Take an Awesome Trip to Cote d’Ivoire With Harper Poe

You’re gonna go nuts for the textiles she found.

For her most recent cool-as-they-come business trip, Harper Poe, the travel obsessive and designer behind the ethically (and globally!) sourced line Proud Mary, hit up Cote d’Ivoire to attend the country’s first annual craft fair, the government-organized Le Marche Ivoirien de l’Artisanat (MIVA). Artisans from the area and from all over West Africa showed up to exhibit their work to buyers from the U.S. and Europe—pretty sweet, huh? Here’s what Harper fell for, including some pottery and textiles that she’ll be bringing to Proud Mary fans in America oh-so soon. —alisha prakash

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“I fell in love with this town on the coast outside of Abidjan, called Grand Bassam. It was the first French colonial capital of Cote d’Ivoire. All of the buildings are in the colonial style, but since independence in 1960, the buildings have been left to decay. The decrepit buildings surrounded by lush bougainvillea and tall palms felt like dream. It’s very romantic.”

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“I love a good market. Anywhere I go, I have to pay a visit to the local market to get inspired and see what type of products and materials the local artisans are working with. I loved these rattan fixtures in the back of a dingy shop at the Abidjan market.”

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“Here, an artisan’s daughter and I are taking selfies. We visited a group of women who make wooden bowls in a village outside of Abidjan. I was with a few other friends/buyers—I was just along for the ride and played with the little kids while the adults negotiated pricing.”

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“The highway between Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Accra, Ghana, is a very well-maintained paved road. I was a little shocked by the quality of it. It’s lined with artisans and craftspeople selling their goods. I love a good basket, so we had to stop and check out these little guys’ goods. Even the little kids understand the art of the trade—they know how to play the game, and I’d much rather play the game with these two cuties!”

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“I found these ceramics at MIVA—love the simplicity of them and the colors. The designer is a young woman, about 25. She sells her goods in Europe but nowhere in the U.S. yet. I’m hoping to start distributing them for her. On top of the goods that I design, I love helping to sell goods that are already well-designed but have no distribution.”

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“These were my favorite discovery. These little sun hats are made by a wonderful Ivorian woman. Out of all of the artisans that I saw, she has the most fun with fabrics and materials.”

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“These were my favorite textile souvenirs from the craft fair. Kuba cloth, which is from the Congo, and Bogolan, from Mali, are two of my favorite textiles on the planet. I love the mix of strong patterns with neutral color palettes.”

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“One of my favorite artisans from Mali was at the craft fair. She does beautiful crochet and indigo-dyeing. She is a dream to work with and always looks impeccable. She speaks no English, and I basically speak no French—but we have a funny understanding of each other. Her interpretations of my ideas are always perfect.”

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“These are cotton textiles from North of Cote d’Ivoire. I discovered this artisan group in Burkina Faso last year and am excited to bring their goods to the U.S.”

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"I loved these brightly colored, painted wooden sculptures in a craft market in Abidjan. They popped out among all of the neutrals and natural wooden pieces. I can never deny a pop of pink!"

You’ve gotta see the raffia shoes Harper just made us—they’re pretty MAJ.

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The Four Key Kora Materials

Get down with Maxandra Short’s essential components.

For Kora, it’s all about sustainability. Maxandra Short, the talented, continent-hopping designer, and all of the based-in-Africa artisans behind the jewelry line have become pros at making necklaces and cuffs from repurposed goods. From shattered glass to old pans, she gives us a start-to-finish guide to how Kora shape-shifts these once-discarded materials. —carlye wisel

Score the so-amazing horn, brass, and leather bangles Max made for us now!

Horn


"Horn is byproduct of the food industry. Beef is a staple of Kenyan diets, and all the cows have these massive horns. When we started about three years ago, the horns were being burnt, just like trash, but then the butchers realized they could start selling the horns. They’re a real pleasure to work with because there are just these beautiful natural variations."


"The Of a Kind edition is a new version of our Polychrome Ruma Bangles, in which we combine Greek leather and brass wrapping with horn. For this, we wanted colors that felt really fresh—the mint is my favorite thus far."

Brass


"We actually use brass two different ways: We cast in it, out of recycled scrap metal sourced from around Tigoni—a semi-rural area outside of Nairobi. We also use sheet brass that is hammered and texturized to create wide cuffs and, most recently, chain links that are new to our fall 2012 collection."


"Our wide brass cuffs have been a big hit. I designed them to be worn in a pair, one on each wrist, for a Diana Vreeland-meets-Wonder Woman look. What’s great about the hammered brass is that it’s really lightweight, allowing for a lot of flexibility in designing. And this piece, the Chevron Brass Cuff, is one of my favorites."      

