I’ve been following Maiyet, a new luxury company that takes artisan trade to the next level, for the last two years. The model is an iteration on the fair trade concept, and part of a wave of for-profit social enterprises that aim to do well by doing good. Taking aside the challenges with said aim, Maiyet’s execution is spot-on. Most non-profit fair trade artisan brands, while admirably focused on social impact, have notoriously poor design and limited appeal to high-end consumers, putting a ceiling on their growth prospects (see: 10,000 Villages and even Overstock.com’s Fair Trade division).
I see few obstacles to Maiyet hitting the $100M mark within the next decade, per founder Paul van Zyl’s ambition. But I wonder if it’s possible to get there without perpetuating unfortunate stereotypes about the countries where Maiyet sources its goods. A recent mini-film produced via a collaboration with filmmaker Cary Fukunaga is gorgeous, but an awkward throwback to “Out of Africa” in more ways than one. Some of the lines made me cringe. On the other hand, if the video helps Maiyet sell more product and help more Kenyan artisans, does the social benefit outweigh the cost?
Check it out for yourself: