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International Women's Day 2020: Craft Matters

International Women's Day 2020: Craft Matters

International Women's Day is about challenging gender norms, empowering each other, celebrating diversity, breaking stereotypes, and taking action.

At Indego Africa, every day is International Women's Day.

We help preserve and promote traditional craft by sourcing, creating, and partnering with women for good. Our holistic commitment to women's empowerment means providing artisans with the tools and education they need to become financially independent entrepreneurs.

It’s not just about sustaining the earth, but local communities, heritage crafts, and time-honored traditions.

There are 300 million artisans around the world working in an industry worth nearly $40 billion. If the creative economy were a country, it would be the fourth largest country on the planet.

In short, craft matters.

That’s why we celebrate handmade work by investing in rich cultural traditions, sustainable materials, and women-run businesses that collectively employ 1,200+ artisans across Rwanda and Ghana.

Trade in creative goods and services is a powerful, growing economic force. Its contribution to GDP and share of global trade is on track to increase as it intersects with the digital and sharing economy, e-commerce, and subsequent opportunities emerging in these spaces. Traditional trade in creative goods and services also remains an important part of many local economies in the developing world.

The creative economy has the power to influence and inspire present and future generations; protect our plants, people, cultures, and natural resources; and, therefore, contribute to a more sustainable development path.

Although it is the second largest employer in the developing world, the artisan sector is largely made up of female craft workers who live in rural communities without access to the markets, skills, and tools they need to manage successful enterprises. Indego Africa helps fill these gaps by providing women with vocational and entrepreneurship training, financial education, a local network of experienced artisans, and a truly global supply chain from Rwanda and Ghana to the U.S. and abroad.

By sourcing natural fibers from the communities where we work, we also help preserve traditional craft. Indego uses a range of natural fibers indigenous to Ghana and Rwanda, like sweetgrass, palm leaf, bolga straw, banana leaf, and organic cotton that’s handspun and hand-dyed using local plant, flower, and vegetable material. Local is durable. That’s we strive to be ethically and environmentally responsible in the local production of all of our products.

As our brand grows, we continue to make intentional design choices that reflect our commitment to sustainability. In 2018, we made a conscious decision to use more faux, vegan leather in the production of our handles and straps because we believe a beautiful, well-crafted bag can be made without the use of animal leather.

This choice has ultimately helped lower our carbon footprint. We also reduce waste
in our production process by scheduling large batch cargo shipments from Africa to New York.

We pay our partners fair, consistent wages for their work. On average, our partners earn 40% of the wholesale price of our items, vs. 5-10% in traditional retail.

That’s enduring impact.

Sustainability is more than a buzz word.

Indego is here to stay. As our brand expands, so too does our investment in ethical production and sustainable fashion. Social impact is another facet of the sustainability conversation. It’s not just about sustaining the earth, but local communities, heritage crafts, and time-honored traditions.

According to a 2015 study by the American Marketing Association, consumers are willing to pay 17% more for handmade goods. Nearly nine out of 10 consumers are willing to “take action” to reward a brand for its authenticity. 52% of these consumers would recommend the brand to others and 49% would pledge loyalty to the brand.

In defining authenticity, consumers prioritize “high quality, delivering on promises, social responsibility, and environmental responsibility.”

A study from YouGov and the Global Poverty Project revealed that 74% of consumers surveyed would pay an extra 5% for their clothes if there was a guarantee workers were being paid fairly and working in safe conditions. This move towards conscious consumption is helping drive the fashion industry in new, sustainable ways.

For Indego, our commitment to slow fashion is deeply ingrained in our mission to empower artisan women in Africa. We collaborate with our artisan partners to create products that support their incredible talent, showcase the storied history and beautiful craftsmanship of traditional African artistry, and celebrate Indego’s dedication to high-quality, modern design. Small batch production means no two Indego pieces are exactly the same.

Our artisan partners take pride in the creation of our handcrafted products, and their skill ensures the reliable quality of our brand.

In 2008, Rwanda instituted a national ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags. Since the ban, the country has seen a reduction in animal deaths, soil erosion, flooding, and malaria.

But Rwanda isn’t just stopping at plastic bags. Earlier this year, the country drafted a law seeking to prohibit the manufacture, use, and sale of single-use plastics like plastic water bottles and disposables straws. Rwanda plans to fully transform into a sustainable nation by 2020, hinting at becoming the world’s first plastic-free nation.

In 2017, we followed our partner country’s lead and made the decision to go plastic free. Today we ship all of our products using 100% recyclable boxes and tissue.

Our commitment to sustainability follows the lifecycle of our products — from harvesting local, natural materials, to hand-dyeing and manufacturing, all the way to packing, shipping, and product care.

We recognize that social and environmental responsibility is a process, and requires collaboration with our artisan partners and other stakeholders. That’s why we’re always looking for ways to improve. In 2020, we plan to better trace the specific materials used in our natural dyes by sourcing from a company compliant with eco-friendly dye manufacturing practices and retailer-restricted substance list requirements.

Fashion is the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry. According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of global wastewater production — more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.5 The majority of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of materials like synthetics or cotton. Combine this with the overexploitation of the earth’s natural resources and these numbers are set to grow.

By 2050, the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.

Unsustainable production and consumption patterns pose a risk to all of humanity, but it’s the world’s poorest and those in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls, who bear the brunt of environmental, economic, and social shocks. Improving the ways in which we produce clothes and accessories, and how we consume them could have a huge impact on net greenhouse gas emissions and the lives of women across the globe.

Natural fibers accounted for roughly 96% of raw materials used in Indego Africa’s product line in 2018.

From raffia and bolga straw to organic cotton and sweetgrass, our assortment spans nearly 12 years of artisan skill, traditional craft, and modern design. Indego’s heirloom quality bags and baskets are timeless, treasured favorites. They are designed to be worn and loved season after season as both a celebration of traditional artisan techniques using locally-sourced, natural materials, and a direct collaboration with the women who make them.

As our company grows and our assortment expands, we remain dedicated to empowering women through craft and education.

It is Indego’s longstanding goal to create products that minimize impact on the environment and maximize benefits to the artisans who make them.