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10. Portraits of Strong Women

10. Portraits of Strong Women

A PURCHASE WITH AN IMPACT: A PORTRAIT OF THREE STRONG WOMEN

Bernadette

This is Bernadette.  Bernadette walks nearly every day from her home in Il Ngwesi to the local sewing center and leads a group of women who volunteer their time to make reusable sanitary napkin kits for the women and girls of the community.  They gather together in this light-filled room with their tattered sewing machines working toward providing a better future for their children by ensuring their girls are not forced to skip school simply because they are menstruating. Our team had the privilege of visiting with Bernadette and her sisters at the sewing center and were both inspired and humbled by their strength and determination. When asked to share her thoughts on the investment in Il Ngwesi that your support will allow, she told us,   “Okay for me I can say my big wish is all our big wishes is to keep this project to be sustainable so that it will be inherited with our daughters, sons, it is something in the community they will keep on remembering for years and years to come. So that's the big dream.”

Priscilla

This is Priscilla.  Priscilla is the only nurse in the Il Ngwesi community.  She runs the humble community-run medical center where she does everything from providing basic healthcare services, to delivering the babies of the village.  Priscilla leaves her own children at her home miles away and lives at the clinic during the week as she is the only lifeline the village has to medical care.  She is quiet but mighty.  Priscilla has a dream for her clinic, and for her community.  When you make a conscious choice to support Priscilla through a purchase from TheOne08, her wishes, and the well-being of an entire community, take a step closer to reality.  “I wish to see every child who is being born, is being born in the right environment, it’s getting what it's supposed to get. Because I have the experience  that many babies who are born, are born to live. Because I’ve worked in a well equipped hospital, for one year I didn’t see neonatal death or anything. So many babies they die because they didn’t receive what they were supposed to receive or they were born without anyone to take care of them. But if the facilities could be improved, no baby should die of delivery or during delivery.”

Jackie

This is Jackie.  Jackie is the Manager at Il Ngewsi Eco-Lodge and is among a handful of women in leadership roles in the safari industry.  “It’s not common. It’s a unique thing, because most lodges, actually not even being a manager, even other duties like a waiter or a room steward. Most of the time they give the male. Because culturally most men wouldn’t allow their wives coming to work in the lodge. So it’s special, it’s unique, and it shows that we’re moving forward. Identifying like what men can do, even women can do also. So that’s a very motive direction that we’re moving toward.” 

 

Il Ngwesi, nestled near the foot of Mt. Kenya, is the home of these three beautiful, strong women and many, many more.  They all possess a drive and generosity of spirit that is a revelation.  With the purchase of your bag on our Kickstarter campaign, launching on August 27, 2019, TheOne08 + Il Ngwesi + You will invest in and establish not only the first manufacturing partnership of its kind, which will provide a viable means of livelihood to the community, and with it education, stability and opportunity; but also in the dreams of these three women (and so many like them), for themselves, for their children and for their community.

9. The Journey of a Bag - Part 4

9. The Journey of a Bag - Part 4

Part 4: Seeing samples for the first time

There is a pause in between sketching concepts, then drawing technical specs, sending them to the sample maker and waiting to see how they come to life.  Sometimes what worked in your head doesn’t quite work in 3D.  Sometimes things are lost in translation from sketch to spec to pattern to sample.  And sometimes you just nail it.  The sketch, the spec, the patternmaker, the sample maker get it on the first try.  This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it results in pure joy and you know you have something. 

We are patterning with people to make our bags come to life some of the team members have long relationships with.  As I mentioned before, we are a team of support, agility, knowledge and we value relationships.  When you find people in your career that you work well with, that you have ease with, and things can go unsaid or unexplained and they just get it, those are people you want to work with for life.  When you know someone runs their business with heart, with care for its people and its product, you know you’ve found something beautiful.  We are a brand where community, connection and the livelihood of those who are in the entirety of the supply chain matter.  Therefore we must partner with suppliers that also have this intention.

The journey of the first construction sample wasn’t as simple as it is when you are a well-resourced brand.  We had to do some interpretive dance to get there.  But get there we did.  I was used to seeing a sample on the first day at the factory, making corrections throughout the week then leaving with all the samples seen and construction/details signed off on.  This isn’t how it happened on my trip.  But low and behold at the end of the day, before my return flights to the states I got to see half of the samples looking sooo close to the finish line.  Totally jet lagged, not feeling so well, after working for 15 hours I saw samples that made me hug the team with joy. 

