Each us of us can make a difference. Whether it is purchasing from ethical brands or starting to compost, we can all positively impact our planet through small changes in our daily lives. It is important that we preserve our beautiful earth for our children, and our children’s children.
Today we talk to the founders of Love Mae, Olli Ella, Adrinkra Designs and Banabae about their philosophy, ethical production processes and family life. .
We hope these stories and words of wisdom inspire you to adopt more sustainable practices in your day-to-day life.
How was Adinkra Designs born?
In 2016, we were lucky enough to embark on a family adventure to Ghana in West Africa. We all absolutely loved it, it was a great opportunity for our children to meet distant relatives and explore their heritage. Ghana is such a beautiful, peaceful nation, rich in culture. We didn’t want to leave! We really wanted to take a part of Ghana home with us and inspire others to explore this wonderful part of the world and so the idea for Adinkra Designs was born.
Where did the name of your brand come from?
“Adinkra” are a set of symbols used in Ghanaian culture to embody traditional wisdoms and are an important part of Ghanaian heritage. We chose the “Sankofa” symbol in particular to represent our logo for it’s wisdom “we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward”. We thought it was an ideal fit for our business as it reflects our reason for establishing Adinkra Designs in the first place, to support artisans in continuing the traditional skill of weaving and to provide opportunities out of poverty for the artisan and their family, opportunity to move forward.
Who is behind Adinkra Designs?
My husband and I are the Australian side of the business, running the sales and marketing, designing product, managing the warehouse, packing orders and we have family based in Ghana that work alongside our team of basket weavers and make the intrinsic logistics arrangements for us. It’s well and truly a global family effort!
What is your philosophy?
We believe in a combined philosophy of trade and aid. We work direct with artisans to ensure fair trade practices are followed and we also feel strongly that children are our future and should also be our focus, so for this reason we contribute part of our profits towards education and resources for children in great need and developed The Adinkra Project, our foundation focused on establishing Youth Centres and education initiatives for children in Ghana.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Adinkra project?
Education plays a vital role in empowering children to know their value and to gain income-generating skills. Sadly, so many children are unable to attend school, as their family simply can’t afford it or they are required to leave school and start work at a young age to help support their family. The Adinkra Project, in partnership with AYI (Africa Youth Initiative) are growing a network of Youth Centres that focus on giving children a recreational space where they receive tutoring, access to computers, library and sports equipment. The Youth Centres provide a supportive environment for local children to gather, learn and play. A key part of the program is to support the children through individual casework, mentoring and counselling. The Youth Centres function to provide a consistent and stable program to supplement their schooling that aims to build their life skills and confidence to break the cycle of poverty.
How can we get involved?
There is an old African proverb – if you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never spent the night with a mosquito! And we definitely believe this – all help is greatly appreciated, no contribution is too small. And there are lots of ways to help, whether it be a monetary donation or contributing educational resources such as books, pencils, sports equipment, games, lego – anything that kids love, it all goes direct to the youth centre. Make sure to follow along on instagram to see how much the children are enjoying their time in the youth centres. Please get in touch with Adinkra Designs if you can help.
How was Love Mae born?
Love Mae was born while I was pregnant with my second child. Back when I had a bit of time to relax and dream big. To be honest I love the dreaming and planning stage of anything, when you feel you have no limitations or restrictions and the creative juices start flowing. The whole process of creating gets me energetic and I map everything out with such excitement. Executing is always another intense layer of the journey and I feel that without help it can get tiresome… lucky for me I had people helping out and bringing LoveMae to life. I had a chat with some friends recently who are pregnant and we’ve now got a theory that some mothers nest and others get creative and brain storm big ideas… I was the latter. While my house went into disrepair I worked on the makings of Love Mae and loved every minute of it.
What was your first product?
Love Mae’s first product was wall decals, this was in 2010. They were really building in popularity at the time and we were lucky enough to find a brand new product that was reusable, fabric (so no glossy look) and wouldn’t harm your walls. It was a revolution and we burst into the market with gusto. People had been having terrible experiences with the vinyl counterparts and we really enjoyed being a solution to both good design and function. I look back at it now and recognise how lucky we were… but at the same time I don’t ever denounce the hard work that went into it. Most people have sleepless nights with a new baby… but my sleepless nights weren’t from my new born daughter, they were from the workload that came with the success of this other baby we had birthed… Love Mae. I wasn’t willing to let it slip through my hands and so I took it on with gusto and relished every email and sale that hit the inbox.
Tell us a bit about your production process.
At the moment we have 4 major categories of products and another 3 in the pipe line. Each product category has a very different production method. They all have different sampling times, production times and ways of matching colour…. which can make things quite complicated when trying to match a season across all products. We try to take a lot of time and patience but somehow it always ends up quite rushed towards the end.
Our bamboo has an interesting production process and I’m very much proud of how sustainable and low impact it is. There are a few stages before it reaches our factory as we buy the waste products from the fabric industry. It’s a lovely thing to know that we are using what is essentially waste and making it a whole new product that is loved by its owners. These wasted fibres are ground up it into a pulp and then it becomes the basis of our dinnerware. The next steps are not unlike porcelain. A liquid is added to form a more malleable substance and it is poured into a mould, it is then baked once before applying a decal and then baked again.
Each season we take into account all our products time frames of designing, sampling and production and try to choreograph it all so that each season is launched on time and in its entirety but it is not always so smooth. Hmmmm if we were to discuss my least favourite parts of the business it would be trouble shooting productions time frames! We are always pushing new techniques and products and the production process is always something we are very much invested in. You can never be too careful when it comes to sustainability and work conditions.
