Maasai Women Art is an exceptional micro entreprise based in Tanzania. The organisation comprises of local Maasai women who make the most extra-ordinary high-fashion jewellery overseen by the Italian designer and lecturer at Instituto Europa di Design; Francesca Torri Soldini.
How it all Began
In 2006, a providential meeting in a small Kilmanjaro airport in Tanzania by two women - one an enviromentalist and the other a jewellery designer - ignitied the flame that birthed Maasai Women Art. At the time, the primary source of income for Maasai Women was the cutting down of trees in the forest at the foothills of Mount Kilamanjaro to make and sell as charcoal. It was however clear to both women that not only was this source of income unsustainable but it was also causing deforestation in the region and impacting the eco-system.
The women explored how they could combat the inenvitable deforestation and desertification of the area and generate an alternative and sustainable source of income for the women, that would equally address the poverty of the Maasai people in general. The meeting resulted in a dymanic collaboration - marrying enviromentalism and creative design - to birth a mirco entreprise; Maasai Women Art.
Maasai Women Art (MWA) is a remarkable entreprise that not only provides an alternative sustainable source of income for the Maasai Women but protects the enviroment by eliminating the risk of deforestation at the foothills of Mount Kilmanjaro. The organisation has also helped to alleviate the gruelling task of the Maasai women lumbering and cutting wood to sell by providing an alternative, creative and exciting source of income.
How the organsation works
Maasai Women Art comprises 2 groups and co-operatives working with the organisation to create exquisite design-led jewellery, marrying traditional Maasai beading techniques with high fashion. There are 2 main groups currently working with organisation; Nasaruno Cooperative comprising of 120 women and Enaboisho Group with 20 women. Maasai Women Art is overseen by Francesca Torri Soldini, an Italian designer with over 20 years experience and lecturer at the prestigious Instituo Europeo di Design (IED) in Milan, Italy. Francesca is the creative director of Maasai Women Art and volunteers her time every year to teach and train the women.
The Design Process
Every single piece of jewellery is exquistely handmade by the local Maasai women, marrying traditonal Maasai beading techniques with the chicness and flamboyance of high fashion to create stylish, sophisticated statement jewellery.
Every year design lecturer Francesca presents a project to her students in Milan to design the next collection. The concept of the brief is always to retain the traditional Maasai beading techiques but push the boundaries to create innovative, high fashion jewellery with universal appeal and worthy of gracing international fashion publications and stores. The materials used are also an essential part of the design process, as traditional Maasai beading employs local materials particularly small recycled beads.
Upon satisfactory completion of the design brief, the new collection is born! Francesca, then travel to Tanzania to teach and train the women - on a voluntary basis - to craft the new colletion. The collection is then intricately and exquistely handcrafted by women; each piece an artististic expression of the fusions of 2 worlds - the traditionality of Maasai beading and the modernity of Italian high fashion.
Where the Jewellery is sold
Maasai Women's Art Jewellery (MWA) Jewellery is sold through it's own small retail outlet in Tanzania. Over the past 10 years, the jewellery has made its way into global shores and now distributed in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Canada and the USA. In April 2015, MWA was featured at the Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver where sustainability was at the top of the agenda and in January 2016, MWA Jewellery was the jewellery of choice used by renowned Australian designer; Lisa Barron, in her catwalk collection (www.lisabarron.com.au). International sales and distribution has not only helped to maintain sustainability of this ethical organisation but enabled expansion of the groups and as a whole impacting the lives of Maasai women, their children and families.
Models wearing MWA Jewellery at the Lisa Barron Show
The UK Beckons!
MWA Jewellery is making it's way to the UK shores! Another chance meeting with a lady in church, one fine summer evening, when I admired her stunning red flower necklace. The complement bore more than we both anticipated as she took of the necklace to give to me (I very kindly declined:) but led to the introduction of this outstanding organsation.
Our mission is to bring the MWA collection into UK - opening up a new market - and to further generate income for the organisation through the sale of Maasai Women Art jewellery to boutiques, selected retail outlets and department stores. Our vision is to see MWA Jewellery sold in retail outlets in the UK and to aid the growth and development of this wondrous organisation to continue to provide the much needed alternative source of income for the local Maasai women.
We need your help!
We are planning to introduce the brand to the UK by exhibiting at a UK Fashion trade event this summer 2017. The event attracts buyers from retail establishments, both large and small, from all over the UK who attend with the primary purpose of sourcing and stocking products for their stores.
The trade event will provide the necessary platform and visibilty to introduce MWA Jewellery to the UK market. Furthermore, it will enable us to meet and engage with buyers, take orders and present the brand to potential stockists. This is a required first step to engage trade buyers in a concentrated enviroment and provides the perfect platform to build upon. Market testing have already produced favourable, with the jewellery very well-received and liked and so now we are transitioning to the next phase, the trade event.
Exhibiting at the trade event unforetunately comes at a price. We are a new social entreprise passionate about seeing Design, Fashion and Art from Africa from organisations such as Maasai Women's Art access international markets by creating viable commercial oppourtunites for them. To participate in the trade event, we have to raise the required funds to do so and hopefully via your goodwill contributions, we will be able to see this vision come to pass.
Funding and Rewards
We need to raise £8,000 to help with trade show costs which includes rental of shell scheme exhibition space, lighting, design and display units and printing of promotional materials to create accessibility for the brand in the UK and generate the much required revenue for the growth and development of this vibrant and viable organisation. As a thank - you for your generous donations, we will be offering you a reward and the cost of the reward is also included in the total amount we need to raise.
Breakdown of Funds
Part of your donation (50%) will go towards the production cost of your reward and the other half will be deployed to the trade event fund. Donations without rewards will be deployed to the trade event fund.
We are immensely grateful for your support and hope you can join us on this exciting expedition as we journey from Tanzania to the UK!
Donations and Rewards
Pledge £5 - Thank you! We are so thankful for your donation.
PLEDGE £12 - Thank you, you are Fabulous:)! And Receive a Pair of Duara Earrings - a choice of 4 colours for you to choose.
PLEDGE £15- Thank you, you are Awesome:)! And receive a pair of Esiangiki Earrings - a choice of 3 colours.
Pledge £20 - Thank you, you are a Gem:)! And receive the Serengeti Bracelet - a choice of 6 colours.
Pledge £30 - Thank you, you are Wonderful:)! And receive the Daisy Flower Necklace - a choice of 3 colours.
Pledge £35- Thank you, you are Amazing:)! And receive the Jua Kali Necklace - a choice of 4 colours.
Pledge £45 - Thank you, you are a Star:)! And receive the Chanel Maasai Necklace - a choice of 5 colours.
Pledge £55 - Thank you, you are a blessing:)! And receive the Daisy Necklace - choice of 5 colours.