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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #indegodiaries

#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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Sleepykins // A Collected Space for Iris

#indegodiaries, #forthebabes, #indegokids

A guest post from our Creative Director on Babiekins Magazine

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When I was pregnant with Iris and thinking about decorating a nursery, I wanted to have a room that felt both light and airy but also was filled to the brim with playful, unique and meaningful things. I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl so I figured I could start with all-white-everything and add pops of color once our little lovebug arrived. I loved the idea of my little boy or girl growing up and discovering the pieces in their room and me being able to tell a story about each and every one of them. Once Iris arrived and I knew she’d be a collector like me, I wanted even more for her room to feel like a special treasure trove with well-loved pieces that all could grow with her. Naturally, there are many beautiful baskets and items from indego africa and many precious gifts and keepsakes from family and friends. Even now she loves to say hi and by to all her dolls and toys and we often walk around the room and touch all the special pieces. For me, Iris’s room is definitely the most magical place in our home and I hope that when she is in there she feels all the love and the memories that it holds for her.

Shop the Collection!

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Back-to-School Success Stories

#leadership academy, #indegodiaries, #education

This September, we’ve been taking you behind-the-scenes of the back-to-school, giving you the inside scoop on our Leadership Academy and the incredible successes of our graduates. Today, we have even more amazing stories to share about our students and all they are achieving – read on for more!

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To help our partners achieve their dreams, please donate to our Leadership Academy today

Vestine’s Water Business

During the Leadership Academy’s “Introduction to Finance” lesson, Vestine from Ejo Hazaza cooperative said that while she had always wanted to start her own business, she was too scared to take out a loan. Other students in the class, eager to change her mind, immediately chimed in with personal stories about how loans had positively impacted their lives. 

Rose from the Ingenzi Knit Union talked about how she took out a loan to expand her business, which became so successful she was able to buy her own home (and pay the loan back in full.) Anne Marie from Cocoki cooperative discussed the time that she could not afford to pay her children’s school fees, but took out a loan to make sure they would be able to continue their studies. She is now paying it back in installments with the income she earns at her cooperative. 

Armed with these empowering stories, and the lessons she learned at the Leadership Academy on banking and finance, Vestine has since taken out a loan which she is using to open a water business in her community, where many people do not have access to clean, affordable drinking water. We think this is only the beginning for this inspiring social entrepreneur! 

Mentorship, Networking, & Skill-Sharing 

One of the primary goals of our Leadership Academy is for students to use their knowledge and skills to mentor and uplift others. We are thrilled to report that each and every one of our Academy graduates led mentorship workshops at their cooperatives last semester – creating a ripple effect of empowerment for all of our artisan partners.

Another goal of our Academy is to create networking opportunities for women from different cooperatives in Rwanda to exchange ideas, best practices, and – thanks to our recent grads – artisanal skills! Last semester, students at the Academy arranged to go to one another’s cooperatives and teach their members new artisanal techniques (inspired by Academy lessons on market competition and product innovation!) 

For example, Lucy from Covanya cooperative taught the seamstresses of Ibyshimo how to weave, and Jacqueline from Cocoki taught the weavers of Imirasire how to sew. We can’t wait to see the awesome new products (and market opportunities!) that these skills bring about.

A New Business in Kigali

At the graduation ceremony of our first Leadership Academy class this April, our students made an exciting announcement: they are banding together to open an artisan craft store in Kigali! They came up with the idea after taking an Academy lesson on market and customer analysis, which focused on understanding local customers and preferences. Based on what they learned in class, they realized that there was a market for artisan-made goods in Kigali and that by opening a shop, they could create additional sources of income for their cooperatives.

The students worked together to draft a business plan for the project, which will cost about 5 million Rwandan Francs (close to $7,000 USD) to get off the ground. The students plan to pool these funds from each of their cooperatives and are in the process of identifying an affordable shop space with a good amount of foot-traffic to bring in customers. Look out for them next time you’re in Kigali!

We hope that these stories give you a firsthand sense of our Leadership Academy and the impact it is having on women across Rwanda. As students become empowered as entrepreneurs and leaders they are using their knowledge to uplift others, create employment opportunities, and drive economic growth in their communities. 