I’m not that proud to admit that originally we did our dinnerware in melamine! I remember the sleepless nights after watching a documentary on the plastic soup and how melamine cannot be recycled and so is destined for landfill or the oceans. This is a huge concern and I wonder all the time why it is still being manufactured, especially when there are alternatives like bamboo or plastic which can be recycled. I find it really upsetting! We couldn’t help but fall in love with bamboo in the end because of it’s tactile nature and the vast amount of wastage from the fashion industry that we feel we are helping to reduce… for us it was win win.
What day-to-day sustainable practices do you perform in your home that you would encourage our readers to adopt?
I’m a firm believe of water in a water bottle and being self sufficient always. One day I’ll rally that drink stations be available like public toilets so you should never have to use 'a one time use' bottle for water. I think the more you do, the more you realise you can do… wait does that make sense? ;) I love to shop at bulk food stores and take our jars with us, it so lovely to unpack the groceries and see them all lined up being pretty and colourful. I am also strongly against trips to the shops for one item or something we can do without. It drives my kids insane but in a cheeky way of using cellular memory against them they will also do that to their kids… he he he. We are very lucky to live in the Byron shire where farmers markets, bulk food stores and great small businesses are a given.
How was Banabae born?
After the birth of my son Billy I felt I needed a creative project to keep my mind active whilst I was on Maternity leave. Of course, being a new mum my mind immediately began thinking of all things baby. I remembered at my baby shower receiving loads and loads of muslin swaddles and thought what could I possibly use all these for? Little did I realise I would use them a lot! They become a very versatile and useful piece of fabric in those first few months. Being a textile print designer I thought this was a great starting point for a brand…. and so banabae was born
What is your production process?
Banabae is inspired by a nostalgia for all things 70s. So for my first collection I trawled Pinterest and op shops looking at vintage fabrics and posters for inspiration. I wanted to make the designs unisex so it was important to use a wide range of colours not just the traditional white, pink, blue, and grey.
I also believe in using the best quality textiles. I cannot imagine putting anything but pure softness against a newborns skin. So I knew a blend of bamboo/organic cotton muslin would be the best and most sustainable option to use as a fabric base. We choose to digitally print the swaddles to reduce the environmental waste that occurs in tradtional screen printing. For our intarsia knit ‘blankies’ we use a beautiful cashmere blend yarn. It is sooooo warm and snuggly.
I read that you were inspired by a certain TEDX talk “to give and give effectively”. Can you tell us a bit about this light bulb moment and explain what this philosophy is?
This talk by Peter Singer basically highlights the philosophy of effective altruism- a growing social movement and philosophy that combines both the heart and the head
He talks about the very practical ways in which certain charities around the world are making a big difference on the lives of those in living in poverty. How surprisingly small donations can have a huge impact - you just need a little direction on how to give effectively. The urge to help others in need is intuitive to all of us and it is a feeling we should act on. Giving leads to a much richer life. I knew If I started a business, it should be one not just driven by profit, but also good will. Most businesses these days need purpose outside of profit. Whether that be ethically/sustainably made products, raising awareness for certain issues, or being a charitable enterprise. The new generation of consumers are looking for a more meaningful reason to part with their money.
5% of each sale to Effective Altruism Australia. Can you tell us a bit about what this organisation does?
Effective altruism Australia is an organization that enable Australian donors to make a bigger difference. They research and evaluate charities from around the world advising where your donation will make the most impact. Surprisingly there are not that many… Some of the world’s most effective charities include organizations providing Mosquito nets, Deworming tablets, and cash donations directly to the poor. Mosquito nets and deworming tablets may seem trivial but they save so many lives and cost so little to distribute. Each month when we donate through Effective Altruism Australia they decide which of the charities they support can best use the funds.
What are some of the day-to-day practices that you do to help the environment that you would encourage our readers to adopt?
Along with our environmentally sustainable manufacturing methods, I package our products in recycled cardboard packaging. I also love selling at Markets like Finders Keepers where many of the shoppers bring their own bags and love that they are supporting small local businesses. Even the stallholders love to purchase each other’s products. It is a much more sustainable option to shop from small business with quality product that don’t comply to the low cost/high volume throw away consumer trends of the big chains.
How was Olli Ella born?
Olli Ella was born in 2010 In London, England. My sister Olivia and I set out to create a collection wares that were playful, iconic, and above all, fairtrade and beautifully made.
Who is behind Olli Ella?
Behind Olli Ella is my sister Olivia and me, as well as a team of bright stars who are on this journey with us.
What is your philosophy?
Embrace a bit of chaos, have fun, live well.
Your products are Fair Trade. Can you please tell us a bit about the craftsmanship?
Absolutely! We make most of our products in craft villages in Vietnam, mostly consisting of women makers, that work on their own schedules t support themselves and their families.
You also use sustainable, high quality materials. What are these and why do you think it is important to use sustainable materials?
By using natural materials it’s so important to make sure that harvesting and processing these materials do not endanger forests and wildlife, and create opportunities for rural people to generate income.
Are there any sustainable practices you do day-to-day that you would encourage our readers to adopt?
Yes! We use rainwater tanks at home, and have started composting. With manufacturing we only use sustainably sourced materials, recycled materials and exclusively with factories and organisations that support their workers, and pay them fair wages.
We hope you enjoyed these interviews. If you are ready to start building your wishlist of products, then be sure and check out our Kids Decor & Furniture product range.
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