Mifuko story starts with two Finnish designers determined to make high fashion in a way that is sustainable and contributes positively to the world. Let’s meet Mari Martikainen & Minna Impio.
They met queuing for lunch in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki and since became inseparable. After graduating, both were doing freelance work when Minna ended up moving to Kenya in 2008 with her family. That’s when the idea of a design company operating between Finland and Kenya came up. Mari was fully on board with the concept of developing a business that not only creates great products but likewise it empowers women in rural villages capacitating them to earn a living while using their traditional skills.
In their own words, it all began when:
“Early in 2009 a long and bumpy road brought us from Nairobi metropolis to Kenyan countryside. The road was dry and big clouds of red dust rose under the car tires. Finally we reached our destination and stopped under a huge mango tree. In the shade of the tree there was a group of merry ladies waiting for us, all dressed in purple. Very soon we were engaged in a spirited and lively conversation with the ladies, discussing farming and handicrafts – and negotiating and making plans for the very first collection of Mifuko Kiondo baskets.”
Their mission from the start was to create a true partnership between themselves and the people in Kenya. Minna and Mari saw that the Kenyans had perfected their craftsmanship and know-how concerning materials, and the Finns could best contribute through design and marketing. The co-founders didn’t want to just export Kenyan handicraft products, but to create something new, inspired with their design sensibilities. That’s how Mifuko was born.
Their passion for products that last in their design and quality was first translated into jewellery, sandals, wooden birds and later on in Kiondo baskets. Do you want to know what is a kiondo basket? Check this blog post here.
While the designs are done by Finnish artists they are inspired by the colours, textures and vibrancy of Africa, Mifuko products are finished in rural Kenya. Mostly in the outskirts of Nairobi, the artisans use basic technologies that are consistent with traditional handcraft skills and which are low in energy consumption.
Alongside beautiful and design products, Mari and Minna wanted to bring transparency and environmental practices to their brand, while having real impact in the local communities and contributing to the world in a positive way. Mifuko is proudly a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and is reaching around 400 families in Kenya throughout the Mifuko Trust – founded to tackle poverty in the rural region Machakos in Kenya. The Trust supports projects that improve local women well-being, sustainable development while contributing to employment in the country.
The way the two friends, Mari and Minna, decided to conduct their business truly inspires us here at DOME. The design company can bring a real, concrete change in the lives of the women and their families of rural Kenya and that’s of massive importance to us. The awareness of the customers is rising and people will (is already) demanding ethically made solutions. Every person buying Mifuko’s products is taking part in this positive cycle.
This March we share the stories of all women that we get inspired by.
Want to see all the available Mifuko products? Check them out here.