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’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:

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One response to “Maiyet

  1. Sorry to say it but from the communication point of view it’s really weak – after watching the video I had no idea what products/services it advertises and the story didn’t make me want to search for more information (I did it only out of professional curiosity but again I didn’t stay on their website for more than a couple of seconds). It’s good that they tried to make a lifestyle ad instead of trying to make people engage out of feeling guilty but it lacks the story: why it’s special, why it’s worth remembering? A person that never visited any African country won’t even know it’s Kenya.
    Communication is a complicated profession, especially when it concerns presenting social issues. I wonder if the real problem is not Maiyet (or other fair trade companies) but the promotion branch which copies usual solutions instead of developing new ones. Seems what’s needed now is not just more social enterprises but SamaAd – an PR/ad agency that would change the communication of social issues 🙂

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