Welcome to: Our Featured Makers series where you will have the opportunity to meet one of our Makers and find out more about their fascinating stories. In this post, we are delighted to introduce you to our truly inspiring Susie Garfit from Kariki Studio…
Tell us about the story behind the brand?
So I was in Kenya when I came up with the idea of Kariki, the word Kariki comes from two Swahili words; Karibu & Rafiki which means welcome and friend!
The original idea was to come with designs that I could get made in Kenya that could be community leaders and offering work to the local community and women’s groups and that sort of thing.
How it actually transpired was that I came back to England and getting some help from the Princes Trust, then using a company in England called Mantis World that partner with a fair trade factory in Tanzania, so currently all of my stuff is made with organic cotton in Tanzania, and grown in Tanzania but I am in the process of moving this to Kenya.
I didn’t originally settle on babywear, but my designs are quite suited to childrenswear, there quite naive and doodley and quite there suited the childrenswear market and that’s how it has begun!
So the designs, did you draw them yourself?
Yes I did sketches they started as little doodles
They are super cute I love all the little names for them…
So I did a poll on Instagram to help name them and people named each bear, it was fun giving each bear a character!
I love the different colours you have used for each bear it makes them really wearable and suits all skin tones..
Aww, thanks that was the intention to make them unisex and it was sort before the monochrome trend in baby wear took off and it started because the first print was the Panda with a black face on white and when the two other bears came along keeping it natural and neutral.
Just going back to telling your story tell us how it began in Kenya?
So my mum grew up there so I always had family there, but the trip I was on when I was out there and came up with idea I was actually out there for 2 months, and I was actually out there travelling around Africa for a couple of months finishing in Kenya with my family where a couple of my family members had passed away over the previous year and as my freelance work in the UK was flexible I felt like I was in position where I could stay and wanted to stay to help and get to know my family and bond. I actually got help my Aunty in rebranding and designing her website which I realised I really missed the design aspect of my life and it was through this I actually started to meet people who were doing a lot of design work and community lead projects. There are some really wonderful companies doing some great stuff which is focused on trade rather than aid, as this what’s going to build Africa up again. It was really inspiring and I just thought this is where I wanna be and what I wanna do.
But then coming back to England and being in Liverpool and trying to get started was a lot harder which is why my business is at the moment is based in Tanzania, not Kenya. But I have been back a couple of times since and I have connected with a baby home over there so I take out seconds and bits that are not quite good enough to sell but are still lovely and spend some time there which is really special. And then I have started donating 10% of all my sales to Limuru Children’s Centre
The goal is to definitely get my stuff made out in Kenya, I have visited a factory but its slow.
What are the next steps for Kariki Studio?
Next steps are new designs, prints some new T-shirts, and hopefully in Kenya by the end of the year but in the meantime, there will be some new prints available.
What did you train in?
Trained in Printed Textiles design and then after I graduated I worked in TV in costume. I then did an intensive graphic design course with an independent graphic design company in Manchester I didn’t want to forget my Textiles training but loved the graphic design so it’s been a bit of mish-mash but its lead to this today.
How easy did you find it to ethical and organic?
That was always the plan from the start, it is more expensive but I am willing to do this and ask customers for more, I think we need to step away from this idea that everything is cheap and fast because it is detrimental to people and the world
“S**t is the best fertiliser because it makes flowers grow!”
“Hey darling don’t let anyone tip dirt on your sparkle”
Organic Cotton as it gives jobs in Africa and kind to the planet. I am also interested in some new fabrics, not New Ten Cell & tree fibre.
What’s your Bestseller?
The Patch Panda T-shirt always a winner!
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