All our products are woven from indigenous grasses, cane, river reeds, creepers and of course ilala palm, baked in the sun of sub-Saharan Africa. We love the unbleached natural tones and rustic informality of our collection as it offers a softness and balance to any interior scheme and hints at that all-important connection to nature. Our collection is personally sourced and brought to you by our passionate team.
We champion the warmth and wonder in the wonky, valuing imperfect beauty over the superficially perfect. Our collection is sewn, watered, harvested, dried, dyed, woven and plaited by hand and every piece therefore has its own character and charm. No two pieces are the same and we love the bumps and bends which form as part of the natural weaving process, giving our collection beautiful irregularity.
We reinvent traditional woven ware for the modern home by converting grain gourds to lamps and by adding bespoke details to match individual tastes. For example, we play with flashes of colour against the natural palm, adding a quirkiness and the unexpected to our collection. We love that our natural irregular forms find space and function well in contemporary contexts.
Ilala takes pride in supporting rural, African, weaving communities, particularly women, enabling them to gain financial independence. In real terms this means education for the next generation and in the case of one group, the building of a brick sun shelter, crucial respite from the relentless African sun (and rains). We meet and work with all of our weavers, where possible, and look forward to meeting more. We regularly perform logistical gymnastics and overcome the challenges of rural Africa to bring authentic beauty to a wider audience.
This story began 20 years ago whilst criss-crossing southern and east Africa, where I had a taster of the abundant, rich, cultural traditions. I spent most of my working life working in interior design, where I often veered towards the natural, the textured, the pared down. I have since been reintroduced to the to the wonderfully wonky woven wares of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Malawi and Matabeleland, Zimbabwe and I seek to bring the raw rustic beauty and unexpected energy of handmade, natural pieces to interior spaces and environments, through ILALA. Today, my team and I personally source handwoven furniture and baskets from these rural sub-Saharan communities. Everything in the ILALA catalogue is woven from organic ilala palm, river reeds, grasses, cane, grain stalks and creepers. In fact they are so organic that we often find traces of sun-baked mud on arrival in the UK. The grasses reflect the particular climate, topography and ecology of each region, and the distinct patterns and styles express traditional craftsmanship and cultural heritage of the communities that weave them.
By sourcing and distributing these beautifully handcrafted homewares, we help communities maintain their rich weaving tradition, where local people take great pride in ancient skills. We also help the local ladies to have a life outside their homes and to gain financial independence. The money they earn from weaving goes back into the weaving communities. The ILALA family is a rich tapestry of many threads, woven together with passion to bring you pieces that are authentic, personal and beautiful.
Ilala is delighted to be supporting CAMFED, Campaign For Female Education, an international non-profit organisation tackling poverty and inequality by supporting marginalised girls to go to school. The CAMFED network reaches 6,220 partner schools in Zimbabwe, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.
As Olivia Reeves, Senior Development Associate at CAMFED says: “We’re so delighted that Ilala is supporting CAMFED, and in so doing, is helping us to tackle the most urgent issues of our time: girls’ exclusion from education, and climate change. It is wonderful to work with Miranda, who is so committed to ensuring that the women weavers she works with are duly recognised and supported”
Investing in female education is widely recognised as the most effective way to alleviate poverty and address societal inequality. Investing in the next generation of African female farmers is vital in mitigating against the impact of climate change, building resilience to climatic shocks, and producing healthier, wealthier communities.
CAMFED – enables girls living in sub-Saharan Africa to realise their right to an education and supports their transition after school into economic independence and to step up as leaders of change in their communities. Increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather in Sub-Saharan Africa is resulting in more frequent droughts and floods. Women in rural Africa are the first to feel the effects of climate change as they struggle to cultivate the land in these conditions to produce enough to feed their families. Climate change is therefore compounding the resource gap that women farmers have long faced compared to men. Our Agriculture Guide programme supports aspiring or early stage agriculture entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, through a combination of training and mentoring, along with access to high quality tools and materials, advice and affordable technologies that support improved productivity and climate-smart approaches. This builds their resilience to climate change, and supports women to create businesses that grow food, jobs and opportunities at scale for whole communities.
Ilala supports CAMFED’s agricultural guide programme, and is inspired by women like Clarah Zinyama. She was once on the verge of dropping out of primary school, but received a CAMFED bursary. CAMFED supported her through secondary school too, and on to complete her degree at the Women’s University in Africa in Harare. In 2014, Clarah attended a bespoke course on sustainable agriculture at EARTH University in Costa Rica, developed in partnership with CAMFED. This helped her to launch and grow her business, using the climate-smart techniques that she learnt. As part of CAMFED’s agricultural guide programme, Clarah shares on her knowledge to others in her community so that they apply this to their businesses. She’s the CAMA Chair for Zimbabwe (53,000 members as at July 2019), and sits on CAMFED Zimbabwe’s Board – making decisions which are impactful to people’s lives in her community and country.
Clarah is one of a large network of CAMFED’s alumnae, who recently won the UN Global Climate Action Award – for their potential to scale effective action on climate change! Recipients of this UN Award represent some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change.
For more information on CAMFED, visit their website https://camfed.org