Monday, 6 October 2014

Designer Spotlight - Sidai Designs Jewellery // Handmade By the Maasai in Tanzania

***UPDATE We have currently sold out of pieces from Sidai Designs, but take a look at our current collection from A Peace Treaty, who also create beautiful ethically made designs***

This week's jewellery designer spotlight focuses on the incredible Sidai Designs, who create beautiful and unique jewellery via fashion led designs that are hand-crafted by the Maasai Tribe in Tanzania.  I am honoured to have such a wonderful, ethically minded design team join the Apache Rose family. I caught up with Sidai's very own Rebecca Olivia Moore this week, to find out a little bit more about the vision and philosophy behind the brand.

Where does Sidai Designs draw their inspiration for designs from?
Sidai Designs, which means ‘good or beautiful’ in the Maasai tribal language, Maa, draws its inspiration from the traditional beading techniques and symbolic cultural significance of Maasai jewellery. Beadwork has been an integral part of Maasai culture for centuries and through our products, we endeavour to share the individual stories of this magnificent tribe. The Maasai in Tanzania traditionally use white beads, which differs from the bright and bold beads used by the tribe in Kenya. The colour white represents peace, purity and health and is an aspect of their culture that we wholeheartedly celebrate and embed in our designs.

How important is it to be ethically minded in today's fashion world?
Very! We believe that as an ethical business, we have a duty to lead by example and raise awareness of how ethical production, beautifully designed products and profitability are in no way mutually exclusive. It is all too easy for consumers to look at a finished product and overlook its true meaning and identity. The intricacy and high level of detail that has ensured a quality piece of jewellery tells only half of our story. When buying a Sidai Designs product, it socially and economically empowers the Maasai women and their communities, who receive a fair wage, and preserves the techniques and knowledge of these handmade products which carry a powerful story of tradition and culture; an ideal that we encourage people to treasure.

What's the story behind Sidai Designs, how did it begin?
Eszter Rabin and Emanuel Melubo Laizer, a Maasai warrior from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania, first met in 2009. With a shared passion for supporting underserved communities, they began sharing ideas and visiting Maasai communities to better understand their needs. In 2011, Eszter made the decision to sell her business in San Francisco and pursue her dream of working with artisans. Together with Emanuel, Sidai Designs was born.

Since late 2013, we have been drafting and re-drafting strategies, working tirelessly to set up a workshop and brick and mortar retail store in Arusha, Tanzania, whilst also establishing Sidai Maasai Women's Organisation (SMWO) as a nationally registered NGO.
In 2012, Eszter visited Swaziland where I was working for projects that socially and economically empower women and their communities. Julie Benaim, who was my neighbour at the time and works in community development, joined us for several discussions over cups of tea and coffee. Following hundreds of emails and a trip to Tanzania, we felt that joining forces to combine our expertise in design, business and community development would help to elevate Sidai Designs and increase the impact it has on the women and their communities.  It is hard work to say the least and each day brings a new challenge. However, when you see the impact that the project has on the women and the pleasure that customers get from wearing our products, it definitely makes it all worth it! 

What does the future hold for Sidai Designs?

Plenty and more! To increase the number of Maasai women that we collaborate with to achieve a greater impact on their communities and environment, and in turn, bring an even greater amount of beautifully designed and crafted pieces of jewellery that are available to buy all over the world is definitely high on our list though.


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