Aimee Kay, founder of Bohome + Roam
What is your career background, and how did Bohome + Roam come to be? I have a masters in psychology and for the last decade, I’ve worked in the correctional system, providing therapeutic interventions to prisoners and offenders. Bohome + Roam is a collision of values that are close to my heart. I love travel, and throughout my adventures [my husband and I] have been able to connect with people in developing countries. We’d always see amazing pieces and talk about how cool it would be to bring them back to New Zealand; we were sure there would be a market for pieces that are handcrafted, unique and tell a real story. It started following the birth of our daughter, when I had some time away from my full-time job and realised I could still be doing something with meaning. Bohome + Roam is like the bridge bringing amazing artisan work from those communities back home. Have you visited all of the countries you buy from? Most of them. We wanted to be able to give back to the places and communities we travelled to, and help them benefit from trade if they don’t have the ability to market their products to the Western world. How did you start forming relationships? Researching and emailing, Skyping, and a determination to find things that would fit the look and purpose of Bohome + Roam. That was phase one: making connections with businesses that were either operating under fair trade principles or associated with the Fair Trade Federation. Phase two has been about how we can work more directly with artisans, and start to create our own designs in collaboration with them.
How do the bespoke designs emerge? They are often inspired by art, homewares and accessories the artisans are already making, but we use our creativity to adjust it to fit with the New Zealand market. I do feel like it’s a collaboration. It might be a tweak in a colour palette or using a different design from another piece with another colourway. You recently travelled to India – did you visit some of your artisan producers? We met with a couple of our current suppliers. It’s very inspiring to see fair trade businesses in India being so successful, and continuing to empower people, particularly women, in a sustainable way. We also met with some new suppliers we had been in discussions with, an hour north of Jaipur in a village called Kaladera. We met a woman who, seven years ago through a trade programme, was donated a sewing machine and taken through a course. Now she’s opening her own shop and training apprentices. She’s inspired the whole village to actually rise above poverty. How many suppliers and artisans are you working with at the moment? Currently we have 14 suppliers, from India, Turkey, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Cambodia, and different parts of Africa such as Uganda and Ethiopia. How did the business name evolve? My style, particularly with interiors, has always been quite eclectic and free, and I don’t have a particular desire to follow trends. I guess it’s about products that tell a story, and I think the bohemian vibe has that. My ancestors are from Bohemia too. What do the next 12 months look like? I have a lot of ideas. We’ve come so far already in terms of exposure, and travelling back to India gets me really excited about where it’s going to go. We’re working closer with the artisans now to create a strong brand. We’ve created a sustainable men’s leather range, and as I have a toddler, I’m often thinking about products for kids. Oh, and we’re also working on travel accessories and waste-free products. What are the customer favourites? We just launched our new jewellery range from Cambodia and I’ve already sold out of a few colourways, which is really exciting. The hand towels and napkins have been real hits. We’re getting better at choosing pieces that are targeted for New Zealand but still upholding the craft. What is your approach to conscious living outside of work? Our family has moved towards reducing our waste, particularly in terms of plastic – we use Kai Carriers and lids you can cover your pots and salads with, and napkins as opposed to paper serviettes. We have a worm farm and compost out the back. I’m trying to prepare more foods from home as opposed to buying things in packaging. For the most part, I try to source shoes, clothes, furniture and other things that are secondhand or aligned with our ethos. Are there any brands or people that have inspired your journey? I’m often seeing people who are doing amazing things. The suppliers back in India were really inspiring – doing amazing work in challenging conditions. In New Zealand, I’ve always been a big follower of Eleanor Ozich. I love lots of colour and her palette is more simple, so she fills a part of me that’s not me. I love her simplicity in life and how elegant she is in what she does.
“It’s an opportunity to live by my values every day. That’s humanity, equality, purpose, meaning and travel – I feel as though if I can try and have those things in my life every day, that brings me joy.”
“It’s very inspiring to see fair trade businesses in India being so successful, and continuing to empower people.”