These days I have found that I want the things I buy to have real meaning. I want my purchase to not only satisfy me, but also make a difference in someone else’s life. It’s so easy to get stuck shopping at fast-fashion retailers like Zara and H&M because the styles are so current and the clothing is so inexpensive, but I want to add pieces to my wardrobe and home that are more than cheap knockoffs of an original.
I’ve been doing a bit of research into buying from sustainable brands that support local artisans and give back to rural and remote communities, and today I’m sharing some of my faves. What I love most about this list of six brands is that four of them are owned by Black women, and five of them are dedicated to supporting artisan communities in Africa. That’s the kind of impact I want my purchases to have. Keep reading to discover these really cool brands and learn more about how your dollar can support the work of artists and designers in remote and underserved areas.
6 Sustainable Brands that Support
needle + thræd // This new lifestyle decor brand was created by Celia Smith, a fashion editor at ESSENCE.com. needle + thræd partners with the Bebe Ravi women’s cooperative in Nakuru, Kenya. The cooperative employs women who have been widowed or otherwise affected by the AIDS epidemic. The women are paid for their handmade crafts, which include traditional sewing and bead work, and all materials are sourced locally in Africa.
indego africa // This “social enterprise and lifestyle brand” is also a nonprofit organization that supports female artisans in Rwanda. And because indego africa is a nonprofit, 100% of its proceeds go right back to supporting the women in the cooperative; proceeds from sales, as well as donations and grants, fund education programs for the artisans. The site features lots of really cute, handmade designs (the woven baskets are my favorite) and you can even buy from the brand through its partnership with J.Crew.
Brother Vellies // Aurora James is the founder and Creative Director of Brother Vellies, a luxury fashion brand that creates traditional African footwear. The shoes are handmade in South Africa, Kenya and Namibia using natural materials like leather, suede, cork and even Springbok hair. James founded the brand with the goal of introducing the world to her favorite African footwear, and she’s gotten some serious attention in the process: James is a finalist of the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
A A K S // Ever since I discovered A A K S founder Akosua Afriyie-Kumi on Instagram, I’ve been hooked on her gorgeous handbag designs. Using raffia, a natural biodegradable fiber (which she sources locally from family farms in Ghana), Afriyie-Kumi designs beautiful handbags and totes with exquisite detailing, and all the bags are handmade by Ghanaian women who are experts in the art of weaving. And A A K S is quickly expanded: the brand was recently introduced at both Anthropologie and Shop Ethica (which feature lots of other sustainable brands too!) For more about A A K S, you can read my DREAM JOB Interview with Akosua Afriyie-Kumi.
Interwoven // Kera Thompson is the owner and curator of Interwoven, a home decor brand that specializes in sourcing textiles from artisans around the world. She has a real passion for interior design and started blogging way back in 2008 before launching her business in 2013. Thompson curates pieces that are genuinely one-of-a-kind and expertly crafted. And for more about Interwoven, you can read my DREAM JOB Interview with Kera Thompson (it’s the very first one I ever did!)
MATTER // I’ve discovered a lot of my favorite things on Instagram, and MATTER is no exception. This brand has an awesome story, and the clothing they produce and carry at MATTER is also story-driven in addition to being socially-motivated. MATTER is a line of “pants to see the world in,” all made using fabric printed and loomed by artisans in remote areas of India. The pieces feature the traditional art of block printing on cotton and silk, resulting in easy-breezy pants that look as comfortable as they are beautiful.
There’s something so special about supporting art that is created by hand, especially techniques that have been passed down for generations. I respect businesses that practice sustainability and are dedicated to giving artisans a fair wage and creating opportunities for women who have been disenfranchised. Yes, it’s more expensive than popping into H&M or Target, but the impact of that purchase makes the money spent worthwhile if you’re able to afford it.
Do you have any favorite sustainable brands that support traditional artisans? Or know of any that are getting off the ground right now? I have one that I think you should definitely check out when it launches: Nomadic Citizen. It’s launching this winter, and I suspect that founder (and reader of The Feisty House) Kisha is going to be bringing us something very special (so get on that mailing list!) If you have other sustainable brands you can share with me, please do! I’m always looking to support the brands that practice fairness and support the world’s artists and designers.