The world seems to be ruled by the people and brands that are constantly selling us something. While older generation seems to be more selective about their purchases, younger generation, driven by social media and culture of ‘likes’, has the thirst to shop for ‘newness’ all the time. All the while everyone seems to be talking about the damage our consumption is doing to our planet. Question is, can you shop and do good by our Planet or society at the same time?
Like any woman I enjoy my shopping, but even when I was younger I didn’t seem to be swayed by trends and chose to buy things that had timeless appeal – many of the items ‘living’ in my wardrobe can testify to that. Now, there is an accessory that most women adore because no matter how we feel, no matter how much we weigh or retain water in our extremities, no matter our age, race or social status, it makes us look and feel good. Have you guessed what I am talking about yet?
‘Mmaa is more than just a sustainable basket…each straw bag or basket purchased supports women, their families and communities’
Bags are everywhere, cheap and eye-wateringly expensive. Old and new. Practical and whimsical. How do you choose which one to purchase? For me until recently two things mattered – quality and price. But when I laid my eyes on the Mmaa bag selection at Content store in Marylebone I was smitten. Made from straw, colourful and varied in size, they discreetly draw your attention to their presence in-store (or online). Yet there is so much more to each bag that initially catches the eye.
There is a reason why ‘Social’ is part of brand’s name & identity
”We believe that the ultimate luxury is knowing the provenance and meaning of these baskets. Not only do the baskets reflect generations of traditional handicraft, they also provide income and financial independence for rural women in a context where employment is scarce and most women engage in unpaid labour in the home or on family farms. The collective of just over 200 women provides a supportive network whereby members have access to financial literacy training, sexual and reproductive health education and business support programs.”
Deb started Mmaa Social after she went to Northern Ghana on a project with CAMFED (the Campaign For Female Education) in the summer of 2017. She was so in awe ‘of the work the founder has done to put together the collectives and provide social programmes alongside fair wages’ that it inspired her to create a socially-conscious business. Deb also loved the baskets so much, she bought a few and took them home, planning to sell to friends. The positive response to the baskets was so overwhelming that Deb decided to challenge herself by setting up Mmaa Social which launched officially in April of last year. A laborious, but exciting journey, which already won the brand fans like Melissa Hemsley and the above mentioned beauty & sustainable fashion & lifestyle retail pioneer Content Wellbeing. Not bad for a new brand on the block!
The bag that had my heart from the beginning is called ‘City basket’ and interestingly enough Deb told me that it is the original design close to her heart too. It’s a large basket that is unlike any other I owned before and the ones that my hands long for when I take another bag for a stroll. I do grocery shopping with it, be it at Tesco or local greengrocer and food markets. I do school runs with it, because I can pack a lot into it and put whatever extra projects kids bring out of the classroom too. And I take it to kids sports events, because I can pack water bottles, snacks, sun protection and lots of other things in it and still look comfortably stylish.
The artisans who make each of Mmaa Social bags (as well as fans and table trays for home) are part of a collective on the border of Ghana and Burkina Faso. Each item taking two to three days to hand to weave. You also wouldn’t be surprised to hear that each of the products their weathered hands make are completely sustainable: straw is procured locally, vegetable based dyes are used to dye the straw by hand and the weaving is all done by women in the collective.
Top Tip: If the straw on the bag that you purchase is at all initially dented or misshapen from shipping, don’t worry. Wet the area and it will bounce back with a bit of shaping by hand.
But the special elements don’t stop there. Did you know that “access to sanitary products causes girls around the world to lose countless school days each year?” Well, each Mmaa bag that you purchase, a girl or young woman will receive a reusable sanitary kit (one pad holder, three washable pad liners, soap, six pairs of underwear and washing bag) that will help keep girls in school and help end the shame and silence around period poverty. The reusable sanitary kits are made by seamstresses within the collective therefore promoting another stream of income while also giving back to the community.
Isn’t that something big fashion companies around the world should consider integrating into their business manifestos? As well as asking themselves a question why such much needed initiatives come from the developing, not developed countries? Something to contemplate, instead of mindlessly prowling social media, looking at influencers lounging in incredibly picturesque destinations, sipping cocktails by the pool or at the latest presentation, with no worries nor consideration of the somewhat troubled current state of the world. Change starts with all of us becoming more conscious of the choices we make. Well, that makes for a good start!
To find out more about Mmaa Social, please click here
Mmaa Social offers free shipping on UK based orders