of difference for IKU – a union made up four different cooperatives and over 150 women. Many of IKU’s artisans are HIV+ and most often struggle to provide for their families’ basic needs. With the increased production capacity, product quality, and market opportunities the Eileen Fisher’s Human Rights Grant will help them develop, the artisans of IKU will be able to build brighter futures for themselves and their families as empowered artisans and businesswomen.

We are so grateful to be able to work with brands like Eileen Fisher whose values and beliefs so wonderfully align with our own. Here’s to more partnerships & positive change in the years to come!

You can find out more about Eileen Fisher's great work around the globe here.

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Calling All Lovebirds - An Interview with Tamar Mogendorff

#inspiring, #artisans, #community, #indegodiaries, #collaboration

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our Lovebirds from Africa Collection – a collaboration with Brooklyn-based artist & designer, Tamar Mogendorff! Tamar is known for her one-of-a-kind soft sculptures – beautiful stitch creations which artfully blend fantasy, whimsy, and impeccable design. We partnered with Tamar to bring her incredible craft to Rwanda, where the artisans of Ibyishimo adapted her techniques to create our “Lovebirds” - delicately stitched fabric birds perched on textile-wrapped wooden mobiles. The embodiment of creativity & artistry, Tamar never ceases to inspire us with her handmade process & aesthetic. Our Creative Director, Deirdre King, sat down with her to find out what inspires her and why she chose to partner with Indego Africa. Read on to find out!

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What made you want to work with Indego Africa?

Tamar: I am always excited to collaborate with others. With Indego Africa, I felt there was a great challenge there for me to try and create pieces from the materials, and somehow the culture, in Rwanda. I feel very fortunate to be able to create and make a living from it, and I want to try and help others to do the same.

What inspires you?

Tamar: Everything. It can be random. Materials are a great inspiration. My friends. Conversations. Sometimes I seek inspiration - I go travel or open a book, etc. - but most of the time it’s just random moments. Working in the studio is when real stuff happens though. 

What do you love most about your job/work/career? What is the hardest part?

Tamar: The people I meet through my work - so many amazing creative people, so many who have become close to me. This is the biggest treasure. Besides that, the fact that I can wake up every morning and still play and create my own visions is a gift that I'm grateful for. I love what I do; I'm very passionate about it, and that’s what also makes it hard sometimes…

We want you to come to Africa & meet the awesome ladies we work with! What would be most exciting for you if you went?

Tamar: It would be amazing to meet the awesome ladies! To work with them, learn from them, and maybe teach them something in return…

We are all about empowerment, entrepreneurship & creativity. Why do you think these things are important? 

Tamar: Because they give us freedom, purpose, hope, and real happiness. 

What is your advice for women artisans, designers & entrepreneurs? How can they find their voice in the design world?

Tamar: Love what you do. Be honest to yourself. Work hard. Be generous. Do things step by step. 

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Spoke Woven’s Going Back-To-School

#artisans, #collaboration, #leadership academy, #education

As we prepare to launch our Leadership Academy in Rwanda, we find ourselves drawn again and again to the word “dreams”: our artisan partners’ dreams for their futures and our dreams to help make them a reality. So it was only natural that we sit down with Genga, the designer behind the gorgeous dreamcatchers of Spoke Woven, to talk about the meaning and importance of dreaming and dreaming big.

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As the talented designer behind the iconic oversized dream catchers of Spoke Woven, we of course think of you as the ultimate dreamer yourself. Why are dreams so important to you? 

Being the "ultimate dreamer"!! - such an amazing compliment! I believe dreams make up a large part of our composition, as the individuals we are and grow into over time. It is the driving force that guides us to hope, change, build and realize our destiny. I think dreaming is the best way to love and respect the lives we are given and to flourish! 

Our artisan partners have so many dreams - from sending their kids to school to opening their own businesses. For them, education is an important stepping-stone in making these dreams come true. How has your education helped you achieve your dreams? 

