ITC and Swazi designers at Maison&Objet
ITC's Alliances for Action partners exhibited at Maison&Objet Paris 2023 to build commercial spaces for its Eswatini network of artisans and designers.
The Kingdom of Eswatini – formerly known as Swaziland – has a rich tradition of arts and crafts and a highly skilled community of artisans. Today, some bold designers and artists are seeking to fuse these assets with a sustainable culture and a modern edge in interior design and homewares.
Pitching these products to the EU market could help businesses access international clients and breathe new life - and jobs - into Eswatini’s artisan and crafts communities.
Luis Miguel Pascoal works with EU Delegation in Eswatini to develop the private sector. He is eager to see Eswatini stand out for its originality and artisan craftsmanship on the EU market.
“Craft integration into a vast market such as the EU is critical. It’s a sector that is crucial to local job creation and poverty alleviation because it represents family businesses and micro, small, and medium enterprises, including under-represented groups such as youth, women entrepreneurs, and people living with disabilities,” he said.
Maison&Objet is a bi-annual fair that covers objects for the home as well as high-end interior products. This year’s January show in Paris brought in 64,000 professional visitors, and more than 3,000 exhibiting brands from 64 different countries - a buzzing ecosystem of designers, talents, events, talks, and services.
The crowd attending was international, with EU-wide attendance and high representation from renown overseas design destinations like Japan and the United States.
Bringing Swazi art and homewares to international interior design lovers
This year, Swazi designers and artisans showcased their products there with support from the EU, ITC, and the Eswatini Government. They were represented by dynamic local enterprises JEREMPAUL and Yebo Art Gallery.
JEREMPAUL is dedicated to honouring and preserving the essence of Swazi traditions through art, design, food and community. They presented collections of one-of-a-kind pieces made from raw materials celebrating local traditions and principles through a contemporary lens.
Yebo! is a contemporary art gallery and design studio that uses the arts as a vehicle for positive social change. They presented art and décor items that communicated messages on themes like youth engagement, climate change, human rights and freedom of expression.
Committed to their local communities of artisans, they also showcased products from two women cooperatives; Indzaba Yami and Siyaphambili, in efforts to raise the profile of Eswatini’s designs on a global stage.
All these enterprises are part of ITC’s Alliances for Action sustainable agribusiness initiative and the recipients of the joint EU-ITC project, Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances, which seeks to boost jobs, business and artisan skills in the country and support small enterprises.
It also seeks to promote export-led growth, especially through the full utilization of a trade deal known as the Southern African Development Community-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (SADC-EU EPA).
A valuable space for dialogue and growth
It was the first time these companies participated in the Parisian fair. Their stand was in the ‘Unique and Eclectic’ section, the designated area for ethnic crafts from outside the EU. It stood out with its edgy mix of authentic local crafts and original design with modern elegance.
JEREMPAUL Director Khulekani Msweli said the trade show was an important learning curve and helped secure a couple of sales leads.
“Being a part of this has been an amazing opportunity and the feedback on our work incredibly positive. Sharing the meaning, culture and communities behind our designs with international buyers was important and energizing. We also learned a lot from other experienced exhibitors,” he said.
The companies were able to evaluate how their products fit into the EU market and assess which products fare better. They also took away valuable lessons on current design trends, pricing patterns and how other African companies do business in Europe and deal with distributors, shipment and other logistics.
About the project
The Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances' project, funded by the European Union, supports job creation for small farmers, entrepreneurs and artisans. Eswatini offers the global market unique organic produce, artisan roasted coffee, handmade cultural creations and gourmet condiment lines. ITC’s Alliances for Action sustainable agribusiness initiative works closely with smallholder farmers, agro-processors and artisans in Eswatini to support them in ways that are sustainable and benefit both people and the planet. In this way, ITC fosters and preserves cultural heritage, and draws on artisan skills and concepts of green growth.