In order to sustain this momentum and empower more women through the power of education, please donate to our Leadership Academy today!

To donate to the Leadership Academy through the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund, click here

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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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Back-to-School with Emelienne Nyiramana: The Power of Education

#leadership academy, #education, #indegodiaries

Emelienne Nyiramana is one of Indego Africa’s first artisan partners (yes, from way back in 2007!), the founder of Cocoki Cooperative, and an inspiring testament to the power of education in transforming lives. While only a few years ago Emelienne was struggling to lift herself and her family out of poverty, today - thanks to education and determination - Emelienne is a full-time Indego Africa staff member, a Teaching Associate at our Leadership Academy, and an influential mentor and leader in communities across Rwanda. We sat down with Emelienne to find out what education means to her and why she is passionate about sharing it with others. Read on to find out!

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To help provide more women with the life-changing educational opportunities Emelienne has had, please consider donating to our Leadership Academy today!

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How has education changed your life?

When I began participating in Indego Africa’s trainings, I started to think big and was inspired to continue my education. Since then, I have gained so much and not just financially – I have grown mentally too. Education has enabled me to open my mind and pursue opportunities I had never even dreamed of. 

You have become a mentor to many women in Rwanda,  such as the artisans of Abasangiye & Ejo Hazaza. Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring is very important to me because it gives me a chance to share what I learned through my education and help other women achieve more so that their lives can change just as mine has. It is encouraging and very important to me when other women trust me and appreciate my advice, and it is also humbling at the same time when they say they want to be able to follow in my footsteps. 

Why did you want to become a Teaching Associate at Indego Africa’s Leadership Academy?

I wanted to become a Teaching Associate to share the knowledge I have received from my education with Indego Africa to uplift other women. I believe the Leadership Academy is important for the following reasons:

(1) The lessons are very good and helpful because they combine business knowledge with computer training and English vocabulary, which are useful to cooperatives/ individuals that want to be better entrepreneurs.

(2) Networking during the class allows students from different cooperatives to discuss and share their opinions and ideas with one another, which encourages them to learn from each other. This also helps them to build professional and/or personal relationships with each other.

(3) Students are able to focus and give their utmost attention to the program and enjoy what they are learning without any distractions. Before, when trainings were carried out at the cooperatives, some students would try to listen to the trainers and work at the same time so they could get paid at the end of the day. Therefore they could not be fully committed to learning. At the Leadership Academy they are able to dedicate two days a week to studying and also have enough time to work, which makes a good balance. 

How does the Leadership Academy impact its students?

The Leadership Academy gives  students with the knowledge and skills they need to better manage their businesses. The graduates from the first Academy class have been able to change the way they run their cooperatives. For example, some have gotten bank accounts, which they use to pay members and avoid mismanagement of funds. Others have learned new technical skills from their co-students that they did not know before in the hope of accessing different markets.

What has been your favorite moment at the Leadership Academy so far?

My favorite moment was the day we introduced our students to Chromebooks. They were so excited to work with them that no one wanted to take a break. We practically had to force them to go home at the end of class!

Why did you want to become a full-time Indego Africa staff member? What are your dreams for the future?

I wanted to become an Indego Africa staff member to expand my knowledge about international NGOS and to work closely with Indego’s (more than) 800 artisan partners. My dreams for the future are to complete my studies and continue to mentor other women through business trainings. I hope to empower them to go back-to-school as well! 

Please help Emelienne achieve her dreams and empower more women in Rwanda to go back-to-school by donating to our Leadership Academy today!

To support our Leadership Academy through the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund, click here

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Behind The Scenes Video Note From Our CEO

#indegodiaries, #leadership academy, #education, #behind the scenes

This September, we are going back-to-school! Our Leadership Academy is a six-month advanced business education program that empowers women to become entrepreneurs and agents of change in their communities.

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While most of our artisan partners had their education interrupted by the 1994 genocide {92% never completed secondary school} today they are reaching extraordinary heights – creating a ripple effect of empowerment and opportunity in communities across Rwanda. Press play to find out why our CEO believes in the power of education and why you should too!