My education has been a HUGE part of my life! I love school! I have a Masters of Fine Arts in Film, from Boston University that I am very proud of. Not only was the education valuable from a skill and knowledge standpoint, but it was the right environment for me to learn about myself and my desires on a very deep, multi-faceted level. So when it came to entering the work world, I felt very confident about not only what I could do, but what I was passionate about doing. That being said, I also believe that education doesn't always come from a school setting. Some people respond to others forms of education like apprenticeship programs or internships or trade schools and they all offer amazing tools to realize your dreams.

From branding to budgets, our artisan partners are excited to learn the ins and outs of all things business. What was your favorite subject to study in school and why?

My favorite subject was literature. I'm a real book worm and, as my life progressed, I became obsessed with film as well. I love stories. The art of writing a story, and the act of living your own story. Being able to read, enjoy, and even sometimes endure the journeys of others, provides so many open doors to understanding truths about yourself. Having the opportunity to have my mind opened through literature of all different cultures and later on through film as well, brought perspectives to my life and opened my eyes in ways I never thought possible.

Help our artisan partners achieve their dreams by donating to support our Leadership Academy!

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P.S - A Conversation with Erica

#inspiring, #inspiration, #psxindegoafrica, #collaboration

On Erica Domesek’s recent trip to Rwanda she visited our partner cooperatives, worked side-by-side with the women artisans, wandered and shopped the vast markets, immersed herself in the rich Rwandan culture, and instantly it was a match made it patch heaven! Inspired by her love of fun colors, quirky objects, and gallant animals—the #PSxIndegoAfrica Patch sets were born. Here is more about what inspires her and how our colorful mission for good began:

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How would you describe your personal style and how does that influence your business?

Colorful. I love mixing funky patterns, colors, and textures to create new styles and fun outfits. Reinventing things in your wardrobe is fun and allows you to be creative. At P.S. – I made this… we call it comfort with a twist—taking things people can identify with and adding a twist to it. It is one part customization and one part personalization. 

Walk us through your creative process for a new DIY project. 

Everything starts with inspiration—traveling, window-shopping, shopping in boutiques, walking down the street, and reading magazines. Finding something that pops out and you can identify with is key. It is the eye-catching moments that help shape the creative process—I see it, I like it, I make it. Craft Math was born through this process. We divide the steps it takes, create an easy formula to design the product and show the simplest way to make it. 

Why does Indego Africa's mission resonate with P.S.- I made this...? 

Indego represents everything I am passionate about—art, education, women, sustaining life, cooperation, and community. The idea that these artisans can create beautiful goods and sell them and sustain a life for their families and communities—at the most basic and pure form—is beautiful. Their workmanship and skill is phenomenal. The sheer detail and time they spend on each stitch, design, and product is remarkable. My passion to help others and spotlight talent is also represented through Indego’s mission. From the onset it was clear we had a shared ethos—creating a dynamic synergy.

photos by Ryan Gall
photos by Ryan Gall

What new projects were inspired by your trip to Rwanda?

So much inspiration! I fell in love with the beautiful vistas, the plants and wildlife, and the rich culture. Our trips to the imaginative and vibrant markets provided for new product inspiration and ideas. I purchased colorful fabrics that I plan to use and incorporate into designs and new products back in New York. 

What is the significance behind the designs of the 

patches

?

I have always had an affinity for topography, wildlife, and rich landscapes. Our trip in Rwanda provided for an opportunity to see the picturesque landscapes, animals, and vibrant countryside. The Crowned Crane is hands down the most gorgeous animal on the planet—and seeing it up close provided for so much inspiration when thinking about designs. The patches are comprised of colorful animals, playful fruits, and vivid objects—encompassing our love for color and the happy moments we experience in life. 

