Social Enterprise Directory
Tribe West collaborates with developing world artisan designers to provide stylish children’s and household goods with a purpose. Founders Michelle and Gabriel founded the for-profit social enterprise after the arrival of their second child. Creating a safe, comfortable space for their young children to explore, they found themselves dissatisfied with the quality and design of many children’s products, in particular the interlocking EVA foam mats many families used for playmats. Unable to find a natural material option that would also fit seamlessly into their living room (their de facto playroom) they began sketching designs of their own, which was second nature given Michelle’s background in fashion design. And it was Gabriel’s experience as a teacher leading service adventure trips that inspired them to launch Tribe West as a social enterprise, drawing design inspiration from and giving back to artisans across the developing world.
Having found eager artisan collaborators, as well as a natural rubber, yoga-style playmat design that they considered more functional than puzzle piece mats, they decided to launch the line with one product and two artisan designs: the Arusha Shanga from Tanzania and the Cusco Pitumarca, from Peru.
Located at the Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Shanga is a social enterprise that employs people with disabilities to create unique, high-quality, handmade jewelry, glassware and homeware using recycled materials. These products are sold in Tanzania and all over the world, with profits being reinvested back into development of new products and further employment of disabled people. Meaning “bead” in Swahili, the philosophy of Shanga is “Be kind and recycle.” We designed the mesmerizing Arusha Shanga collection with our artisan partners at Shanga, finding inspiration in one of their carpets.
The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) is a non-profit organization that works to preserve the ancient textile traditions of Peru, while improving their weavers’ quality of life through workshops, promotion and sales of their textile art. It is comprised of ten different weaving associations located in the Cusco region.
Tribe West’s elegant Cusco Pitumarca pattern was designed by our artisan partners at CTTC specifically for our mats. Pitumarca is located 65 miles south of the city of Cusco and is where approximately 50 adult weavers and 25 children gather in its weaving center once a week to weave, knit and braid using techniques that are thousands of years old and can be directly traced to pre-Columbian cultures.
Tribe West aims to expand its product line and network of artisan partners—a new collaboration with an artisan group from Mali is in the works for later this year—and continue to support gifted artisans around the world with a fair-wage percentage of the sale of their designs, as well as annual donations to their charitable partners Aid to Artisans and The Artisan Alliance.