 

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NYNOW

#indegodiaries

This year we are at NYnow - be sure to stop by and take a peek!

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Photo Essay: Radiant Women of Rwanda

#artisans, #inspiring, #indegodiaries, #makersmonth

As the old adage goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. And while it might be a cliché, we have to admit that images have a unique power to transport us into other worlds, creating connections between people miles and miles away.

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originally posted on one.org
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That’s why we’re so excited to share a new photo series with you featuring some of the amazing women we work with in Rwanda. This series is part of our brand-new, July-long Makers Month – a campaign celebrating the incredible artistry and skills of the master-makers who handcraft our products.

These stunning portraits, shot by photographer Ashley Turner of hazel & pine, were taken at the Umutima cooperative in Nyamirambo, Kigali, Rwanda—a business of 30 seamstresses who are working together to create brighter futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Umutima, which means “heart” in the language Kinyarwanda, was founded in 2013 to provide vocational training, employment, and steady income to socially vulnerable women in Rwanda.

Since then, these women – most of whom are also mothers – have worked tirelessly to perfect their skills and earn enough income to support their families. Today, you can see the fruits of their hard work in our newly launched nursery and kids collection – a line of pattern-happy baby and children’s clothes that these talented artisans make by hand.

We are endlessly inspired by the women of Umutima – not only by their impeccable artistry, but also by their resilience, determination, and hopes for the future.

We hope that these images – filled with bright colors, radiant laughs, and contagious smiles – help transport you to their world and connect you with these women miles and miles away.

Below, meet Francine, Mayimuna, Consolee, and Houssina, four members of Umutima who shared how joining the cooperative has changed their lives.

“Joining Umutima has changed my life forever. I learn so much and I do it with other women, so I do not feel alone. I can now contribute to the finances of my family and this is a huge step for me.” – Francine
“Joining Umutima has changed my life forever. I learn so much and I do it with other women, so I do not feel alone. I can now contribute to the finances of my family and this is a huge step for me.” – Francine
“I have a job that I like. Working gives me independence and pride.” – Mayimuna
“I have a job that I like. Working gives me independence and pride.” – Mayimuna
“I have found great joy being a member of the Umutima. It is a place where I am happy and have found a social community which gives me great support. I earn an income and find peace in knowing that my children will not go hungry.” – Consolee
“I have found great joy being a member of the Umutima. It is a place where I am happy and have found a social community which gives me great support. I earn an income and find peace in knowing that my children will not go hungry.” – Consolee

“I feel proud being an Umutima member. I used to work part time, but now it is a big difference bringing home my monthly salary. With money gained at Umutima I can do a lot of things. I look after my children, I pay school fees, I can pay for rent. I feel independent and proud contributing without asking for help.” – Houssina
“I feel proud being an Umutima member. I used to work part time, but now it is a big difference bringing home my monthly salary. With money gained at Umutima I can do a lot of things. I look after my children, I pay school fees, I can pay for rent. I feel independent and proud contributing without asking for help.” – Houssina
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#MakersMonth: A Rwanda Travel Diary

#makersmonth, #inspiring, #indegodiaries

This summer, our lovely intern, Ade, traveled to Rwanda on an AllPeopleBeHappy scholarship to work closely with our artisan partners on a range of exciting projects in product development, design innovation, quality control & more {thanks, APBH}! We chatted with her to get an inside glimpse into her time spent there – from her day-to-day activities to her deepest moments of inspiration. Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes look at her trip & the moving stories she’s come home with.

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“Muraho! Greetings from Rwanda! I recently returned from an awe-inspiring six-week trip to the Land of a Thousand Hills. While there, I was able to work alongside the Indego Africa production team with a focus on product development. There were so many highlights of my trip, from taking in the picturesque sites of Rwanda’s countryside to interacting with the many bright-eyed children on the streets. Nevertheless, connecting and working with the amazing female artisans Indego Africa partners with was an experience like no other.

