Saturday, March 27, 2010

One step closer

This is my dream. My dream is to bring you and Argentine together. I know your lives are a million miles apart. And she lives in a place that you can barely imagine.

But you and she have more in common than you may realize.

She sews beautiful bags that you have gone out of your way to buy. And the money you spend on those bags, is helping her to create real change in her own life and in those of others.

I can't wait until she can tell you about it herself.

Because in the end it is not about bags, no matter how beautiful they are, but about creating connections between people.

So check out our store today. We've got brand new stock, but more importantly we're bringing you and Argentine one step closer together...or maybe it is Mapendo you want to connect with. Or Roy or Solange or Riziki. The choice is yours.

Because now you can search our store by craftsperson, and check out the unique talent of each individual.

You'll see that each craftsperson has a unique story, and also a unique talent. Remember each person goes to the market, no small feat on crutches, chooses her own cloth, cuts it by hand, and sews it herself. Each bag she creates is an extension of herself, her beauty, her story.

So try it. First, pick a craftsperson, and go back and read about her life again. Then go to our store and click on her image. You'll see all of the work of her hands. I guarantee it will inspire you.

We're busy working on more ways to connect you directly with these amazing individuals. Pretty soon you'll be able to read a tweet from one of them, instead of from me. And leave one of them a message, instead of me.

Because, we shouldn't live in a world where the stories of the poor and the vulnerable are are always told by other people, no matter how well meaning we are. Doesn't everyone deserve a chance to tell her own story? And, for that matter, to sell her own bags?

This is just one step. But I am celebrating because it is a major step, and one which took a lot of preparation. You see, it is easier to just throw everything together and slap on a corporate logo. Just look at how everyone else does it.

But I am committed to putting in the extra work, so that our craftspeople truly sell their own work. Because a world in which Argentine can sell her own bags, and profit from them, is one where her voice matters. And a world where you can choose whose work to support with your purchase, is a world where your voice matters more. So take a minute, if you can, and check it out. Support our effort to bring us all one step closer together.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thank you

Just a quick, belated thank you to all of our friends who came out and supported us during our last online sale. We were offering a 2 for 1 deal and hoping to raise enough money through our sales, to buy new cloth for the month. Our craftspeople had literally been sitting with no work in their hands, and they were desperate to buy new material and get started again. You all came out and supported us whole-heartedly, we were able to stock up on a full month of cloth and our sewing machines our whirring again.

Thank you for choosing to make purchases that truly give life to others. We know that in this economy, no purchase is made lightly. We consider it an honor that you continue to shop with us. There is no greater compliment to our craftspeople. Thank you!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Whose name is on your bag?

Whose name is on your bag?

Luis Vuitton? Christian Dior? Or maybe you are more of a Vera Bradley type?

Living in New York I get to witness this strange obsession with brand name bags all the time. On a sidewalk in New York, a young man will suddenly stop in the midst of a crowd. He will glance from one side to the other, scanning the crowd. And then spread out a sheet on the ground. Next he will line that sheet with bags and purses, all the time mumbling "Luis Vuitton $40, Christian Dior $30". As though the name and the price says it all. And maybe it does.

These knock-off bags appear to do a banging business in New York. Except when a cop appears and the young man shoves all of his goods inside that sheet and hoists it over his shoulder, like a crazed-santa, and starts running.

The knock-off bag business is so popular because brand name bags are so expensive. But is a Luis Vuitton bag really worth $200? Or is it the logo we are paying for?

Now, I can see some of you laughing smugly. Happily pointing out that you have never bought a knock-off bag, or paid a ridiculous price for that brand name bag. But take a look inside your closet. I am willing to bet that you will find no shortage of names and logos on your clothes and shoes.

Surely this has to be the greatest coup in marketing history. Remember how logos and brand names used to go on the inside of clothing? On little tags that could be easily ripped out or ignored? How is it that those names have become part of the very fabric of our clothing, emblazoned on the outside as though a logo were a medal of honor? So maybe it isn't Gucci that you are wearing, but is it Northface? J Crew? L.L. Bean? I'm guessing someone's name is there.

How is it that massive companies have convinced us to donate our bodies as billboards? Not only have they found a way to get some of the most valuable advertising space in the world for free, they've got us paying extra for the privilege of wearing their publicity.

I'm sure Nike and Lacoste appreciate the donation of your body.

But would you consider donating your body to a slighly smaller operation? No, we aren't even going to do that.

It may be ok for massive companies to use you as a billboard, but we, at SHONA, expect better of ourselves... So, we are adding our logo to SHONA products, but only on the inside.

We've decided that the outside should be for something more important. Like an ACTUAL PERSON.

Instead of wearing names like Luis Vitton and Vera Bradley or even SHONA Congo, why not wear the name of a real person? In fact, why not wear the name of the person who sewed your bag?

She went to the market and chose that cloth.
She carried it home, despite the fact that she walks with crutches.
She measured and cut it by hand.
She sewed it with a hand or foot powered sewing machine.
And she will feed herself and her family with the price that you pay.

So let's create a better world.
A world where we stand for people, not corporations.

Click on our "made-by campaign"
And wear a bag with your craftwoman's name.

Stand for Someone Today.

'Made by' campaign bags feature a cloth ribbon that reads
"made by Solange Made in Congo" or
"made by Mapendo. made in Congo"
They are currently available for a select group of Mapendo and Solange's bags. Both these women have incredible stories and truly, by wearing their names you will be standing for someone who deserves to be a celebrity.

Only available while supplies last. So make your statement today!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Buy one, Get One Free

Buy 1, Get 1 Free!

Joy is meant to be shared,
and so are SHONA bags!

For this week only, with every bag or purse that you purchase, get a second one Free!

So treat yourself to your favorite cloth, and then choose a second one for a friend.

With both bags, you will literally be putting work back in our craftspeople's hands. There is no greater compliment to them, nor is there anything they want more than the ability to continue to support themselves and their families.

Our shelves in Congo are currently empty and our sewing machines are silent. The craftspeople can't wait to get back to working, but first we need new cloth. Each bag that we sell allows us to buy a new yard of cloth. Your purchases make all the difference in the world to us.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rain in Africa, Snow in New York

This season of my life has been way too busy. I am exhausted. I miss Africa and the afternoons spent drinking tea. The evenings spent looking up at the sky. Ok, ok. I probably didn't actually do those things all that often. There were always cell phones ringing and emails waiting.

But often the internet just didn't work. And the phones went dead. And the power went off.

And if I was lucky it would rain. In Africa wherever you are and whatever you are doing, when it rains you just stop. You stand at the door and stare as the rain comes pounding down. And you know that you have stolen back a few minutes of your life. No one is coming to the door. And you can't go anywhere. In fact the rain pounding on the tin roof means you can't even hear the people who are in the same room with you. Nor can you hear the radio, or the television, or the cell phone.

All you can do is stop and look at out the rain.

And so here in New York I love the snow. Because New York doesn't stop for rain, but we do a pretty good job at stopping for snow. And we have been blessed by two beautiful snow storms this February, just when I needed them most.

Because sometimes life just needs to slow down.