These 5 Handmade Makers Turn Burqa, Balls, and Other Materials into Quality Gifts with Incredible Stories

The summer edition of NY NOW could be summed up as “revitalized”. It was so nice to walk the floor and see so many new faces and exhibitors for the first time, and a refreshed exhibitor layout and program that better identified company values, like sustainable, fair trade and handmade. I was so excited to encounter a wide variety of artisan brands, most of which had incredible stories behind the products. Here are five of my favorite craft brand stories I learned while covering NY NOW in August.

1. Craft Links

Artisan Links Burka Pouches and Purses are made by Afghan refugee women from burqa fabric.

The first thing that caught my eye in Artisan links‘ stand was this collection of gorgeous black handbags with embroidery details. But what caught my attention was the story behind them: they are made by Afghan refugees from burka material. The sales rep in the booth affectionately described the handbags as “made from a better use of the burqa.” What a statement!

Apart from being a showpiece in more ways than one, the handbags also feature delicate Kandahari embroidery, which is an intricate technique that originated in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Artisans use a very fine needle to embroider the fabric by hand, and designs usually include geometric shapes that work together to create a different design, such as flowers or other designs. The illustrated collection includes a clutch and coin purses.

The company is a fair trade company and a member of the world fair trade organization, and the products are created by exclusively female Afghan refugee artisans in Pakistan. “We empower women from marginalized communities by helping them gain economic security and encouraging them to harness their artistic expertise,” the company states in its mission statement.
The company was registered as Artisan Links in 2017, but the concept started in 1985 as part of the Danish Committee for Assistance to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), an income-generating embroidery project was launched to help some Afghan refugee women. The company has been exporting to the United States, among other countries, since 2006.

2. Global Moms

Global Mamas-Water Hyacinth Collection

Global Mamas’ water hyacinth collection includes coasters and trivets made from invasive hyacinths harvested in Ghana.

Global Moms is a fair trade company that supports artisan mothers in Ghana and manufactures a wide variety of products, ranging from home textiles, such as aprons and cushions, to fashion accessories, bath and body items. The ‘global mama’ artisan network started with six founding members in 2004 and now comprises around 400 producers in six communities across Ghana. The booth was filled with brightly colored eco-friendly jewelry and handbags, as well as hand-beaded ornaments.

What drew me to a closer look, however, were the coasters and trivets made from invasive water hyacinth. The hyacinth is harvested from the Volta, which in turn helps restore biodiversity and the livelihoods of local fishermen, threatened by the material.

3. Silaiwali

Silaiwali Recycled Decorative Dolls

Silaiwali creates decorative dolls from recycled waste in New Delhi. Image from

Guaranteed Member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Silaiwali turns fast fashion waste into commodities that support sustainable incomes for Afghan refugee women in India. The handmade dolls were a subject of discussion and admiration in the market, as each is created from recycled fabric scraps from scraps of clothing. In fact, fast fashion contributes to a large amount of global pollution, so environmentally conscious consumers are looking for more sustainable fashion. Not only are the dolls absolutely gorgeous and intricately crafted with intricate detail, but they are environmentally friendly, support marginalized artisans, and include a wide variety of looks, which appeal to a more diverse group of consumers.

4. Beautiful Anita

Fair Anita jewelry from bullet casings

Fair Anita is a sustainable, handcrafted brand that makes jewelry, including a collection from recycled bullet casings.

The first thing that drew me in Just Anitaheard of a necklace made from recycled bullet casings, and what got me browsing the booth was the fact that the company creates affordable durable jewelry.

I love the company motto: “You never have to wait for a sale to carry your values.” Retailers know that although handmade and durable products have a wonderful, salable history and are usually marked by high quality production, they often come with a high price tag. While the higher cost of goods shouldn’t deter retailers or customers – especially given the products that provide a fair income for its global artisans – it’s nice to see a company helping to make development sustainable and respectful. of the environment more accessible by making it more affordable.

The brand also creates eco-responsible accessories and ensures a fair income for women artisans, especially those who have been victims of domestic violence. The founder herself was a victim of rape during her senior year in high school, and as part of her recovery journey, she eventually went to Peru, which in 2009 had the highest reported rate of domestic violence in the world. Founder Joy McBrien helped build a shelter for battered women in Chimbote, Peru, where she met the social worker who gave the business its name.

“When we launched Fair Anita in 2015, few people were talking about violence against women, and we knew we wanted to be a resource for survivors that was both silent and outspoken,” McBrien said. “We’ve learned that financial insecurity is the number one reason women stay in abusive partnerships, so we launched Fair Anita with that in mind, staying grounded in supporting women’s resilience and learning from (Senora ) Anita.”

“(Senora) Anita is completely adored by her community and known to everyone as a very fair and empathetic person: the kind of leader I certainly aspire to be,” McBrien continued.

5. Bebemoss

Bebemoss children's toys

Bebemoss children’s toys stuffed with materials made from recycled water bottles.

These colorful, soft and adorable stuffed animals are handmade by artisan mothers in Istanbul, many of whom are refugees from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. The hand-crocheted play buddies are also eco-friendly, made from sustainably produced yarn and stuffed with “plush” made from recycled plastic water bottles. The founder started Bebemoss after moving from France to Turkey and realizing she wanted a cuddly doll for her baby that was created with more care for the product, the manufacturers and the environment.

To learn more about the handmade and sustainable products on display at the show, check out the The NY NOW site, which tells many of their storiesincluding zero waste jewelry and wall art designer JAB Fine Arts & Design.

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