My workdays never looked the same. Some days were dedicated to quality control of products, running the gamut from weaving and dying techniques to shaping and carving cow horn and tin pieces. Other days consisted of placing new product orders and sample orders to various cooperatives. I loved these days. It was crystal clear from my very first visit to the cooperatives that the artisan women truly cherish the partnership they have with Indego Africa. This appreciation was extremely apparent when the women received new product orders from us. They would literally jump for joy. I recall one day while visiting Twiyubake – a banana-leaf-weaving cooperative – that the women were so overjoyed about receiving another order that they jokingly asked us to leave so they could start on their work. At such moments, I gained a better understanding of how great an impact Indego Africa’s work has on the personal and economic empowerment of these female artisans.

This realization came full circle during my last few days in Rwanda. While visiting the home of Rose, an artisan from Ingenzi Knit Union, she invited me go outside and take a look at a cow she had just bought for her family. She was smiling from ear-to-ear once she set her eyes on her new purchase.  Rose went on to tell me that she was able to purchase the cow with the money she earned from working with Indego Africa. She is now able sell the cow’s milk for additional income and provide for her family. Sweet memories like these motivate the work I am able to do with Indego Africa each day. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to experience Rwanda and its people.”

We are so glad that Ade traveled to Rwanda this summer and was able not only to meet our partners in person, but also to make a deep impact in their lives by helping them to learn new skills & perfect old ones! Keep your eyes peeled for more on the exciting projects & new products she worked on this summer - there are lots of great things in store. 

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In Celebration of Makers Everywhere, We’re Off To…

#indegodiaries, #community, #makersmonth

We are off to somewhere new! Read on to find out where!

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Since the beginning of Indego days, it’s been our vision to empower female artisans not only in Rwanda, but across Africa. That’s why we are so excited to start a new chapter of our journey...in Ghana! We can’t wait to share more handmade-with-love products, beautiful images, and inspiring stories with you. Stay tuned for more as we grow our mission for good!
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#MakersMonth: A Creative Love Note

#makersmonth, #indegodiaries, #inspiration

From NYC to Rwanda and back again, our design process is all about global collaboration. We love to create pieces that blend the traditional crafts of Rwanda with modern pops of color, elegant shapes, and innovative designs.

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We went behind-the-scenes with our Creative Director, Deirdre King, to give you an up-close-and-Indego look into her creative process and daily inspiration. Press play!

"I usually describe my design process as a bit like fitting beautifully crafted puzzle pieces together. We have groups of artisans in Rwanda that we work with.. with all different skills, knowledge and expertises. We have materials - locally grown, imported or donated, available on the market in kigali and other parts of africa. Then we have our customers and clients in the US and the aesthetic we've built for our brand: colorful, playful, wellmade and handcrafted, each piece one-of-a-kind with its own story to tell. I always want to tell that story and honor the importance of the artisans' work and really show the care and detail that goes into each of these products. Its a collaborative process of fitting these pieces together to develop beautiful things. My goal is to present a thoughtful selection of products that are made with love and dedication and that people think are really great."

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The Art of Metal Working

#makersmonth, #indegodiaries, #handmade, #artisans

Thinking jewelry? Think tin – the unlikely yet super cool material that makes up many of the pieces on our jewelry line {and some of our home décor items, too!} We love the rustically chic look of this malleable metal, which the talented artisans of L’Etainerie de Huye artfully mold into beautiful and unexpected shapes at their workshop in Butare, Rwanda.

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Nestled amongst green pastures and lush, overhanging trees, L’Etainerie de Huye first opened its doors in 1983 with a group of 50 skilled and industrious metal workers. However, when the 1994 genocide began, the artisans of L’Etainerie were forced to flee and shut their business down. When the violence ended, there were only 10 of them left.

Some years went by and in 2003 the 10 remaining artisans decided to band together to reopen their shop and recruit and train other members of the community. Today, L’Etainerie employs 55 people and continues to spread its remarkable craft through a two-year apprenticeship program, during which time students learn the ins-and-outs of the metal working process – from material sourcing, to melting, shaping, sanding, polishing & more.

While you’ll have to travel to Rwanda to learn the little known secrets of the trade yourself, we’ve got a 101 crash course for you that – at the very least – will let you know what you’re in for. 