It’s hard to explain how that feels.  All I did was made some sketches.  Several people who had never met me before took those sketches and made something out of it.  They made my sketches come to life.  We had to speak in hand gestures and I had to take scissors, sharpies and binder clips to the first sample but when all was said and done at the end of the night we collaborated on the bags and created something I cannot wait to see in the real materials. 

Now the waiting game starts again.  I’m waiting on the correct materials to get to the factory, so we can see everything made up with it.  I am waiting on seeing hardware on the bags.  I am waiting on colorways to make sure they align to the brand and what you are looking for.  Waiting is half of the fun and half of the torture.  Luckily I have made patience and faith my practice.  I have loads of it, for the most part, and faith in this time, more than I can express.

Marnie Quinn

8. The Journey of a Bag - Part 3

8. The Journey of a Bag - Part 3

Part 3: Selecting Materials

I don’t want to tell you how many hours I have spent in my career and life looking at materials.  It was always part of my job, but it was also what I did on the weekends and what I studied in school.  I have always had a love affair with textiles and love the role they play in indigenous cultures.  If you go into my healing center, you can see the role textiles play in my life.  They are prevalent around every corner in Ceremony. 

When TheOne08 came together we had many discussions on our consumers, on sustainable materials, on our product mission as well as our company mission.  Especially on what “sustainable materials” even means!  It’s a lot and it has been a lot.  Each choice has a million other choices cascading from it.  I am not only choosing a material, I am choosing the process in which it is made, the life of the bag and how it will or will not merge back with the planet when its life is complete.  And material choices VASTLY span the cost spectrum.  When we’ve polled our consumers we hear the long list of desires for the bag (and materials) and then ask them how much they would be willing to invest in these items.  That’s where the hard conversation begins.  We as consumers want x, y, & z but we have been conditioned to buy items that are cheap.  We are not used to how our grandparents lived, how they invested in pieces and had very few items that were made well, were expensive (compared to what we pay today) and lasted a very long time.  We are used to grabbing something cute and cheap from easy retailers nearby or online.  We are not used to taking care of our items or repairing them when they need it.  Just try to find a cobbler in your town!  We have created habits that are difficult to break.

As you know, being someone who is interested in TheOne08 this has been shifting for a while, you probably already shop in vintage stores and with conscious companies.  You are the one convincing your friends to spend less at the fast fashion retailers and have already changed your habits.  You know high quality items that last a long time are going to cost more. 

I wish the story of me choosing materials were sexier.   A long table, every sustainable material from under the sun laid out beautifully.  Me flipping through books, feeling swatches and consulting the price list.  Oh wait, that is how it happened.  It just happened in many, many stages and in several different locations around the world. 

The first selection left me a little concerned with what our scalable options were.  The things I had in my mind to use didn’t exist yet for a cost we could afford, or in a way that made any sense to get a product to a consumer.  It was a constant request from me as I went through the plant families: mushrooms?  Bamboo?  Linen?  Cotton?  Hemp?  Each choice meant something sacrificed.  Too expensive (for now).  Not readily available (yet).  Processed with chemicals (why?!! L), short shelf life……  or the material that I finally thought I had hit a home run with the vendor started to tell me that their customers were not concerned with sustainability and began telling me how much water and power and resources were wasted in making their materials!!!  Ayiyiyi! 

I was continuously frustrated and disheartened.  What to do???

But as you read before, you heard that we are an incredibly supportive team who listens to each other and does our best to align in each decision to make the best possible choices with what is available right now.  So the 5 of us met in the restaurant at the top of our hotel in Ho Chi Minh Coty, after knowing how frustrating it has been to find the right material for right now, we spread out new options that were softer, more durable, more eco-conscious than I had seen before.  I flipped through swatches observing each one closely until I finally opened a swatch book and landed on The One. 

And it’s on its way to our factory so we can see samples in my new favorite material.  (cross your fingers)  I can’t what to share it with you.

Marnie Quinn

7. The Journey of a Bag - Part 2

7. The Journey of a Bag - Part 2

Part 2:  Design Inspiration

I have been fortunate to be able to travel all over for inspiration.  I have been able to see cities, people and cultures completely unique, experiencing them for the sole purpose of understanding this uniqueness so I can look at world, art & design from a new lens.  As soon as I step out of the familiar I get creative bursts of inspiration.  Some days its as easy as going out to a new market near home, but if I want new big ideas it helps to get on a plane and go somewhere completely new to me. 

