One of the driving forces behind small businesses operating in emerging markets is the opportunity to create change and transform the community in which they establish and build their brands. Not only content with offering luxury products that are made by traditional or artisanal craft, they endeavor to make a positive impact on marginalized communities, local production studios and sustainable practices.
Here on The Folklore Connect, retailers have the ability to browse brands by communities and values, simply by filtering through selections such as Black-Owned, Ethically Sourced, Shop Local and Handmade, to name a few. With the rise of value-based shopping among Gen Z and millennial consumers, it is increasingly prudent for buyers and retailers to source wholesale products from brands that embrace ethical and eco-friendly approaches, in alignment with what their customers want.
From the use of sustainable materials to a transparent supply chain and fair wages for workers, below are five ethically minded homeware brands to stock in your store in 2023 and beyond.
Based in Tunisa, Tuniq is a lifestyle brand that celebrates the art of traditional North African craftsmanship. Employing a regenerative fashion ethos dubbed “sheep to shop”, the brand eschews fast fashion for ethical practices and efficient production, creating its own supply chain to ensure full control of end-to-end production from raw fiber to finished garment. Tuniq creates pieces derived from Islamic culture and aesthetics, offering minimalist home goods made from natural materials such as wool and halfa grass, which is grown in the Tunisian mountains and used to make prayer rugs, quilts and shawls.
Powered by indigenous crafts built on a shared-profits cooperative, the brand seeks to reverse the harms of global capitalism on local workers, shepherds and artisans. Workers can set their schedules, own the means of production and produce as much as they wish. All artisans in the cooperative share in the ownership of the brand, and 50% of the annual profits are distributed among them as a way to combat wealth inequality.
Founded by Samiat Salami and inspired by her childhood in Lagos, Oya Abeó is a lifestyle brand that draws from centuries-old Nigerian textile traditions to create modern, whimsical and artful hand-printed designs that celebrate the textures and landscape of the West African nation.
The brand’s distinct prints are a way to preserve the local vegetation life that have given way to building structures over the years, represented by fruit shapes, leaf patterns and floral motifs. They are created digitally in its Lagos studio before they are hand-drawn and hand-dyed by batik artists to create robes, loungewear and tableware accessories in an array of colors. Silk threads, locally grown cotton and woven fabrics are sourced from all over Nigeria, displaying the work of skilled artisans whose knowledge and craftsmanship have been passed from generation to generation.
Handcrafted interior décor and lifestyle products are the specialty of South African brand Mia Mélange, which offers high-quality woven baskets, bowls and planters made predominantly from cotton rope, a sustainable material that’s local to the brand’s surrounding region. From storage drums to lidded baskets, the multi-purpose pieces are both decorative and functional, available in a range of sizes that are perfect for holding keys, jewelry, fruit and other household items, while adding a touch of nature to living spaces.
Driven by women’s empowerment and the ability to create job opportunities in its community, Mia Mélange employs a team of local artisans to make all its products in its Stellenbosch studio, teaching valuable skills that provide them with the means to earn a decent income. The cotton from which Mia Mélange’s products are made is grown in South Africa by farmers who are members of the Better Cotton program, an initiative that supports the production and marketing of the nation’s cotton industry.
Cape Town-based Alexia Klompje started Klomp Ceramics as a creative outlet following a medical diagnosis, which left the former stylist barely able to move. Working with clay was a healing process that has now become a successful business that displays handmade South African design through ceramic objects and decor inspired by ancient artifacts, the earth and the power of symbols.
From incense bowls to plates and trays, each piece, which Klompje refers to as “sacred objects”, is made organically by hand from recycled stoneware clay and finished with unique shapes and symbols, which means no two pieces are alike. Klompje’s pared-back design aesthetic runs through each ceramic piece, which can be used to hold items in various rooms of the house, from the kitchen to the bedroom and bathroom.
Launched in May 2019 in New York, Tackussanu Senegal specializes in woven baskets handmade in Senegal by female artisans using techniques that display the country’s rich artistry. Using an ancient process known as “coiling”, traditional Senegalese weaving is blended with modern design to shape sweet grass into durable and sustainable products.
Guided by fair trade principles, sustainability and community, Tackussanu Senegal’s vessels are crafted from grass, recycled plastic and clay, and each production contributes to a stable, liveable income for the people who make it. The process allows artisans to extend their market from local to global, giving them the opportunity for independence and empowerment.