… And just like that, another year has passed by and we celebrated our sixth birthday last week. It’s been another big year for The Basket Room and it’s about to get bigger as Holly goes on maternity leave next week and prepares for the arrival of her first child.
We thought our sixth birthday would be the perfect time to share this film with you; we made it recently and it offers a glimpse into daily life in a rural Kenyan weaving group. The star of the show is Madam Dorcas Ndinda: chairlady of one of the largest Kenyan weaving cooperatives The Basket Room works with, and a remarkable woman: entrepreneurial, charismatic and incredibly busy! When she is not leading hundreds of women in the cooperative she tends to her smallholding and livestock and runs her own market stall.
We’d like to start with giving thanks. It has been a challenging year in so many ways, and we want to thank you – our customers – for continuing to support us and for continuing to buy our baskets. Because of this, we have been able to keep the weavers we partner with busy with work during the pandemic.
Thank you also to the retailers who we supply our baskets to, who continue to fly the flag for sustainable, ethical crafts and interiors. We’re thrilled to have spread the basket love even further this year and to see our baskets sold in some truly wonderful independent gift shops, boutiques, plant shops and homeware stores across the world.
We also worked with Anthropologie this year, with whom we collaborated on a collection of hand embroidered baskets produced by the same Kenyan weavers and Kenyan artist behind the embroidered motif baskets we launched in 2019. We have just taken delivery of a second shipment of these beautiful embroidered face baskets and a brand new shell motif basket which are all available online now to buy.
John Lewis also joined our list of retailers in the past year, Oliver Bonas joins the family in 2021, and we have just finished a very cool collaboration with Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics which we’ll tell you more about very soon!
Talking of families, the team is growing on both continents. In the UK we have welcomed Katie, Kathryn and Charlotte to the gang, who handle customer service, e-commerce and e-commerce fulfilment - and a whole lot more - between them.
Anna’s role expands to cover office manager as well as wholesale, and Alice takes on a larger role in the marketing and PR side of the business. Camilla continues to oversee production and logistics - working closely with the weavers and group leaders in Kenya - and takes on a share of Holly's role whilst she's away on maternity leave.
In Africa we are now also working with a brilliant creative photographer named Marvin who has just completed his second assignment for us in Kenya - watch this space! We must also give a shoutout to Johnny who carries out errands for us in and around Nairobi on his motorbike, buying yarns and beads, delivering them to rural weaving groups, collecting sample orders off local buses and sending out other bits and pieces to more far flung groups by courier. More on these guys later - they warrant a whole blog post to themselves!
Marvin is a creative photographer in fashion, product and documentary photography, living and working in Nairobi
In Nairobi, Peris has returned from maternity leave after giving birth to her baby boy, Theo, in March 2019. Peris is our Production Coordinator and she liaises with and manages relationships with the weavers during basket production.
Peris (second from left) and Camilla (far right)
We have produced 16,700 baskets this year in Kenya alone, and we continue to bring fairly paid, reliable and flexible work to nearly 2,700 Kenyan women. We continue to work and develop our partnerships with incredible weaving groups in Ghana, Tanzania, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Zambia, too.
Guys weave too! Weavers in Ghana, working on bike baskets.
To our customers: thank you for playing such a crucial part in this story, for supporting an ethical business and helping us grow in ways we never could have imagined over the past six years. We simply couldn't have done it without you.