Newly-launched Asante Homeware fills a gap in the New Zealand market for authentic African accessories and home decor. Founder Kim Richards sells product from artisan groups that help create better lives for their workers, tapping into the growing consumer trend for ethical homewares.
“Consumers are caring more about ethically produced products, whether that be environmentally or socially or both,” Richards says.
“People want to make responsible purchases and know where products are made, and how they are made.”
She left her corporate job in 2017 to start the business.
Asante Homeware focuses on selling handmade product from Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and Uganda. These are places of origin not readily seen in New Zealand’s current homewares market. Asante means ‘thank you’ in Swahili.
“There seems to be a lot of Indonesian and Scandinavian influence in the homewares space, but very little African,” Richards says.
Richards is originally from South Africa and her love for the continent in part inspired her new venture, along with her appreciation of one-of-a-kind homewares.
“In a world over populated with mass-produced products, it is wonderful to be able to showcase the beauty of handmade and see the talent of these amazing artisans.
“I think buying artisan handmade products also offer more value in the home, something you don’t want to just replace next season, so there is more longevity to the products.”
Women in particular benefit from these artisan initiatives, making money for their families that will assist in buying food, building homes and sending children to school, including girls who otherwise might miss out in favour of boys.
“Every artisan group [and] organisation I work with has a strong focus on creating jobs in rural communities, fair wages, training and development,” Richards says.
“I also see the opportunity to play a role in preserving craft and tradition and bringing these works of arts to parts of the world they would otherwise not be able to.”
With Asante Homeware, Richards has tapped into an area capitalised on by African nations, diverse in traditions and culture.
“The artisan sector is the second-largest employer in the developing world after agriculture, worth over $32 billion every year.”
With such individual products, the need for a physical presence is felt by Richards, who has found pop up opportunities hard to find for her web-based business.
“People often want to be able to touch and feel the products before they buy.
“I also think people want to be able to see the quality of the products, so having a pop up or physical presence is important.”
Asante Homeware will hold pop ups in Auckland during October and December.