Fair trade is nothing new, and honestly the only thing I knew about it was Ten Thousand Villages on Chestnut Street in Philly. GreenJen had a jewelery party for Mikuti, a fair trade business, and the story was worthy of Oprah.
Our wide-eyed, hopeful masters level student, travels to Tanzinia for three months of volunteer work, and discovers the potential to help local village women from the Meru District of Tanzania make money from creating sustainable, unique jewelry. Initially, tortillas from local ingredients was the money maker. It wasn’t till the discussion of how to package the tortillas did our adventurous volunteer tear off bark of a banana tree to demonstrate the concept of presentation to customers did the idea hit her. Already half way through her stay, and eager to explore this new idea, she learns of a woman several miles and half a dozen villages away, who was regularly weaving items from the banana tree bark. Through long hours and days of training and trial and error, she and the village women created bracelets, solely of the banana tree bark that would become the jewelry known as Mikuti…. banana leaf in Swahili.
Mikuti…….a socially active company that seeks to merge the world of jewelry and mindful, economic development. We partner with a local NGO in the Meru District of Tanzania, creating jobs and income that we believe are the most effective tools for sustainable economic success and a pathway out of poverty. Together we are creating a unique brand of jewelry sourced from banana trees. Each piece has its own flair, colored from the natural earth tones and fibers brought together through different weaves, knots, and twists. Our natural material is a distinct and a unique alternative to widely used synthetic material and is unlike anything ever used before in the Fashion and Jewelry World. Our local affiliates share in the profits of the company as partial owners and a portion of Mikuti’s profits from each piece goes back into the community to fund different local issues and on-the-ground business development.
The banana tree, though not specifically local to Africa (they also grow in 107 other countries…including Texas, and yes, I believe it’s a country). It has the ability to easily replenish itself and is a self sustaining resource. After the obligatory prototype bracelet, which was awkwardly large and asymmetrical, a finished product finally came about and was ready to be shipped to the United States. They are now sold in two boutiques in New York with the hopes to expand.
Aside from bracelets, Mikuti is expanding into rings and earrings as well. Prices range from $18-$22 per piece.
As for those (including me) who need inspiration of what and how to wear the jewelry, here are some amazing shots from the Mikuti photo shoot.
You can see more amazing pictures HERE.
Photo Credit: HERE