This column has really shown us a broad range of incredible companies making the world a better place. Some donate to charities and work remotely with local workers while others, like Elkarti work hands-on with people in need to better their lives.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Ahmed Abidine is a Moroccan designer and the founder of Elkarti and is bringing traditional Moroccan craftsmanship to contemporary men’s and women’s bags (and doing a very good job at it!). Since 2011 he has been working with artisans in Morocco utilizing high quality Moroccan leather processed in traditional chemical free tanneries. His family has a tradition of designing and he named the company after his mother’s maiden name. As he explained to us, “My mother used to design traditional Moroccan clothing. Also my grandfather designed leather sandals and I worked at his leather bazaar at the markets of Marrakech. Working and growing up there, I established strong ties with Moroccan artisans and learned about leather craftsmanship.”
His social mission is to preserve and develop Moroccan artistry sustainably. Elkarti is donating 1/3 of their profit to programs that support education and business development of artisans. To take this process another step, Ahmed has partnered with the Deaf Artisan Group of Marrakech to produce his simple, well made leather bags. Ahmed has aided the group in literacy and business education to help these great artisans to succeed. The group was founded by a woman named Souad who learned the art of leather craftsmanship from her husband, a renowned artisan.
The men’s collection has a tight little capsule group of messengers, satchels and totes. The brown leather is achieved by a process of applying vegetable oil during tanning, and the black is hand painted from natural pigments sourced from the Atlas mountains of Morocco. The travel bags are equally masculine and we are fans of the colorful linings in the range. If you really want to set yourself apart go for the Berber Travel Satchel crafted with one-of-a-kind Berber Kilims woven by Berber women in the Atlas Mountains. The designs are reminiscent of Berber tattoos that relate the persons tribe.
Looking forward, Ahmed is working with University Caddy Ayad in Marrakech (the top university in Morocco) to establish a social entrepreneurship program providing resources to entrepreneurs in Morocco. He hopes to achieve international visibility and connect them with different micro funding programs available in the US. Stay tuned and start shopping.
Elkarti’s men’s line is in pre-sale stages only and will roll out in March.