Abury: Saving traditions
Saving a tradition goes deeper than simply preserving a craft or way of doing something. Breathing life into traditions, such as an artisan culture, can develop and nourish the people attached to them, helping them to form a life based around a living wage and independent empowerment.
ABURY is a clothing company that has successfully married retail and artisan preservation. It is an exciting combination making old methods relevant in an ever faster fashion industry. I spoke to Andrea Bury, Social Entrepreneur and founder of ABURY, to discuss her business and sustainability.
Q: What is ABURY’s mission and how does sustainability factor into that mission?
Andrea Bury: ABURY’s overall mission is to preserve crafts through design. We do that by bringing together international designers with traditional artisan communities in our global designer contest: The ABURY Design Experience. Our vision is to help as many artisans globally as possible, to get out of poverty through educating them on international design trends and quality management and at the same time offering them visibility and sales channels through the ABURY brand. At the same time we empower young designers in offering them a once in a lifetime experience, living and working with artisans for two to three months.
The ethical and social factor is our DNA (fair pay, working conditions, education, etc). The human factor is looking at the ecological angle of sustainability, we always work only with local materials, using the most ecological option available, optimizing shipping.
In the photo: Andrea Bury, founder of ABURY Credit: Abury
Q: Your website features a diagram that connects quality, design, and impact together in a business model diagram. Tell us a bit more about your business model, and how are these three ideas are interconnected.
AB: We at ABURY believe that with a focus on design and quality we can create positive social impacts for artisans. We have created the ABURY Cycle of great design.
It starts with the ABURY Design Experience, an international designer contest where we look each year for the best design talent for a specific craft topic such as weaving, leather work or jewelry. The winner of the contest receives a travel and production grant to go to a craft community for 2 months, after training with the ABURY team in Berlin. The designer lives and works with the community, does workshops in design trends and quality management, and also creates a capsule collection with the people. ABURY markets and sells these collections, online and offline, and so creates work with fair payment for the artisans. At the end, we share the profits and re-invest in further education projects with the community, such as in Morocco where we finance a literacy program for women and a pre-school for children.
Related article: “To the market: Mobilising Artisan Employment” By Oliver Speakman
Q: What motivated you to created the ABURY Foundation? What is its role in relation to ABURY’s for profit business?
AB: We believe that everybody has amazing skills, they just need an environment where they can blossom. To create these environments is the mission of the ABURY Foundation. So a big part of our work is education especially for women and children of the communities we work with, with the ABURY Collection.
The idea is based on a profit share model – the ABURY Collection shares the profits with the ABURY Foundation – so the artisans actually earn the education and development for their community. It is all about empowerment.
Q: You recently launched the One of a Mind. Why were you inspired to start this?
AB: Over the last 5 years we have met so many amazing people, products, materials and projects all over the world. We have experienced and collected wonderful stories, but we never had a platform to share those with our customers and friends. Social media channels were not enough, so we decided to create our own blogzine, with one of a kind stories and an Of One Mind attitude.
In the photo: Andrea connecting with local children through the ABURY foundation Credit: ABURY
Q: It seems like ABURY has benefited many lives around the world. Do you have a favorite inspirational story about the personal impact that ABURY has made in someones life?
AB: It is always so difficult to put one person in the spotlight, leaving out many others who worked and learned a lot as well. The communities are very traditional and it is also about the collective development. But maybe one quote of an artisan is I watched this bag transform into such a beauty. After, I saw myself as a world designer. This experience was not only enjoyable, but the skills I now possess in such a short time amaze me.
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