INTERVIEW: OSEI-DURO (MARYANNE MATHIAS)

"Mustafa-one of the tailors from across the road"

"Mustafa-one of the tailors from across the road"

The Osei-Duro ladies are some of my favorite in the biz. It's obvious that they have a deep understanding of the techniques they use to produce their wares and are able to manipulate these techniques to make extremely unique textiles and products. I love their style and admire their authenticity. Osei-Duro started and remains predominately produced in Ghana but are branching out to Peru and India.  They are known for their batik fabrics and modern silhouettes, and believe in the business of artisan made.

Why do you choose to work with global artisans/global handcrafts?
Both myself and my business partner Molly Keogh attended Waldorf Schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. The curriculum has an emphasis on handwork and creative expression, so we started making things at a young age. After graduating, we both went on to get degrees in fashion design. After graduating, I started a small business in Montreal where I hand dyed and produced everything. After several years I started questioning my role as a designer in a consumer driven system, and decided to travel around the world. I ended up designing collections in the different countries I visited, including Ghana, Morocco, Egypt, and India. It was then that I saw the impact business could have on small-scale artisans, and my interest was piqued.

"Our Accra manager Lee and the team at Tsitsa factory"

"Our Accra manager Lee and the team at Tsitsa factory"

What sort of impact do you wish to achieve by working in the artisan sector?
We wish to offer sustainable employment, as well as job skills and training to our artisans.

What do you think is the biggest challenge affecting the artisan sector (i.e., artisan training, market access, global instability)?
It depends on the region and country. Liberia's issues are different than Ghana's are different than India's. We do most of our hands on work in Ghana, so we can speak to its issues. Ghana has a very large cottage industry for handicraft, particularly in hand dying (batik and indigo) and hand weaving. However the industry is fragmented, which makes it hard to get easily export ready product.

"Kwaku - our first hand man, checking fabric for damages"

"Kwaku - our first hand man, checking fabric for damages"

Rank by importance...job creation, craft preservation, and design/aesthetics.
Too hard. For us design/ aesthetic takes the lead because without that, the product wouldn't sell and we wouldn't be able to employ our artisans.

Name a few brands working in collaboration with global artisans that you admire and why.
Proud Mary, Norwhite Norblack, Block Shop Textiles, Brother Vellies, AAKs

What is your favorite product to produce and why?
Hand dyed and woven indigo Theca Coat, out this fall for AW16.

"Studio in Accra"

"Studio in Accra"

Where has been your favorite place to travel and where are you dying to go? (Because let's be honest we do this in part so we can see the world!)
Fave place to travel: West Africa of course. Dying to go: Indonesia, to explore the batik methods there.                                                                

"Juliana one of our main batikers"

"Juliana one of our main batikers"