Creativity for a Cause with Komai

Five years ago, Sydney girl Amelia Reid and California girl Katelyn Faith met in Australia. In November 2011 they started setting up Komai “a social business driven by creativity for a cause”. Billabout caught up with the duo to talk about their future business plans to unite the worlds of sustainability and creativity and the talented people within them.

What does Komai stand for?
Komai is built on the idea of collaborating (‘Ko’) for a new beginning (‘mai’ – May; the month of spring). We’re trying to create a fresh perspective by combining all of these people that you would never normally put in the same room to do something good for the world. We call ourselves “the creative lens for sustainable ideas, design, and inspiration”.

Can you break down the business for us?
Everything we do is about linking creativity with sustainability. We recently launched our website that includes a boutique marketplace of high-quality sustainable products, and a magazine that tells the stories of creative people and projects that have ‘do-good’ foundations. At the core of our social business we design and implement our own sustainable development projects through bringing together grass-root organisations and creative talent. Our first project, Komai Music, is a music education program for children in Malawi which we are currently running a crowdfunding campaign for. You can get involved and support at www.indiegogo.com/komaimusic.

We wrote a story about a really cool little organization called “A Peace Treaty” that two girls – Farah Malik who is Libyan Jew and Dana Arbib who is Muslim from Pakistan – got together and make these really awesome scarves. They’re made in Brooklyn and their model is very sustainable with fair trade products, and the dyes they use are eco-friendly. They’re pretty much saying “we can work together as people of different religious backgrounds and create eco-friendly products”. And we have launched our music project that we speak about in this video:

Komai Music from Komai on Vimeo.

How do you evaluate who’s the right fit?
The Komai marketplace currently carries nine designers, ranging from male and female fashion and accessories as well as home décor. We want to make sure with every product we carry, the designer is promoted in the light they deserve and our audience is aware of the authentic stories behind their purchases. This is hard to find in today’s fast-fashion retail industry and we want to provide a very authentic and transparent option to our audience to move away from this.

All products sold through our marketplace adhere to strict sustainable and creative criteria. Each designer carried consciously tries to reduce waste and use recycled and/or upcycled materials when possible. The designers based in developed countries produce their products through small, local manufacturing channels with sound environmental practices. The designers who partner with artisans in developing nations do so in a highly ethical manner. Through producing designs with local artisans, they are creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged people and providing them with fair and livable wages.

Who is your favourite client?
FOCHTA, it’s the most beautiful organization run by this 72-year-old Honkanese (Hong Kong/Japanese background) Australia ex-photographer. He worked for Médecins Sans Frontières and he went to Malawi where he started providing kids secondary schooling and income generating activities for their grandmothers. Some 23% of people in the area suffer from HIV/AIDS so there are a generation of mothers and dads that have been wiped out, Malawi’s the 9th poorest country in the world and 95% of people don’t have electricity. We want to implement a long term music program and add value to FOCHTA’s programs.

Is it just the two of you?
Yes it is! However, we have a long list of people who have collaborated with us so far, including photographers, fashion stylists, musicians and writers! You can see them at http://komai.co/collaborators/.

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