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#UNCRATEAFRICA

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!

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