This lockdown has not been easy for any of us. Spending time away from family, having to work from home, and not being able to go out to eat. This isn’t just an issue for us, as the effects of the pandemic have been felt worldwide. This includes the countries where our fantastic artisans are based. The effects have been varied, as different countries have put in place different restrictions on travelling, working, and sending their products internationally. We’d like to share with you all some of the experiences that artisans in the industry are going through during these difficult times.
Ethical Jewellery Making In India
The majority of our jewellery, such as our earrings, rings and bracelets, is made by artisans across India, particularly Shabnam and her collective in Jaipur, Rajasthan. India has had one of the harshest lockdowns, with the large population and high population density posing quite a high risk for a pandemic spread.
India’s outbreaks have mostly been centred on major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai, so fortunately our artisans haven’t been too directly affected. However, curfews and stay-at-home orders have really disrupted supply chains across the country, not just for our artisans but for businesses across the country.
Jaipur specifically has had quite a bit of back and forth over lockdown guidelines, the general theme has been a strict lockdown. Even now, as we in the UK are slowly exiting the lockdown, Jaipur and Rajasthan State are still very much locked down. Shops, schools, and even public transport are still shut to the public.
With many of the members of the artisan collective no longer able to commute to the workshops, it has been a struggle for our artisans to get together and create their beautiful jewellery. However, the team has been able to work through it. With lockdown measures across India being slowly lifted, and being switched over for stricter safety and hygiene guidelines to ensure safety even after lockdown.
Leather Bag Hand Production in Morocco
Morocco was one of the first nations to go into full lockdown, having shut down the country in late March, and so have been lucky enough to already relax restrictions everywhere except for major cities. This does however affect our artisans, as Omar, one of our artisans who designs and produces our leather bags, is based in Fes, Morocco’s second largest city.
The artisans have been able to restart some production, as businesses have been able to get back to it so long as they take health precautions. It is only large gatherings that are still banned, like concerts, weddings, and fans at sports events. The issues have mostly been involving getting materials from the countryside to the workshop in the city, as to travel between provinces you need an exceptional moving permit, which is usually only granted to people with essential trips to make. The team has been doing all they can to make sure they are able to continue working to support their families and their community through this time, and we’re so glad to be able to help them.
Seagrass Basket Handcraftmanship In Vietnam
Similarly to Omar in Fes, our basket-weaving artisans in Vietnam are based in a major city. Specifically Hanoi, the capital city. Vietnam was very much on the ball with lockdown measures, shutting down travel from other countries almost immediately. It is through this incredibly proactive measure that Vietnam actually had 0 Covid-19 deaths throughout the entire pandemic. Hanoi was able to reopen businesses in late April, and the city has more-or-less returned to some sense of normal.
The main struggle has been getting the beautiful bags and baskets out of Vietnam. While flights and trade within Vietnam has been able to recover, exporting and importing has been much more difficult to get back into business with. With new arrivals from Vietnam not required to self-isolate in the UK, we do hope that a safe return to pre-pandemic shipping is not too far off the cards.
Hammam Towel Weaving In Turkey
Our fourth and final destination on this little trip is Turkey, where Kadir and his colleagues weave our fantastic hammam towels from ethically sourced materials. Kadir’s is a family business, having been started by his late grandmother weaving towels by hand. It’s a little more high-tech nowadays, but the mills that Kadir uses still create exquisite pieces.
Turkey has not been hit too harshly by lockdown measures, rather the government has been very strict with mask-wearing and social distancing to keep the infection numbers low. Sourcing materials and keeping workers in hasn’t been too much of an issue for Kadir, and keeping all the staff safe has been right at the top of all our priorities. Turkey is beginning to open itself back up to the world, but the safety measures remain strongly in place.
Thank You From Harfi And Our Artisans
We’d like to thank you all for continuing to support us through what have been difficult times for people across the world. We hope that our work has been able to support our artisans and customers too, and that communities across the world have been able to come together and support each other.