You, like many of our artisan partners, started your own business. What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

You have to LOVE what you do. Show PASSION for what you do, be real about what you create and be TRUE to yourself. If you create a product to sell a product, then that is great, and it works for some; for me, it takes heart and soul to run a company and in that success is created and illustrated. I am my own customer speaking to my own audience. 

photos by Ryan Gall

At Indego Africa, we are all about empowering women. What in your life has empowered you to become the person you are today?

I was always encouraged to follow my interests. I did not think that I would be able to “craft a career” out of P.S. – I made this…, however I always had an extremely supportive network of people who believed in what I did. Having the right people in your life is important and helps shape who you are.

Why do you support Indego Africa? Inquiring minds want to know.

Indego Africa manifests our motto of doing well by doing good. I believe in their mission to empower women through sustainable business. I think we all have a responsibility to give back where and when we can. Some people have the means to give money, where others can only give their time and energy. It is important for us to give wherever and whenever we can. In this and age, everyone is able to find and do something - small, medium or large - to make a difference. We should constantly strive to find other passions outside of our normal confines. Indego Africa exemplifies doing well by doing good and they exhibit this each day from Rwanda all the way to New York City.

Get your #PSxIndegoAfrica patches! >>>

 

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#PSxIndegoAfrica

#artisans, #inspiring, #new, #handmade, #art, #collaboration, #psxindegoafrica, #diy

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our much-anticipated collaboration with P.S.- I made this… - the innovative lifestyle brand founded by Erica Domesek whose mission is to inspire and empower people around the globe to cultivate their inner-creativity and embrace the ever-growing do-it-yourself (DIY) way of life.

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Today the fruits of this crazy-cool & creative partnership can be found for sale on our website: a vibrant, fun, and vividly colored collection of hand-embroidered patches! These iron-on DIY dreams come in sets of two and include inspiration from P.S.- I made this… on how to transform the patches into wearable embellishments on backpacks, sweatshirts, pouches, and more.

The patch collection was inspired by Erica’s passion for vivid color, bold objects and beautiful animals along with our love for Rwanda’s rich culture and landscape. This summer, Erica had the chance to see Rwanda’s rolling green hills, radiant sunsets, and colorful wildlife for herself when she traveled there to meet our local team and visit our partner cooperatives!

Erica, along with Babs Burchfield of Conscious Commerce (the guide to conscious living she co-founded with Olivia Wilde), spent three jam-packed and fun-filled days in Rwanda. Highlights of the trip included ordering custom-made batik jackets at Cocoki, learning how to weave at AJ, and seeing the PSxIndegoAfrica collection come to life in the hands of the talented artisans of IBABA! 

On the last day, Erica taught a class to fourteen of our artisan partners on creativity, branding, and starting your own business. The women were enthralled by P.S.- I made this…’ story and eager to flip through the pages of Erica’s most recent DIY book, P.S.- You’re Invited. There was such spirited dialogue following the class that our Country Director, Rosine, had to cut the conversation short to make sure Erica didn’t miss her flight! Participants left that day feeling inspired by how much they could accomplish with the knowledge, skills, and creativity they already had. 

"Witnessing the process of my illustrations come to life stitch by stitch before my eyes in Rwanda by the women was incredible. The time, heart and soul the IBABA artisans dedicated to each patch was the purest form of craftsmanship.

Indego Africa is doing amazing things where they strive to educate and employ the women of the cooperatives. Never has an organization opened my eyes and put a lens on DIY in such a beautiful and inspiring way. It's an honor to be apart of their organization and spread our colorful mission for good!" – Erica Domesek 

This feeling of self-empowerment is central to the P.S.-I made this… mission and one of the reasons that we love their work as much at we do. At Indego, we are all about empowering women – through economic opportunities, education, and the handmade process itself. We believe that there is something distinctly special and powerful about seeing a product from start to finish - about putting in passion, artistry, creativity, love, and inspiration, and coming away with a unique item that is self-made and totally awesome.

We hope that our patch collection will inspire you to get down and DIY - transforming everyday items into new, bold, and beautiful pieces. We can't wait to see what you come up with! Grab your favorite patch set here!

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