How can a necklace or bracelet empower two generations of women in Kenya?
You create an initiative for women, by women. Together, ME to WE and women in Kenya are celebrating beautiful handmade jewellery that reflects Kenyan culture—and looks great in your wardrobe. Attached to each piece is an even greater story of transformation. With every purchase of a ME to WE Atelier product at Holt Renfrew’s Uncrate Africa boutiques, a girl in Kenya receives the gift of education, providing her with the tools to create a brighter future. This fosters a unique cycle of change, where women are empowering the new generation.
For us, it began with a group of women from different backgrounds, with a shared goal: to celebrate quality craftsmanship in a way that empowers and sustains their community. Decorated in traditional Maasai clothing with layers upon layers of beaded jewellery in blue, yellow, red and white, Kenyan mamas bring inspiration to the pieces from their own unique style. We were delighted to host Alexandra Weston of Holt Renfrew’s H Project in our Atelier last fall. She was able to meet the mamas to learn about how they bead each piece using skills passed down from generations of mothers and daughters. A mix of English and Swahili was exchanged alongside laughs, hand gestures and song. By working with ME to WE, these women earn a sustainable income for their craft and are able to send their children to school and provide for their families. Equally inspired by one another, the ME to WE Atelier collection for the H Project began to unfold.
At our atelier in Nairobi, our in-house designer Kessa Laxton began pulling rare materials like Ghanaian glass matte beads, ostrich shell beads, kente fabric and indigo mud cloth fabric. Alongside Alexandra and the mamas, they began creating jewellery that fused the traditional beading practices of the Maasai with a fresh, contemporary twist. The result is a line of bespoke pieces with limited-edition, locally-sourced materials.
The woman behind ME to WE Artisans, founder and CEO Roxanne Joyal, has seen this transformation from the beginning and helped the program grow to now include over 1,200 Kenyan women. Many of these women do not have an education and had to rely on their husbands to provide for their families. When she witnessed these talented women selling their beadwork at a loss at oversaturated markets, she knew something had to change. This was talent that could be used to not only earn an income and affect a household, but completely change the role of women in communities. By leveraging their artistic ingenuity, Roxanne says she’s seen that every dollar earned directly impact a woman’s household, children and greater community.
As part of Uncrate Africa, we’re also privileged to deliver our handmade products alongside many great brands who work with artisans worldwide, including MADE, FEED Africa, Indego Africa, LemLem and Dannijo, among others.
Shop ME to WE Atelier now at Uncrate Africa boutiques located in Holt Renfrew stores at Bloor Street, Yorkdale, Calgary and Vancouver. On May 1st, you can find this collection available for purchase at shop.metowe.com.
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