RWANDA, GHANA & NEW YORK CITY
A beautiful partnership, designed in New York and handmade in Africa.
DESIGNED IN NEW YORK CITY AND HAND-MADE WITH LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLOBE, THESE ARTISANS OF RWANDA AND GHANA ARE WORKING HAND-IN-HAND WITH THE TEAM AT INDEGO AFRICA TO CREATE A BEAUTIFUL LIFESTYLE RANGE, THAT IN RETURN IS HELPING TO SUSTAIN THEIR FAMILIES, COMMUNITIES AND CULTURAL CRAFTSMANSHIP.
HOW, WHEN AND WHY DID THE INDEGO AFRICA (IA) VISION BEGIN?
Indego Africa was founded in 2007 with a simple idea: empower women artisans in Africa by showcasing their beautiful craft and investing in the power of education.
Since our founding, Indego’s mission has always been to help artisans lift themselves and their families out of poverty and become empowered businesswomen. We team up with groups of women in Rwanda and Ghana to sell products that are designed in New York
City and handmade in Africa – using traditional techniques, local materials, and genuine artisanal skill. All 100% of Indego’s profits, along with donations, are invested into business, entrepreneurship, and technology education programs for the artisans who handcraft our products.
AS THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF IA, IT MUST BE AN ENRICHING EXPERIENCE TO BE COLLABORATING WITH THESE WONDERFUL AFRICAN COMMUNITIES ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS. WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING WITH THESE LOCALS?
I love how collaborative the process is. These groups of artisans look to us for market and business opportunities, and we look to them for production and a chance to show the world their exceptional artistry and craftsmanship. Seeing how much dedication to and passion for craft they have is so inspiring to me. It helps shape the vision of our brand in the best possible way.
I also love how, as partners, we’ve been able to grow together. I started at Indego Africa six years ago, when many of our partners were also just forming their businesses. Looking back, I feel like we were all babies in this journey! We’ve worked through
“INDEGO AFRICA IS A GLOBAL TEAM THAT TRULY PRIDES ITSELF ON MAINTAINING A COLLABORATIVE CULTURE AND A CONNECTED RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ARTISANS WE WORK WITH. OUR ARTISAN PARTNERS SHARE OUR PASSION FOR EDUCATION, ARTISTRY, AND THE FUTURE OF THEIR COUNTRY, AND IT’S A COMMON BOND THAT CONNECTS US AS PARTNERS.” DEIRDRE KING
cultural challenges, business-related bumps in the road, collaborative successes, (epic) failures and, most importantly, we’ve experienced moments of incredible joy, growth, empowerment and pride — all together as partners. I consider the commitment of these women to our shared mission to be the most essential element to the success of our company. I love building this brand together, hand-in-hand with them.
WHERE DOES THE CREATIVE DIRECTION FOR AN IA COLLECTION BEGIN?
The design process looks different for every product but always has the same creative spin behind it. The first thing it always starts with is the artisan element itself. What can our partners make with the skills and materials they have? What will be a good fit for our brand aesthetically and will it showcase their artistry? Whenever I’m seeking—or seeing—inspiration, these are the parameters front and center in my brain. From there, I focus on using colour and pattern to tell a story but also showcasing the power of texture through neutrals.
I want our products to feel happy, well made, and to evoke a casual chic design element. We sell home goods, baby and kids’ décor and apparel, women’s accessories, art and objects, but we always make sure our product line feels cohesive and comprehensive. What are the designs that would be able to tick all these boxes while also following trends in the markets we serve? The design process can feel sort of like a puzzle sometimes, and that’s before we even start sampling!
Once we have an idea that will work, I communicate with our production teams in Rwanda and Ghana, who then sit down and work with the artisans to see if the piece can come to life the way we want through a traditional sampling process. From there, we review, redesign, and resample. Then within a few weeks, months, or seasons, we have a new product. It is my favorite part of the job to be a part of this global design process.
IS THERE AN INSPIRATIONAL MOMENT YOU WISH TO SHARE?
I have had so many favorite moments working with the artisans over the years but one thing that truly stands out for me is seeing their level of dedication and passion for artistry come through in the products we sell. Our artisan partners are incredibly hardworking and talented, and it is inspiring to see the beautiful products that come from their work and commitment. Indego continues to play a transformational role in the lives of so many women and we are lucky to be a part of something so special and unique!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY?
Rwanda will always have a special place in my heart. Not only is the country beautiful, the history rich and thought provoking, the people friendly, kind and lively, but the atmosphere is one of hope and enthusiasm for collaboration, hard work, and innovation. On top of that, there is so much development and newness happening there — each visit is like the first time in the best way. I am so proud to work with and in Rwanda and I think it is truly a beautiful country, on so many levels and in so many ways.
SHIBUI & Co. would like to thank Indego Africa and their artisan partners for sharing their story with us.
Indego’s artisan partners show off their finished products at Imirasire Cooperative in Rwanda.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE Sweetgrass bundles ready to be woven into baskets at Covanya Cooperative in Rwanda; Rwanda -“the land of a thousand hills”; One of Indego’s artisan partners and Vocational Training students weaving a basket at Josepha Cooperative in Rwanda.