Whole Foods x CTC International Kenya

I just returned from Kenya a week ago where I was working on a wonderful collaboration with Whole Foods and Comfort the Children International. CTC works in Maai Mahiu, an impoverished area located in The Great Rift Valley about 2 hours north of Nairobi where over a million tourists a year pass by on the drive out to Maasai Mara. CTC focuses on Education, Environment, Economy, Health & Community building initiatives. With Whole Foods’ Whole Body division’s full support on developing CTC’s LifeLine product it will allow CTC to scale and grow its operations, impacting thousands in the region. I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with CTC’s women artisans and can attest to their hard work and skills. Their enthusiasm is contagious. While sourcing in Nairobi, the innovation and creative energy coming out of artisan groups I visited blew me away. From re- & upcycled horn, bone, scrap metal, glass and even flip flops, they showed me our waste is their treasure and all the product possibilities out there. It is a true renaissance period. A pivotal time in Kenya’s history and I’m excited to be a part of it.

The CTC Mailika Mums are such a blast to work with. Their energetic, positive spirit is the force behind CTC’s Economy initiative. The ladies were to sew some proto mock ups of LIFEchange wallets that Whole Foods had asked for. I gave some initial direction on the concept and what details to try in incorporate, but also wanted the women to have some fun with this and express their creativity. They all really got into it and I saw so many variations of change purses that first day.

Late one evening, Zane, Bryce and I were chatting about how nice it would be if we had hammocks where we were staying. Our accommodations in Maai Mahiu were not of the high-end variety. After heading to bed, I couldn't get the hammock idea out of my head all night. I was obsessed. I had to make a hammock. The next morning I got up at 7 am and went out on a reconnaissance mission for Maasai fabric. Low and behold, I found some draped over dowels. I wrapped myself with brilliantly colored patterns and imagined a multitude of possibilities. I found someone willing to do a quick sew-up job and showed him how I wanted the hammock pieced and asked for rope to be brought back as well. Within the hour, I had a newly made Maasai hammock hanging in our outdoor compound of the hostel we were staying at. Please keep in mind this an early Sunday morning in Kenya. Africa-time. Where being mellow is a way of life. Zane strolled out of bed at 10 am and stumbled upon a kid swinging in my newly made contraption. Incredulous, he asked, "When did you do this?" while scratching his head. I replied, "This morning." Who's says you can't get things done in Africa in a hurry? You just need to instill a sense of urgency in everything. ;-)

"Hakuna Matata" (No Worries) just doesn't cut it anymore. There needs to be a new Swahili phrase that says, "Let's Get Shit Done!"

During breakfast, the three of us brainstormed ways to market the Maasai hammock and came up with cool, quirky ad pitches. Bryce is a steller videographer for Mama Hope and has done some incredible videos for them, so we appointed him to Film, Direct and Edit our mini-commercial. I offered Art Direction and Zane dealt with Setup. We took turns modeling the hammock and enlisted a few locals too by Lake Naivasha. Improperly tied hammocks, avoiding really sharp thorns in the grass and lurking attack hippos were just minor problems we had. Beauty shots of the hammock swaying softly in the light breeze with the setting sun as the background brought a tear to my eye. You couldn't ask for a better shooting location or scenario. You can check the video out here. (Video coming)

I had edits and updates to the hammocks on Monday. I had some of the women work to double face the hammock with a contrast pattern, making it cooler and stronger at the same time. In addition, the Maasai are known for pattern mixing, so even better to integrate that concept in the hammocks and massive throw pillows the ladies were making.

Kenyans have never been in a hammock before. You say, Really? I say. Yes, Really. You could only describe the expressions on the faces of the women and men who tried our "Mucuha" (which means SWING in Kikuyu) for the first time as PRICELESS. Unabandoned glee, hysterically laughter, utter relaxation, sleepful bliss were just a few of the expressions I witnessed. Video of their first experiences here. (Video coming)

So basically, this was all created in a day. I love the organic, creative nature of this impromptu collaboration and product pitch. Working with Zane and Bryce on this was so much fun. We make an awesome team!

We're going to bring fab designed hammocks to the world and to Kenyans, Spreading joy one hammock at a time. Play + Purpose = Peace. Plant 2 trees for every hammock sold. Combating the deforestation in the region.

LIFEstyle. A home collection. Made with love in Mara.

Chrissie LamComment