When I travel I spend a lot of time in markets, shops, bazaars and especially antique stores.  One part of my role is knowing what is being mass distributed so I can understand the tastes of brands and consumers and make an educated choice to participate or not in what is happening so I visit not only the nooks and crannies of cities but I also have to get into malls & galleries and see the big brands.  If it were up to me (and I suppose it is) I would spend all of my time in the nooks and crannies.  The Designer brands have the funds to make some beautiful hardware pieces that you cant necessarily find in boutiques (and I am a sucker for hardware, in case you didn’t see my blog about considering hardware) so I do pop into their shops to experience their offerings. 

Where I really find my inspiration is in those unexpected corners of a city.  The dusty antique stores with brass gramophones that inspire new print ideas, or a street market with an embroidered zip pouch.  A woven silk rug.  An old oil panting.  A book binding.  A door hinge.  A chipped old ceramic piece.  The spice market.  The ceiling of a hamam.  A cobblestone pattern.  Everywhere you look, if you’re looking, there is something to ignite the imagination.

I want to twist and turn on a city or country street to find the place with a face and a smile and not a word of English.  I want to get by using hand signals to communicate.  I want to negotiate having to write figures down on a scratch piece of paper.  I want to dig into boxes and shelves and find that piece almost forgotten and think of new ways to bring it back to life. 

When it comes to color inspiration, I go straight to nature.  I will admit there are some fantastic cities that are vibrant with color.  Doorways, shutters, shingles and paint all a new pop of life.  But when you see those colors in the wild, there is just nothing like it.  The first time I went to the Amazon I kept saying, how does this color even exist in nature?!  I couldn’t believe the neons & brights of the plant, animal and insect life.  The blue sky peaking between the leaves of trees.  The orange flower blossoming in a sea of green.  The purple butterfly resting on the trunk of a tree. 

I also love the juxtaposition of this wild natural life with something man made.  A plant in front of a bright doorway.  A line of vibrantly colored laundry in someone’s backyard lush with florals and greenery. When you combine the mastery of Mother Nature and our human twist you can get some real magic happening.

Marnie Quinn

TheOne08 Team

6. The Journey of a Bag - Part 1

Part 1:  A Team is formed

There are so many things I want to share with you.  We’re on a design inspiration, materials hunting, factory auditing, story building trip.  It’s been a total adventure filled with unexpected challenges and lessons but also with things we didn’t expect.  And that’s always the way it is, isn’t it?  The journey wasn’t what we expected but it was exactly what we needed.

We had so many tasks on this trip that several times along the way we thought, this just doesn’t feel possible.  The doubts come in, you think, how can we do this?  And then right at the end…. The miracles scoot in, sometimes on the last day in a location.

Before I get into what I was inspired by from a design lens, because there was a lot of be inspired by, and before I get into how difficult our materials hunting was, and before I get into seeing the prototypes for the first time, I’m going to share what this trip was really about. 

This trip ultimately and fundamentally became about connection: the beautiful interconnection of human beings.  The things that unite us, the things that inspire us, the things that make us so unique and needed in this world.  And also how people who were once strangers can be so helpful and supportive no matter where you go.

Five of TheOne08 Team members came together on this trip.  Forming the team that would make the product come to life, and the team that would record this happening. 

Three of us began in Toronto, meeting for the first time in person.  Our first stop was to meet with a materials supplier, inspiration shop and begin recording our journey.  Then we were headed to meet with our initial factory base.  Before we are able to build infrastructure in Africa, we need to have our bags made somewhere else in order to be able to fund our mission.  We did not choose the easy route;, we for sure have tasked ourselves with something that at times we question if we’re going to be able to do it.  But when you get a group of people together who believe with their hearts in our WHY, you are able to move mountains.  At times, we do feel like we’re moving a mountain. 

As a team we came together.  Our connection to each other solidified.  Our mission driving us.  Our support of each other and what has to be done materialized.

I used to get so excited about seeing new cities, eating new cuisines and trying new things when I traveled.  Now my cup is filled by experiencing people in their fullness, when they’re challenged, and when I’m challenged.  How to be supportive and supported.  How to be clear, ask what I need, allow things to unfold as they should and how to be giving in return to others in their needs and desires.  How to share the burdens and joys with each other so the impossible (seeming) can become possible. 

When you start a business, you can choose to be an entrepreneur of something you are skilled at, and do it your way, taking a more known route.  Or you can choose to do something that isn’t being done, because it’s a difficult thing to do, and know in your heart you are strong and brave and fully supported by a team of individuals that are also all of that and more. 

And when you become the embodiment of strength and grace, fluidity and agility and supportiveness you meet people all over the world who are this too.  Imagine what we can do when we all come together and create the change that the world so needs right now.

We are doing it.   It may not look the way we thought it would look but our journey has begun.

Keep following our journey to hear about each leg of the trip and what we were able to accomplish.

Marnie Quinn