Aluminum


"The aluminum is cast by that same workshop in Tigoni, also from recycled scrap metal, often old pots and pans and junked car parts. The advantage of aluminum is that it’s really lightweight, so I can design bigger pieces like cuffs out of it. "


"Our Tri Wrap Aluminum Lily Cuff is a great example of our aluminum use. What I particularly love about this cuff is the contrast between the aluminum and brass. It seemed to be a bit of a taboo, mixing silver and gold, but I decided to chuck that aside because they really are so beautiful together. "

Glass


"The glass is hand-fired—it’s all made from broken, recycled glass shards. The glass is best for smaller shapes, like beads, so we started with amorphous, tear-like shapes and moved into more geometric shapes. One thing we’ve just begun experimenting with is color. I love the light aqua, natural color of glass, but it’s always good to be ever-evolving."


"With the Aztec Tetra Necklace, we were shooting for a high-impact statement necklace, and I love the contrast between the translucence of the glass and the rawness and solidity of the brass."

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How Flutter Does Fair-Trade

What Jill Golden was searching for when she looked to Rwanda.

For Jill Golden, one of the most awesome things about having her own (rockin’) jewelry line Flutter is being a part of a larger network of female-owned businesses. “I really wanted to find a situation where I could help make a difference in other women business-owner’s lives,” she explains. The solution: a partnership with the Rwanda-based non-profit Indego Africa, which helped her create a crazy-colorful collection called Isaro, employing women from the cooperative Ejo Hazaza. Here’s how everyone came together.


“I wasn’t looking to buy crafts that were designed by local artisans—I was looking for an organization that would help me find highly skilled artisans who would craft my designs.  The team at Indego Africa was excited about the designs I’d created and helped me find a group of artisans that were interested in learning a new skill.”  


“I love that Indego Africa’s mission is to give 100% of their proceeds back to the artisans in training, literacy, education, and business skills. The long-term goal is to make these women so self-sufficient that Indego Africa is no longer necessary. Also, on a purely logistical side, they have a wonderful team here and in Rwanda to facilitate the importing of materials and exporting of the woven pieces. The cooperative—which is basically just another word for ‘business’—I’m working with is Ejo Hazaza, which means beads of tomorrow. It’s located outside of Kigali, and it includes 29 women, all of whom come from refugee camps.”


“We taught the women, who are HIV-positive and receive healthcare, a fair wage, and free training through our partnership of Indego Africa, how to weave beads. We sent the looms and spent a lot of time training.  I think just finding a process that works for everyone has been the most challenging, but there is such dedication.”


“This is Epiphanie Murekatete, the president of the cooperative. Their mission is to improve their lives and the lives of their families—and to have fun together and support one another while working. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel to Rwanda yet, but I hope to go there soon and meet them all.”

To see what else Jill is up to, come back tomorrow when we unveil her Of a Kind edition. Get on our email list for first dibs.

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Of a Kind

Four things to know about these Suno sneaks: 1) They’re made in Kenya. 2) They have recycled rubber soles. 3) They come in five of the line’s beyond-rad textiles. 4) They’re the ish. —erica

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Getting Down with Tucker Prints

Starting points for the designs include photos from Africa and thoughts of dessert.


The designer in an awesome sweater jacket from her fall collection.

There is nothing subtle about the prints that Gaby Basora creates for her line, Tucker. But the designer manages to give every pop of color and in-your-face pattern a certain glossy sophistication and a burst of playfulness—a combination that translates to full-blown confidence for anyone who slips into one of her trademark blouses or flowy maxis. Here’s a look at how she does it.


“This print is called Tea Sponge Cake. The fall collection was inspired by Sarah Moon’s photographs—she’s an amazing French photographer. Even though she has these very bright backdrops in many of her photographs, there’s also a somber quietness to her work. Fall is largely inspired by that, but there were also times when it was very frivolous—like when you look at a print and think, ‘That looks like sponge cake.’”


“I walked past a jewelry store in Paris where they had this necklace made of a bunch of shells. I took a picture for my friend who’s a jewelry designer. When I looked at the pictures from that trip, I thought those shells would make a beautiful print. I played around with it on the computer, and the Smiling Fan print is a processed version of that.”


“My sister was living in Kenya for six months, studying and working. She brought me back all these little mementos and pieces of fabric she found. This print was taken from a picture she took of the ground, marks in dirt.”


“We wanted to do polka dots, but there’s something unexpected and whimsical about Tucker—if we’re going to do a polka dot, then we’re doing it slightly differently. We gave it a little bit more flexibility with the shadow element, which adds another color.”

Gaby used a super-cool print to trim the silk tank she made for us—check it out here.

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Of a Kind

Ninety-nine percent sure that I need to replace the neon pink plastic beach bag that I’ve owned since sixth grade. The coral hue that features prominently on these Missibaba ones might just convince me to do so. —jiayi

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Of a Kind

SAWA shoes, a co. that produces kicks made in Africa from all-African materials, launches this month. And the shoes are really good-looking! A run-down of the components: canvas from Cameroon, leather from Nigeria, laces from Tunisia, EVA and rubber from Egypt, and packaging from South Africa. (via Valet)

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