The Heart Behind - Bahati Collection
THE HEART BEHIND is a series of interviews where we get to know the founders and the heart behind what they do.
Bahati Collection aims to empower communities by celebrating local cultures and creating employment opportunities. Working with women cooperatives and self-help organisations in Kenya who are living in economically disadvantaged rural backgrounds, Bahati Collection is determined to share the crafting intricacies of Africa with the world.
Resolving to keep the focus on the women and their craft, the founders decided early on that they will not put themselves in front of the brand, but rather remain anonymous.
What’s the story behind Bahati Collection? What inspired you to start this business?
Bahati Collection was born out of a passion project for ethical fashion and handicrafts. We decided to focus primarily on handmade baskets as they embody a craftsmanship and cultural design that has been passed down through many generations and preserves the rich heritage of these beautiful pieces. We were also looking for a project that would help give back to underprivileged communities. As a social enterprise, our goal is to create a positive social and economic impact on our women artisans, their families and communities. We work closely with smaller artisan women groups, usually from disadvantaged backgrounds in remote areas of Kenya.
Tell us about the women who make your bags. How did you get to know about them?
Having roots in Kenya and spending time there each year has helped us the discover different weaving groups and build strong relationship with the co-operatives we work with. We try to find and partner with women cooperatives that have limited access to markets due to their remote locations, their small-scale production and lack of support. Finding these groups have been challenging especially due to their remote location, but it’s been so rewarding to see them grow not only as a group of strong, empowered women but also as individuals.
You use Sisal to make most of your products. Why Sisal ?
Traditionally in Kenya, women would weave baskets from baobab as marriage presents for their daughters. But these days they use sisal which is grown either on farms belonging to them, or purchased from sisal estates. Sisal is preferred as it is an exceptionally durable and strong material which grows well in Kenyan climates and thus makes it accessible all year round. The sisal fibers are colored by adding them to the desired dye and bringing them up to the boil.
How do you see Bahati Collection playing a part in the environmental and social sustainability?
From an environmental perspective, we have discovered that Sisal is a renewable resource par excellence and can form part of the overall solution to climate change. Measured over its life-cycle, sisal absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces. During processing, it generates mainly organic wastes and leaf residues that can be used to generate bioenergy, produce animal feed, fertilizer and ecological housing material land. At the end of its life cycle, sisal is 100 percent biodegradable.
On a social level we believe and continue to strive to be an ethical, sustainable brand that empowers communities by celebrating local cultures and creating employment opportunities.
What do you hope to see in the fashion industry?
The most important thing is to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry which can be achieved in different ways - Less fast fashion, more sustainable fibers and materials, manufacturing using, directly and indirectly, less fossil fuels… On an economical level, we hope for more direct channels, allowing a higher percentage of the retail price to go back to the producer.
What do you think consumers need to know about sustainability and conscious consumption?
As consumers, we all need to reflect on what we buy and who made these products. Firstly, there is over-consumption. Over-consumption is having a detrimental impact on our environment and on the lives of people from developing countries. Then there is the problem of plastic. There is so much information explaining the affects of plastic, for example, on our oceans and its damaging consequences to marine life. Lastly, there is the issue of working conditions. Workers are faced with horrible working conditions in many clothing factories in China and Bangladesh. As consumers, we have a choice to take responsibility, it’s that simple.
What are your dreams for Bahati Collection?
We wouldn’t be what we are today without the beautiful souls that help us create our beautiful baskets. And our dream is to continue to hopefully expand our products range and help other unprivileged communities showcase their skills and crafts, providing new employment opportunities to assist our artisan community and their families.