"Seeing the faces of the women who make the baskets on the tags and telling the story of how they are made has inspired us to do the same with more of our products. This is one of the great things about the process of collaboration, learning from each other and developing ideas."
- Suzie Hackney
Gifts Creative and Category Lead, LUSH Cosmetics
The warehouse this week is bursting with a large delivery of sisal baskets with a pretty iconic four letter word printed on their cotton tags. So we thought it was about time we spilled the beans on this two-year relationship that’s been flourishing behind the scenes, between The Basket Room and LUSH. As collabs go, LUSH couldn’t have been a better match for us: colourful, natural, kind and progressive, with people and the planet at the centre of all that they do. It's love!
So many baskets!
Although the retail side of our business is the portion you probably hear most about as a friend and follower of our brand, around half of the baskets we produce are actually wholesaled to other shops all around the world, from tiny independent plant emporiums and home boutiques to High Street names like Oliver Bonas, The Conran Shop and John Lewis.
Jigsaw X The Basket Room
Occasionally a retailer or a fashion label will approach us with an idea for a basket or a basket bag in mind, and if we feel it's a good fit then we work together on something bespoke. The brand shares their designs with us, and we decide which weaving group would be most suited to the job. We then arrange all training and oversee production through to delivery - right down to making and attaching branded labels and tags where necessary.
Often we can’t shout about these amazing collabs because we’re working as a ‘silent partner’ so our lips are sealed, but on other occasions – such as our collaborations with Jigsaw in 2017 and Anthropologie in 2020 – the brands we work with want to put our name beside theirs on their new product.
Kaleche shows off her beautiful work
In the case of this project with LUSH, it’s not only our brand name, but the weavers’ names (and faces) on display too! The swing tags for these woven gift baskets bear the portraits and first names of some of the women who worked on this basket project, in a simple and powerful touch that strengthens the connection between maker and buyer.
Masaa weaves among the LUSH gift baskets from our Christmas 2020 collaboration
2021 is actually the second year in a row that we have produced a bespoke Christmas gift basket for LUSH. We’re extremely proud to have worked with these pioneers in fresh, fun and ethical cosmetics and toiletries - especially being personal fans of their fizzing bath bombs and shampoo bars!
We were thrilled when LUSH approached us with an idea for a colour block woven basket that customers could fill with Christmas gifts in 2020, and it was lovely to be asked to produce another set in a different design - a black and white cloud pattern in the same dimensions as the basket we produced in 2020 - for 2021. We have now produced over 1600 sisal baskets bearing the LUSH logo, for their stores in the UK, Germany and Japan.
Some of the 150 women involved in the project this year. Weaving income enables women to pay for their children's education and food.
The Kenyan weaving group we asked to produce the LUSH baskets is one we have partnered and grown with since The Basket Room began, led by the wonderful chairlady Mbeti.
Mbeti (pictured above) told us over WhatsApp that she and the women who worked on these baskets feel happy that 'their artwork is for sale all over the world'. She also told us that it takes about one day to produce each of these baskets 'if the lady is fast!'
This group totals around 500 women split into twelve subgroups, and together they have produced some of our most iconic, signature baskets over the years: the tie dye cloud baskets, our natural banana fibre and sisal baskets, our woven mats and runners woven on the hand loom by the incredible Bernard, and our perennially popular woven shoppers and sisal laundry baskets with handles. These ladies also produced our JIGSAW X The Basket Room totes and clutch bags in 2015.
Mbeti's ladies showcase the Jigsaw X The Basket Room collection
It felt absolutely right to work together on this new venture with a versatile and talented group of ladies who have produced a wide range of basket designs for us over the years. Mbeti and her artisans have always been receptive to new ideas and always get dyes and colours spot on. They’re also great fun to work with, as you can see from our photos!
Nduki tries a basket out for size!
Like other weavers in Kenya, Mbeti's group weaves using locally sourced sisal material and traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations - from grandmother to granddaughter. These weavers mostly live as farming communities, who rely heavily on the production of their crops as a source of income, but during times of drought (and pandemic) they can struggle to produce the harvest they need to live sustainably.
Naomi and some of her creations for LUSH. The baskets are being sold as gift baskets online and in LUSH's anchor stores in the UK, Japan and Germany.
Weaving provides an alternative income for these women and their families, not only bringing women empowerment, but also a fair wage to put towards school fees, home improvements and food. It is this age-old tradition that The Basket Room (and you our customers, and our retail and wholesale partners the world over) are helping to protect, whilst also supporting the women in this vital, income generating craft form.
LUSH gift baskets from Christmas 2020. Ideal for filling with bath bombs, sweets, chocs or a nice plant!
It was also a total joy to work with LUSH: a group of people who are totally committed to fully understanding our production processes and supply chain, and always interested in the wellbeing of the weavers.
...And the feeling was mutual!
Shop the TBR X LUSH basket here.
"As handmade is at the heart of what we do, we couldn't wait to collaborate with The Basket Room on this project for our Christmas range.
Knowing the people who make the products and telling the customers about them on the packaging is something that is also close to our hearts."
- Suzie Hackney
Gifts Creative and Category Lead, LUSH