Empowering African Artisans
For the creation of our second product, The Pamoja Tote, we partnered with Afrikstabel to incorporate beautifully handcrafted African textiles and sat down with the founder, Ifebuche, to learn more about her story.
Why did you start your business?
Initially, my drive was to promote improved and revived African textiles. That has not changed, but as I progressed in the business, it evolved to focus on the people who make the textiles. Initially, it was more about the appreciation of the African textiles to make garments, but another thing happened in the process of building the business.
It can’t just be about me bring these textiles to the market, the people, the artisans behind the textiles matter the most. I went into these communities, meeting and getting to the know the artisans behind the craft and noticed their living conditions were inadequate—some could barely feed themselves or their families, take their children to school. With their skilled craftsmanship limited to their local economy, these were low wage paying jobs that put these artisans and their families well below the poverty line. I recognized their craft is valuable but they lack access to bring their textiles to markets beyond their local communities.
As a result, I switched my business model to be about the people who make the textiles to help them live a better life.
How are you supporting the local community through your work?
Many of the artisans lack what it takes to do business. They do not quite understand business 101, and a lot of times they are taken advantage of, because many of them are at a point where they just want to survive and have something to sustain them. Their handcraft artistry takes a long time to create and these artisans exhaust their personal financial resources just to create the fabric. If they do not know how to charge for their work, they are typically taken advantage of. In addition to sourcing fabrics from the artisans, we teach them how to value their product in terms of pricing and billing customers so they can sustainably stay in business, support their families, and grow their local economies.
What is the meaning behind the fabrics that were produced for these totes?
The fabric is called Idire, which is hand dyed in the eastern part of Nigeria. This is a selection of some of my favorite abstract patterns that originated in Africa, primarily used on clothes in the 20th century as a form of identification and association to certain tribes.