  • Step 1: Source the Tin. The artisans of L’Etainerie get their tin from “Phoenix Metal,” a smelter outside Kigali that locally sources all of its raw materials.
  • Step 2: Make a Mold. To create each unique tin product, the artisans place a hand-carved wooden sample (the exact same shape & size of the item!) inside a hollow frame and fill it with dirt. They then flip it over and hammer it until the dirt hardens around the sample, at which point it can be removed – leaving an empty imprint behind.
  • Step 3: Melt the Tin & Pour it Out. They then melt and liquefy the tin in an oven and pour it into the mold.
  • Step 4: Let it Cool. It only takes 1 minute for the tin to harden into its shape!
  • Step 5: Solder It, Sand It, Polish It. Now it’s time to make the tin look great – whether soldering together small pieces of metal, or sanding down and polishing products to perfection, a great deal of artistry and technique goes into making each piece smooth, shiny, and ready for use.
  • Step 7: Add Finishing Touches. When the products are polished and ready-to-go, the artisans add on any last finishing touches - like gluing on cowhorn accents or inlaying woven shapes – before the items are picked up by our production team & transported to our office in Kigali…

And voilà! Cool, unique jewelry and décor pieces that range from bold statement pendants, to elephant keepsake boxes, geometric stacking rings & more. 

In addition to the products that they make for us, L’Etainerie also has over 500 (!) molds that they use to make their own collections, which they sell right from their workshop. Their onsite store is filled to the brim with remarkably life-like and well-crafted animal figurines – from giraffes to snakes to rhinos and giraffes – in addition to a diverse range of other decorative and functional pieces.

L’Etainerie prides itself on its ability to create high-quality, well-designed, and creative products while constantly innovating to keep up with the needs of their market – primarily tourists, diplomats, and select partners {like us!} 

They are the only workshop of their kind in Rwanda – creating artisanal pieces out of pure tin – and we love the opportunity to partner with an organization that values creativity, design, and the art of the handmade just as much as we do!

To check out some of L’Etainerie de Huye’s amazing metal work, click here

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#MakersMonth is Here!

#community, #indegodiaries, #makersmonth, #sneakpeek

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!

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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

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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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Hanging Basket Bouquets: A How-To!

#indegodiaries, #diy

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

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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

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Indego Kids in The House!

#forthebabes, #indegodiaries

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

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

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

What was the best part of today?

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

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Peter: An engineer because I like to build things!

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

What item did you like wearing the best? Why?

Peter: The bow tie because its handsome.

Genevieve: The dress because its beautiful. 

What makes you smile everyday?

(both): Summer, beach & pool!

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Girls Off Fifth

#indegodiaries, #new, #summer, #funwithfriends

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

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Originally posted on Girls Off Fifth

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

Look 1

Indego Africa Oversized Collar Jacket

Elin Kling for Marciano Skirt (similar)

Indego Africa Jewelry

Auxiliary Reese Cross body Bag (on sale now!)

Komono Sunglasses

Vince Camuto Sandals (try these or  these)

Look 2

Indego Africa Oversized Blazer

Zara High Waisted Boyfriend Jeans (similar)

Indego Africa Jewelry

Repetto Booties

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Fun With Friends! A Day With Thread & Silk

#community, #indegodiaries, #summer, #funwithfriends

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Congrats Grads!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to learn more

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Featurekins: Interview with Creative Director, Deirdre King

#forthebabes, #indegodiaries, #artisans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Deirdre:

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

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The Lovely Mama Makers of Umutima Cooperative

#forthebabes, #impact, #artisans, #indegodiaries

The lovely ladies of Umutima {which means “heart” in Kinyarwanda} have played a big role in our brand new collection for little ones by beautifully hand-sewing many of the pattern-happy items on our nursery line – everything from rompers to playmats to turbans & more!

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These talented women – most of whom are also mamas – inspire us everyday with their beautiful artistry, determination, and dreams for the future. We chatted with Umutima’s advisor, Monica Tabet-Gugolz, and a few of the ladies themselves to find out more about this wonderful cooperative and to hear what they had to say about our nursery collection. Read on to find out! 

