Quazi Design interview

Quazi Design is a social enterprise based in Swaziland. They produce jewellery and homewares from recycled paper, utilising rolled paper beads, folding and layering, and paper mache which is then varnished. The products are all handmade by local rural women. The results are fantastic, unique and attractive products which are environmentally friendly and provide employment to local women. Founder and designer, Doron, answered my questions.

Emma: What was your background before starting Quazi Design?

Doron: I studied Theatre Design at Nottingham Trent, graduating in 2002. I was interested in how space, design, words, costume, history, architecture, and many other elements come together to express a story and a feeling.

I was drawn to product development as the process is creative and unique but it’s also about skill, materials, pricing and marketing. I have always wanted to work in Africa with a social business and have also worked as a youth worker and with people with learning disabilities in the past.

E: How did Quazi Design start? Where did the idea for the enterprise come from?

D: I was approached by the people that distribute the magazines in Swaziland, they had the idea to create something from the waste paper and they asked me to design some products. In the beginning I worked as a freelance designer and when my contract was over with another local craft business I started with them full time. Back then we only had two designs and one woman producer. I believed in the project and saw the opportunity to create work for the local women and also put Swaziland on the map. The magazine distributors are partners in the business and they believed in me and let me have the freedom to run with it. Our vision is to create sustainable, full time, secure work for the women producers and that is exactly what we are doing. We are growing organically, not rushing, but taking small steps and learning huge amounts along the way. I am the designer and the manager, and because it’s such a small business I did everything in the beginning. I have learnt a lot about running a business just by hands on experience.

E: How many workers do you have? How has the enterprise made a difference to the lives of the workers?

D: We currently employ 10 women full time at our workshop in Mbabane, Swaziland. These women have had no previous employment and no previous skills, with an average of 7 dependents each. The women have gained socially and financially. It has meant that the women are independent, can send their children to school as here they have to pay school fees, can pay hospital fees, can care for their families and can put food on the table. All women are assisted in opening a bank account, which sounds simple, but here in Swaziland it’s very rare, and to start saving. They have also gained confidence in themselves and are proud of their work, proud that people all around the world are wearing something they have made with love with their own hands. They appreciate this opportunity and give their best in their work day. They are happy to come into a safe, secure and stable work environment.

E: How are the products and the enterprise as a whole marketed to consumers?

D: For the last two years we have slowly gained a reputation locally and in South Africa, by having a retail shop, and attending trade shows in Johannesburg. Through this we find customers in Southern Africa. We have also approached buyers abroad and work with fair Trade buyers, ethical buyers and independent retailers in the USA, Europe and Australia. Our strategy is to find our feet locally and now that we have that we are looking abroad and making connections. We create a new catalogue every year with new products and updated designs to keep innovative and trend led.

E: What does the future hold for Quazi Design? Do you have expansion plans?

D: I have great belief in Quazi and believe that it can grow into a successful and sustainable business with a name for eco, ethical and design led products. In the next year we hope to find a suitable distributor in the UK and America and also work with more designers, collaborating and pushing design further. There are many paper beads in the market place and we hope that are different, high end and unique to the others. We want consumers to appreciate the handmade product but not compromise on style and materials. We want to balance social and environmental awareness with fashion.
By growing sales and our customer base we can afford to employ more women and provide full time secure work for local women and uplift the Swazi communities. We are currently building a large workshop so we have space for expansion!

Find out more at http://www.quazidesign.com

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