Founded in 2012, its name meaning ‘hard work’, KHAMA is an accessories brand built on collaboration between designers, creatives and makers in London and Kasungu, Malawi.
We believe in exceptional design and work with a variety of artisans and makers in our workshop in the town as well as in the surrounding villages to handcraft beautiful, unique items.
The people we work with receive a fair wage, training and the opportunity to become financially independent. Our materials are also sourced locally, which benefits the wider community and further helps to reinvigorate the textiles industry in Malawi.
We strongly believe that trade is a better long term option than aid in developing countries.
KHAMA founder Elaine Burke studied womenswear at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland before moving to London in 2001. Her first job was designing ranges of hats, where she was able to work directly with makers on the factory floor, a close relationship which in turn fed back into her designs.
From here, Elaine worked as a designer and consultant for a number of independent brands and then working with high street clients. Much of this work saw her detached from the actual making, though that changed when she began to work closely with one main supplier in Calcutta, India. Getting back to more hands-on design development was again an inspiring experience.
During this time, Elaine also became involved with Fairtrade projects in India, and artisans in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums in Nairobi, and Kenya. This led her to begin seeking out a project of her own, which would draw on her experience of working direct with makers and challenge the traditional perception of ethically made products. Travelling to Malawi with Khama partner charity MicroEnterprise Africa, she met a sewing group in Kasungu, who now form the core of the company’s team.
“I realised that by tapping into the group’s creativity, introducing design, all kinds of beautiful products could be made,” she says of the early inspiration for the project.