In my search for beautiful and useful homeware items, I stumbled across Spaza. Perusing the online shop, I immediately fell in love with the beautiful designs, colors and materials being used. It would have been so easy to fill up my digital shopping basket with one of everything, but as time has taught me, you can’t take anything at face value. Too many times I have seen an item that looked wonderful only to end up disappointed when I find out its made somewhere that abuses its workers, is made with horrendous chemicals, and due to the poor quality will end up in a landfill shortly. This put me on a sleuthing hunt to find out more because as an enlightened consumer I want my choices to create demand for a better world.
As it turned out I didn’t have to go far to read up on their home website. Every product I looked up was made with eco friendly materials like cotton. As a composter, I am a fan of materials that I know when they end their lifecycle it will be able to break down and go back to the earth. To add to the already beautiful designs was another detail that made me smile. Spaza products are made by women who work from home and are often faced with some very challenging social situations in several communities within the southern parts of Africa. Conveniently, Spaza sells through both their online website and Etsy for US and worldwide shipments.
I found myself inspired to know more about the creator of Spaza. Who is this woman stepping up with such great initiatives in a world where that is not as frequent as it should be. I reached out across the world via email and was honored to have the very creative and kind creator Julia Schaffer reply to my request for an interview.
|Q: Julia, I know you have a background in fashion design and hat manufacturing. What was it that first inspired you to go in the direction of creating products for modern day living?|
A: My Grandmother used to hand-knit these fantastic kitchen cloths in Canada. Living in South Africa with small children I really wished I had these cloths. My Grandma sent me a sample and her pattern. I had the idea that it could be a great home based job creation program for women living in challenging circumstances. I was further motivated when I discovered that South Africa grew and processed its own cotton yarn.
Q: What inspires you when you design something new?
A: My ideas always come to me as I go about my daily tasks. They come from a need – the mother of invention.
Q: Are all your products produced in Cape Town, South Africa?
A: Yes…..however, some products are made in Johannesburg and Windhoek, Namibia.
Q: How did you end up involving woman in challenging social conditions to help produce your products?
A: I have worked in traditional manufacturing facilities before and often thought that there must be a happier way.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit on how that has shifted and changed their lives?
A: I think besides the having an income, it has also uplifted their social positions in the community and families. The ladies who are busy working from home have become role models for their children and others.
Q: Was there a particular event or moment that made you say “This is it. This is the path I want to take!”? Or have you always felt this was the direction you would eventually go?
A: That’s a great question. I recently remembered that when I was a young struggling fashion designer I used to look at street people and think I should gather them together and teach them to sew:)
Q: What keeps you motivated to continue the work that you do?
A: The idea that I could do so much more keeps me motivated and I get a lot of exuberance from our customers enthusiasm.
Q: As a consumer yourself, what key principles do you think people should factor in when purchasing items for themselves and their homes?
A: Does it provide an easy, economical and convenient solution to a need? What is it made of? How long will it last in life and in death?
Q: Lastly, What do we get to look forward to next:) Are there other items to look forward to this year not yet available?
A: I have a head full of ideas and my studio is pretty packed too. Lots of great stuff to come!
We need more Julia Schaffers in the world, but until then go visit Spaza Store and support a business doing some good in all walks of life and in your home!