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Originally from Switzerland, Monica moved to Rwanda in 2013 looking to become involved with a grassroots women’s organization. She began volunteering with the Nyamirambo Women's Center – an institution which helps women continue their education and gain better employment opportunities – but soon realized that the Center was too dependent on outside funding and lacked a means to sustain itself. To address this issue, Monica began teaching some of the women how to apply hand-stitches to African wax print fabric. Slowly but surely this dedicated bunch learned how to sew everything from home décor to children’s clothing, with an emphasis on quality and detail. 

Today there are nearly 30 women involved in the project and they have organized themselves into a well-run cooperative known for its beautiful craftsmanship. Here’s what Monica had to say about working with Umutima on our nursery collection: 

We have loved working with Umutima to create beautiful products for our nursery line - what are your thoughts on the collection? 

The collection is so beautiful and we feel that Indego Africa reflects Umutima's spirit perfectly. To see our products in the nursery collection validates all the hard work we have put into creating Umutima and gives us hope for our future. I still cannot believe this is happening!

As a mother yourself, what product from our nursery collection would you most like to give to your little one(s)? 

For me the baby blanket/playmat is the item I love the most. It is Umutima's very first product and I remember how much effort it took to get the final product right and to teach the women to stitch them. 

What is the process like working with artisans to create a product by hand from start to finish?

At the moment I am in charge of design and new ideas. I then introduce the new idea to the women and we work on making the sample. Sometimes this involves looking for external artisans (for example for basketry) and this can take time. Once we are happy with the sample, the women working with me on it will teach the other ladies. 

It takes a lot of patience and understanding, because the products that we make are "luxury" items in Rwanda. They are not products that are necessary to daily life here, so it is sometimes difficult for the artisans to understand why we cannot accept products that are not finished correctly. I put a lot of time and effort into quality control and making sure the details are finished correctly, but they now know that if our clients come back it is because of our attention to detail and so they accept the fact that I can be demanding. 

There is one story that I will always remember. One of our tailors, Francine, when she started working for us found it really difficult to sew straight. The very first products we gave her were our aprons, which have a pocket in the front. No matter how much she tried, the pockets were never straight and each apron had to be done twice or even thrice. But Francine persevered and when she was finally able to make an apron that was perfect the first time, we both ended up with tears of happiness. Today Francine is one of the tailors that made the baby rompers for Indego Africa!

What inspires you about the women you work with? 

The thing that inspires me the most about the women I work with is the fact that no matter what they have gone through in their lives they still have the strength and the passion to learn new things and work hard to earn a living. I respect the pride they put into their work and the fact that from the start they took ownership over Umutima. 

We also interviewed three of Umutima’s talented mama makers to hear their thoughts on the nursery collection and what it means to be a working mom.

Francine – 8 Children 

Which product from the nursery collection do you like the most? 

My favorite product is Umutima's romper, because when I was asked to be one of the tailors to make the rompers for Indego Africa it meant a lot to me. When I first joined Umutima I struggled a lot with the finishing details of the products I was asked to sew. I always had to redo them because there was always something not straight or uneven. But I really worked hard to improve myself and slowly I saw the improvement. To be making the rompers means that I am now considered one of the top tailors of Umutima and this makes me proud.

What do you enjoy about coming into work everyday? 

Joining Umutima has changed my life forever. I learn so much and I do it with other women, so I do not feel alone. I can now contribute to the finances of my family and this is a huge step for me. 

What are your dreams for your children's futures?

I want my children to be able to have an education and to be able to one day earn a living. 

What does it mean to be a "working mom"?

It is important because I can contribute to my family's needs. I can help pay school fees and medical bills.

Houssina – 3 children

Which product from your nursery collection do you like the most? 

My favorite product is Umutima's romper, because I worked with Monica to develop the first sample for this product and in our catalogue we call it the "Houssina jumpsuit". To see the picture in Indego Africa's catalogue made me happy. 

What do you enjoy about coming into work everyday? 

I am passionate about being a tailor and each day I learn something new with Umutima. I like being part of a team and not working by myself. I know that I can count on my Umutima friends if I need help.

What are your dreams for your children's futures?

I want to be able to provide my children with a good education so that they can have a better future.

What does it mean to be a "working mom"?

