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Shop socially responsible designs

Shop socially responsible designs


Article by ADR Contributor, Bryan Chung. Images courtesy Klaylife, Bholu and Mifuko.

The following brands have this in common: they help preserve local endangered handicrafts, while providing social and financial support for poverty stricken rural and township communities.  In many cases, the locals themselves have designed the products. ADR profiles the small brands that have embraced socially responsible design practices on a large scale.


Klaylife – the new online retail store run by father-daughter team Phillip Jones and Kerri Wallace – offers a stunning selection of beaded chandeliers, sustainably hand crafted by local women on a small farm in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

The beads are hand-rolled using raw clay, and produced via a careful process of drying, kiln firing and dip dyeing.

Jones and Wallace, who migrated from South Africa and are now based in Melbourne, established a relationship with South African native Merewyn De Heer. De Heer designs the chandeliers and works with the local community to produce them.

De Heer’s farm is situated near a HIV centre, and the project began as a way to employ local HIV impacted women who were unable to find work due to stigma. Over the years, the production team has grown from eight, to its current size of 65 women from varying backgrounds and circumstances.





Bholu is a fair trade and climate neutral homewares brand offering products by traditional artisans from rural and urban communities in India.

Designed by Australian designer Jodie Freud, each cushion, throw, rug, lampshade or toy is individually hand embroidered or hand woven using ancient Indian craft techniques. Bholu has also partnered with Australian brand Porter’s Paints, in offering a collection of playful Bholu wallpapers.

Bholu started as an effort to help the survivors of the devastating Gujarat earthquake in 2001, which killed 20,000 people. The company now employs over 360 women artisans (who share their knowledge of traditional skills) and helps give the women a regular source of income, as well as their independence.

Part of the proceeds from the collection go towards Jodie’s Anganwadi Project, which has so far built eight schools in the urban slums of Gujarat, India, in conjunction with Architects Without Frontiers Australia.

For its support of underprivileged communities, Bholu won the Australian Telstra Business Award for Social responsibility in 2008, for demonstrated leadership and contribution by a business to the environment, people, education or the community.

Bholu was also selected in Time magazine’s list of Top 100 Most Influential Green Designs of 2009.


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Mifuko is a Finnish-African collaborative design company that produces beautiful Kiondo baskets, rugs, jewellery and bags, handmade by local artist groups in rural Kenya.

Mifuko was founded in 2009 by Finnish designers Minna Impiö and Mari Martikainen, stemming from their support of local artist workshops in Kenya.

Based in Helsinki, Mifuko combines traditional African handcrafted techniques with Finnish design simplicity and social responsibility.

Mifuko’s close association with small Kenyan workshops helps talented artisans to obtain regular incomes, learn about new markets and adapt their existing skills. Several of these workshops employ less fortunate artisans, some of whom are physically disabled or HIV positive.

Over 200 talented Kenyan women, from Machakos to Nairobi, help produce Mifuko’s unique products, using sustainably sourced local materials such as sisal and recycled plastic.


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