In Good Fashion: Spring Accessories with Heart

On the hunt for spring’s of-the-moment bold, vibrant prints, we found Njabini Apparel – an accessories company that empowers Kenyan women with lasting artisan careers. This month, Njabini Apparel launched it’s first spring line of handmade beach bags, yoga bags, and jewelry. We caught up with co-founder (and current college student) Mike Behan to learn the backstory of these bright accessories.

Rue La La: What was the original spark that got you started with Njabini Apparel?
Mike: In early 2011, I was volunteering with Flying Kites Global, a community-based program in Kenya. While Njabini has a strong agricultural economy, there are many women who, for various reasons like physical disabilities and land ownership issues, are excluded from that sector and can’t farm for income. Together with co-founders Tom Mwangi and Erin O’Malley, we created a sustainable business that would allow these women to earn high levels of income (equal to four times the national average), allowing them to educate their children, provide for their families, and invest in their futures.

Rue La La: That’s amazing. Tell us about these women.
Mike: Lucy, Mary, Mary, Martha, Alice, Jane, and Beth are the heartbeat of Njabini Apparel. I am so lucky to have met and grown with each one of them.(You can read more about each of the women and their families here.)

Rue La La: We first fell in love with your cozy infinity scarves. This is your first foray into spring items – what was the inspiration behind these new pieces?
Mike: We pride ourselves in using the local materials worn by women in Kenya. For the yoga bags and beach totes, we used the bright, bold khanga prints that are commonly seen as dresses and festive wear throughout Africa.

Rue La La: You were inspired when you first worked with Flying Kites, and now it all comes full circle. Tell us how Njabini Apparel ties back into Flying Kites.
Mike: Njabini Apparel’s and Flying Kites’ missions overlap to create a holistic impact within the community of Njabini. We employ and empower women, enabling them to educate their children and provide for their families – however, there are so many children left without the support of mothers or families there. Flying Kites is a truly incredible organization – an orphanage and school that provides children with extraordinary care and education far beyond basic care; they provide everything that a child needs to succeed. I am so fortunate just to be a part of it! With each product you purchase, 20% of the profit is donated to Flying Kites.

- By Katie Flynn, Editor

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April 26, 2012