I feel proud being an Umutima member. I used to work part time, but now it is a big difference bringing home my monthly salary. With money gained at Umutima I can do a lot of things. I look after my children, I pay school fees, I can pay for rent. I feel independent and proud contributing without asking for help.     

Mayimuna – 7 children

Which product from your nursery collection do you like the most? 

My favorite product is Umutima's playmat/baby blanket. I was one of the first Umutima's ladies and the baby blanket was our very first product. I remember how hard it was to make the stitched straight and regular. I am now considered one of the best hand-stitchers in our group and I can even make bedspreads. I never imagined that something I make with my hands would reach the other side of the world.

What do you enjoy about coming into work everyday? 

I have found great joy being a member of the Umutima. It is a place where I am happy and have found a social community which gives me great support. I earn an income and find peace in knowing that my children will not go hungry.     

What are your dreams for your children's futures?

My children are already grown, but I hope that they can always have enough to live and to always be healthy.

What does it mean to be a "working mom"?

I have a job that I like and I don't have to wait for my husband to do everything for me. Working gives me independence and pride. 

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What an amazing group of ladies! We are proud to be their partners and are thankful to Monica and the rest of the artisans of Umutima for welcoming us into their world! Shop the nursery products – hand-stitched and made with love - by the mama makers of Umutima!

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Introducing Our Newest Collection #ForTheBabes

#indegodiaries, #new, #forthebabes

Once upon a time in the land of Indego, we made a little something #forthebabes...

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We wanted our nursery collection to show a playful side of Indego Africa. We are big fans of the unexpected pop of color and the added touch of whimsy, so nursery decor was a natural fit for our bright baskets, embroidered fantastical art, and lively stuffed animals. Our rompers, sunsuits and bloomers in their statement prints are perfect for pattern-happy folks (like us!) to put on soft baby arms and chubby little leggies. 

We also wanted to highlight the beauty of baby-hood with delicate details - hand-embroidered pillows for sleepy mamas, top-stitched print playmats for days of effortless fun and cuddles, handcrafted dreamcatchers to catch baby's first wishes, and iconic liberty print ragdolls to stay with your little one forever. 

This collection celebrates color, creativity and, of course, the mama makers who put care into every product they make. All of our products are true labors of love for the artisans we work with, and what parent doesn't want a touch of made-with-sweetness for their little one?

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Introducing ISANO - Loomed with Love

#impact, #artisans, #handmade, #indegodiaries

We are so excited about the launch of our spring scarf collection - not only because we love the color & feel of these woven beauties, but also because we are deeply inspired by the story behind them.

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This collection was made by ISANO – a cooperative of 12 talented young people in Rwanda, all of whom are affected in some way by HIV/AIDS. The group was started in 2013 by Rwandan-born teenager, Celine Mudahakana, who was at the time a high school student living in the U.S. In the summer of 2012, Celine returned to Rwanda to volunteer with CHABHA (Children Affected By HIV/AIDS), a nonprofit that partners with community-based organizations in Rwanda and Burundi to support young people affected by AIDS and poverty. Witnessing the difficult circumstances in which teenagers her own age were living, Celine felt compelled to do something more.

The following year, while taking a weaving class at her high school in Vermont, Celine had an idea: if she could teach vulnerable young people in Rwanda how to weave too, she could help them to develop a valuable skill and, in turn, earn an income. From there, ISANO was born.

Over the course of the next few months, Celine worked tirelessly to raise money for her cause, which she did, in part, by weaving her own scarves and selling them to people in her community. Eventually, with the help of friends and family, she raised enough funds to purchase four eight-harness looms for her artisan project and to cover the costs of a trip to Rwanda for herself and her classmates to use their weaving skills to make a difference.

Celine helped to develop a new vocational training program under CHABHA’s Project Independence initiative, from which 12 young people were chosen to participate. All of them were not in school, despite being of school age – most had been forced to drop out after primary school because their parents could not afford to pay the school fees. Without education or income-earning opportunities, these young adults & their families were living a life of abject poverty.

