BUYU Bags: Unique, Ethical, Sustainable
We're big believers in the power of enterprise to transform the lives of rural communities in Africa. The amazing brand BUYU is on a mission to do just that. Their unique designer bags and accessories are handwoven by communities in Kenya using a a natural, renewable source that's particularly close to our hearts - the bark of the Baobab tree! BUYU honours the ancient tradition of weaving with baobab fibres, creating reliable income flows for rural communities and promoting environmental sustainability. Help support their mission by funding their Kickstarter campaign.
We caught up with BUYU Co-Founder & Creative Director Jeffrey Kimathi to hear more about the brand and its ambitions.
You have launched a Kickstarter campaign for your brand BUYU. Tell us all about it and how it came to be?
BUYU was born out of a belief that just like life no two human journeys are identical, so why is luggage so generically similar? We wanted to celebrate the unique human story behind every travel adventure. In October 2012 on a trip to visit my family in Kenya, I met a group of artisan weavers in a local market and was exposed to this intricate weaving process using baobab fibres. And with this, BUYU was born.
BUYU Collection is a community made product that we have been making at a small-scale since 2012. The time has now come to scale up the idea, so we are reaching out to the community via crowdfunding to lead us and continue the organic growth we've experienced to date.
How do you see BUYU making a positive impact?
We would love to see BUYU encourage conscious consumerism by creating fair trade jobs, honouring African women artisans and helping to preserve their “BUYU-tiful” craft. BUYU would additionally promote environmental sustainability with its innovative, renewable fabric from the bark of the Baobab tree - a first for the accessories industry. We also want BUYU to challenge the idea of how we view “luxury” today. We see it as an exchange of wealth where it not only enriches the person wearing the product but also the person who creates it.
What will your crowdfunding campaign enable you to do with Buyu? And what’s the long-term vision for the brand?
Crowdfunding gives us a great opportunity to have direct contact with our initial customers and allows us to get valuable feedback on our products. We aim to use the funds we raise to expand production, streamline our logistics and bring to market a high-quality finished product, helping us to safeguard this ancient endangered weaving culture and style by re-purposing it to reach new and broader international markets. We will foster an inclusive supply chain model that will have a long-lasting social impact on the Kamba community. The women artisans we work with will be able to work in their original environment, earn a living and keep their cultural traditions alive whilst benefiting from capacity training to improve their business and financial literacy, that will in turn help them to better manage their own businesses. The skills development and sustainable wages we supply will help the women to support their children and family, stimulating the local economy.
We strongly believe that women hold the potential in further developing the continent and commercialising this traditional technique is a sustainable way to do that. We believe in the potential of Africa because increasing Africa’s share in the world trade by a mere 1% could generate $246 billion - twice what Africa received in aid in 2009.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
BUYU is inspired by the words of Deiter Rams “design should be honest” and the harmony of transitoriness. This simple notion that we all have something unique to offer, something to add to this great pool and resource we call life, is what connects us all. This inspires us to enhance our relationship with nature and showcase this beautiful culture to the world.
(Photos by Emmanuel Jambo and Praise Santos)
Your products are made from the fibre of Baobab trees. What does The Tree of Life mean to you?
The iconic Baobab signifies the holistic & beautiful harmony of the “circle of life”- humans co-existing peacefully with nature. The eco-system the Baobab creates and supports is an impressive spectacle to witness.
We are invested in creating a conservatory with our #adoptatree initiative on our Kickstarter campaign page that will help us in mapping the Baobab tree population in Africa, which will aid in the trees' protection, research and preservation. One of the threats this delicate eco-system currently faces is the elimination of one of the Baobabs biggest pollinators, the African Elephant in the wild.
What do the women you work with in Kenya use the baobab trees and fruits for?
In Kenya, the men nest their honey hives on the branches of the Baobab tree. They also harvest the fruit pods and separate the fruit seeds. The women then infuse food colouring and sugar syrup to create a local favourite “snack” called “Mabuyu” which is sold in the market place.