Our newest Plume Spotlight is Sabahar, a woman-owned, Fair Trade company based in Ethiopia, that produces hand made textile products for export and local sale. We immediately fell in love with Sabahar because of the quality of their work, but also because of their overall vision.
We had the opportunity to work with Sabahar for our Fall Boutique. We had such a wonderful experience and resonated so much with their mission, that we decided Plume fans needed to know more about this amazing company too. So we asked Sophie Joy Mosko, International Marketing Advisor for Sabahar a few questions about the company.
What is Sabahar's mission?
Sabahar seeks to create just and sustainable employment in Ethiopia through the profitable production and marketing of high quality silk and silk/cotton products. We are committed to creating sustainable employment for the women and men involved in textile production and marketing, and to being a socially responsible employer.
Sabahar also aspires to profitably grow and serve the world market through its extended distribution network. We will remain actively involved as a promoter of good practices within the Ethiopian silk sector, and will do all that is possible to establish silk production as an economically viable activity for rural and semi-rural households.
What inspired you to start Sabahar?
Kathy Marshall, the General Manager and Founder of Sabahar, is a Canadian by birth but has lived in Ethiopia more than 21 years. Having worked in international aid and development for many years, Kathy was searching for a more sustainable way to support artisans. Her passion for preserving and celebrating the rich weaving tradition of Ethiopia combined with her desire to create respectful and ethical work opportunities for marginalized people, have laid the foundation for the company.
How do you help the livelihood of your artisans?
Sabahar strives to create respectful, ethical and sustainable work opportunities for artisans in Ethiopia.
Sabahar is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which is the only global body that certifies companies as being Fair Trade. We comply with 10 standards set out by WFTO that guide us on how to be a company that empowers and elevates the people it employs. Some examples of how we support artisans includes:
• We provide sustainable income to more than 150 people.
• Our employees earn about 250% more than the industry average for the work they do.
• Employees have permanent contracts and receive regular salaries every month.
• The work week is 37.5 hours (vs. the average, legal 48 hour work week in Ethiopia).
• Employees receive pensions, paid vacation, maternity leave and medical coverage.
• Staff members who are interested in going to school get time off to do so.
• All employees attend regular and comprehensive training and capacity building.
• The workshop is airy and light with lots of space for the employees.
• A percentage of the profits are redistributed each year in bonuses.
• We introduce our artisans to world-renowned designers, business people and stylists so they can learn what is needed to succeed in the global market.
How do you help the environment in production?
We are committed to having a low-carbon footprint in our work. As much as possible, the company tries to buy and produce locally. All the cotton is from Ethiopia and much of the silk is produced in Ethiopia. We pride ourselves in producing everything entirely by hand. Thus, we use very little electric power.
Sabahar experiments and uses natural dyes, many of which are found locally. We dye with the national Ethiopian flower, the Meskel flower, as well as onion skins, safflower, marigolds,, tea, coffee, henna, ivy and locally harvested cochineal. The chemical dyes we use are all environmentally friendly and Azo free. They are all REACH certified. We are also in the process of updating our dye water waste management and recycling system.
What is the most popular product that you make?
Sabahar’s most popular export product is beach towels.
What makes you unique?
Sabahar is unique for many reasons.
A few highlights include:
• The company is a pioneer in the Ethiopian silk industry and leader in exporting products made from Ethiopian silk.
• Sabahar is one of the few export companies in Ethiopia that works exclusively with natural fibers. We only use silk and cotton to make our exquisite products.
Sabahar capitalizes on the ancient weaving skills in Ethiopia and merges those talents with modern design to make products interesting for the global market.
All the products are 100% hand made.