Celine set out on a mission to change that. Over the course of several weeks, she and her classmates taught these students how to weave using foot-looms - a skill which they picked up quickly and with much enthusiasm. Two years later, the artisans of ISANO are masterful weavers, creating beautifully crafted fabrics, scarves, wall hangings & more.

We are so thrilled to be able to partner with a cooperative like this which is not only creating products we love, but is also part of a larger mission to change the future for young people affected by HIV/AIDS. This disease continues to be an epidemic in many parts of Rwanda, and we are honored to work with these brave young people who are showing others that they too can take ownership of their futures.

Celine is thrilled at all the progress that the members of ISANO have made. Over the past two years, she says, they have gone from being shy to exuberantly confident and have developed valuable business and leadership skills along the way. Her goal for them is to: “become economically stable, earn a steady income, and escape from poverty,” she says. “I want them to influence other generations and 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 & are so 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. We hope you’ll show your support too! 

Shop the ISANO scarf collection and Indego spring here

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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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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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How You Can Change The World With Every Dollar You Spend

#inspiration, #impact, #community, #indegodiaries

Our Development & Communications Associate, Hayley Doner, published an article in Elite Daily! Read on for her thoughts on conscious consumerism and how you can change the world with every dollar you spend.

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In the age of corporate bailouts, companies “too big to fail,” global worker exploitation and industry-driven climate change, I admit to at times feeling helpless as an individual seeking to make a meaningful difference in the world. 

How could I drive positive change in the face of systems rigged to favor profits at the expense of human health, well-being and dignity?

How could I, a 5’4″ girl who loves musical theater and little to no resources to speak of, take on the biggest and baddest corporations of the world?

After duly indulging these feelings of hopelessness and despair, I decided it was time to put on my big girl pants and figure out what I could do to make a difference.

While today I am lucky enough to work for a company that has values that align with my own, I realize that not everyone can do the same. What we all can do, though, is think about the decisions we make every day, and how we can make them better.

We all share something in common; we’re consumers.

From the groceries we eat to the clothes we put on our backs, the decisions we make about what and what not to buy impact the world in which we live.

As Olivia Wilde, actress and cofounder of Conscious Commerce, likes to say, “Your dollar is your vote.”

By choosing to spend money on products we believe in, we can not only make a difference in the world, but we can also send a powerful message to corporations that we don’t support.

This line of thinking, popularly referred to as “conscious consumerism,” is on the rise, especially amongst Millennials. We, more than any generation before us, care deeply about where our products come from and the effects they have on our society.

Study after study shows that young people (ages 18-34) are more willing than other generations to spend extra money on products and services that support good causes.

We are also more likely to research a company’s business practices before making a purchase. These trends pressure corporations to adopt socially-beneficial practices and create an environment where socially-responsible companies can thrive.

Even so, maybe this whole conscious consumerism thing is a little bit new to you. Where should you start?

Here’s my easy, three-step guide to becoming a feel-good, socially-conscious consumer:

What are you passionate about? What keeps you up at night? For me, that’s women’s equality and empowerment. I love to support companies that create opportunities for women around the world.

1. Know Your Cause

(Full disclosure: this is what the company I work for, Indego Africa, is all about.)

Once you know what you care about, it’s time to do the research. What companies are out there, supporting causes you are passionate about?

2. Do Your Research

How are they doing it and are they doing enough? (If not, looks like you just got the next big startup idea…) There’s also due diligence to be done on the companies where you already shop.

How are their products made? What (if any) socially-responsible programs do they invest in and how serious is that investment?

You may have to dig deep, but finding out answers to these questions can help guide your purchasing decisions in whatever way makes most sense for you.

Now that you have this knowledge, be a pal and share it with your friends. As the social media generation, we have the unique ability to spread information quickly and to large groups of people — good or bad.

3. Spread It Around

We can use these platforms to amplify our voices when we want to, amassing our collective power to promote companies we love or call out corporations for their sub-par actions.

By 2017, Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation (totaling more than $10 trillion over the course of our lifetimes).

But, with great power comes great responsibility. What issues do you care about? What kind of world do you want to leave to your children?

By simply asking ourselves these questions, we’re already one step closer to making a difference.

Let’s spend that $10 trillion wisely, friends!

This article was originally published in Elite Daily

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