COMPILED BY Amelia Brown WORDS Lilah Byrne IMAGES Supplied/Lilah Byrne
Local textile brand Mungo recently attended NY NOW, a home, lifestyle and gift trade show held annually in the Big Apple, along with other local brands Skinny laMinx, Matter of Fakt Jewellery and Evolution Product. Lilah Byrne from Mungo shared some of her favourite finds from the show…
“Every year, the Javits Centre in New York City fills with more than 2 000 incredible designers and makers from across the globe for the annual NY NOW winter market. Since I started working at Mungo three years ago, I’ve really seen what it takes to push the boundaries of sustainable and transparent production in South Africa. It was inspiring to meet other like-minded makers that have focused on creating with integrity and designing for change. Here are some of the extraordinary products that stood out for me this year.”
Sisters Maggie and Colleen Clines from Kentucky design contemporary homeware and apparel made from organic cotton using traditional quilting techniques. I loved their founding story: The team managed to raise $400 by selling handmade notebooks and cards, which enabled the purchase of a sewing machine and materials to begin funding a group of previously exploited women in India to produce a small range of quilts. Over the next few years, Anchal officially received non-profit status in the United States and has now partnered with an Indian NGO. Today the artisan programme provides alternative careers in textile design and production to marginalised women in India. Anchal also works with female sex workers who are seeking a way out of the trade.
(ASIDE: After the show, I made the requisite art history-major pilgrimage to the Guggenheim where I spotted a custom range of Anchal quilts and kimono jackets in the gift shop. The collection, entitled “Spiral and Radial”, is inspired by the modernist works of 20th century pioneering mystic and abstract artist Hilma af Klint. Check it out here.)
Established in 1925, Takenaka makes the most beautiful traditional Japanese-style lunch boxes in every colour imaginable! In the fight against single-use plastic, these are certainly the most stylish tools I’ve come across.
Award-winning social entrepreneur Magalie Noel Dresse and her husband Joel had the booth across the way from ours brimming with intriguing papier mâché sculptures. Caribbean Craft provides a livelihood to a community of more than 400 Haitian artisans and promotes the beauty of Haiti through artworks that capture the symbols, colours, wildlife and folklore of the place. The papier mâché toy boxes were a big hit with Mungo Director’s three-year-old daughter – definitely her favourite product at the show!
Intiearch is an online homeware shop dedicated to preserving Peruvian textile culture and heritage. I particularly liked the Frazadas, which translates to “blanket” in Spanish. Dating back to pre-Columbian times, Frazadas have traditionally been used to protect against high-altitude chills. Each one is still individually woven on handlooms in the rural communities high up in the Andes using age-old weaving techniques.
Inspired by traditional Chinese porcelain craftsmanship, Middle Kingdom produces a contemporary collection of ceramic vases and homeware. The company was founded in 1998 by Alison Alten and Bo Jia. What really stood out was their innovative use of form and colour and how their stand drew attention to the products’ silhouetted shapes.
Modern Sprout brings hydroponic hope to indoor serial plant killers like me! I also loved this company’s story: It was founded by a Chicago-based couple Nick Behr and Sarah Burrows who were seeking a solution to growing indoor herbs (the flavour-filled cooking kind) easily in their garden-less apartment. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Modern Sprout was born.
7. Nomad Tribe
Nomad Tribe is a conscious clothing label that is dedicated to sustainable fabrics and upcycling garments. Its stand featured a range of shirts made from 100% recycled organic cotton from Guatemala. Nomad Tribe has also put together a really comprehensive guide to building a sustainable wardrobe on its website.
8. Pick One
Mungo was in good company in the Artisan Resource hall alongside Edinburgh-based textile designer and weaver James Donald of Pick One. He uses Scottish lambs wool, Shetland wool and other local fibres to hand weave a range of scarves, bags and other accessories at his studio workshop. His customers include Hollywood A-list celebrities and British ’80s Electro royalty. On weekends and in the evenings, James hosts weaving workshops and is currently developing an Open Access Studio for all interested weavers.
Savanna Baskets is a social enterprise that works directly with rural women in cooperatives in Ghana with the aim of preserving rich artisanal traditions and creating a long-term, sustainable income stream for these women. The baskets are made from a tropical grass, which grows locally in swampy areas and valleys and is dried into straw for weaving.
10. Twenty Two West
Artist and designer Mary Hamby has a studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she makes delicately detailed, fibre-based jewellery and sculptures. From miniature hand-woven pendants to heirloom block sculptures made from hand-spun, naturally dyed yarns, to the pair of asymmetrical clay and felt earrings that I brought home with me, I was in love with it all!