SHARE TWITTER | FACEBOOK | COPY LINK LINK COPIED 04.25.2022 Shinola x Maison Bengal BY Taylor Rebhan In 2004, a fairtrade org was established to fight poverty in Bangladesh by working with artisans—particularly mothers and young women—who use local materials and traditional skills. After living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and working in the aid industry, Sheenagh Day returned to the United Kingdom on a mission. Day’s idea hatched when she witnessed firsthand the traditional artisanal skills of weaving and basketmaking in the most poverty-stricken areas of Bangladesh. This was her vision: an ethical fairtrade company that provided a market for the craft of marginalized communities. Soon after, Maison Bengal Ltd was born. Maison Bengal now works with over five thousand women throughout Bangladesh, happily able to work in their home environment enabling them to care for as well as financially support their families. That’s why Shinola is proud to have collaborated with Maison Bengal on the design and craft for our Bengal Jute Bag. Artfully woven and finished with a leather trim and brass-footed base, the piece is a celebration of a time-honored, traditional artisan skill. WOVEN TOGETHER Sixteen years later, Maison Bengal now has a comprehensive range of handwoven designs for sale, from bags and tableware to floor mats and dog basket beds. Using only Bangladeshi natural materials such as jute and hogla, designs are crafted by Bangladeshi artisans using skills passed down for generations. Videos on the brand’s Instagram show the incredible calmness, skill, and care these artisans put into weaving every single item. There is energy, joy, and laughter. To connect with these communities, Maison Bengal works very closely with three fair trade organizations in Bangladesh. Each identifies marginalized groups their area to train in the global market of handicraft production. Working separately with each group, Maison Bengal translates their local materials into contemporary designs. The on-site team helps develop their unique traditional skills. It’s taken years of commitment, but for Day, it’s a constant work in progress that’s endlessly rewarding. It’s not hard to see why: Maison Bengal has put roots into a creative community capable of incredible craftsmanship. And that is a story Shinola can relate to. CRAFTING BETTER FUTURES In all the communities in which Maison Bengal works, producers are now able to send all their children to school, with enough money to pay for books, pens, shoes and uniforms. The mothers are particularly keen on making sure their daughters have the best education possible, so that they can pursue opportunities on greater and greater horizons. The message seems to be catching on. As a teenager, Rita Odhikary earned a wage by plaiting jute for her mother to weave into Maison Bengal baskets. She used the proceeds for tuition. After graduating from college, she now studies political science at Dhaka University. She hopes to become a teacher one day. To learn more about Maison Bengal and support their mission, visit their website and give them a follow on Instagram.