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Quazi Design: Making Magazines Matter

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Quazi Design Sold at Postcards Home

There's nothing better than when design and social impact go hand in hand to create pieces of purpose that look good and do good. We believe that design has the power to uplift a community and employ and empower, with zero cost to the environment, which is why we've become super inspired of late by the wonderful work of Quazi Design

Based in The Kingdom of Swaziland, Quazi Design is a creative social enterprise that is transforming the mountains of discarded waste magazines and newspapers from the region into unique accessories and home decor pieces. It is run by Doron, a designer from the UK who works collaboratively with local artisans.

The Making Process of Quazi Design

Illustration of the making process, courtesy of Quazi Design

We've seen a shift in the UK from flickable magazines to keepable 'bookazines', but in Swaziland magazines are still incredibly popular, making recycling them into a key environmental issue.

Quazi Design products start their life as trees, which are made into magazines, and then cut up by hand and crafted into unique pieces to continue their story.

Necklace from Quazi Design - Sold at Postcards Home

Heritage Collection Necklace, image courtesy of Quazi Design

The handcraft sector in Swaziland is thriving, which acts as a powerful example to all of Africa of the positive impact of design. Every Quazi Design product is handmade by local women, employing and empowering them through skill sharing so that they can earn a living wage. On average, women will spend up to 90% of their wages on health, nutrition and education, so this employment has a positive impact across the community. 

Quazi Design is a founding member of SWIFT, Swaziland Fair Trade, and are active advocates for fair trade principles.

The Kingdom of Swaziland

Image of Swaziland, courtesy of Quazi Design

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a stunning landlocked country covering 17,364 square kilometres of magnificent mountains in the south-eastern corner of Africa.  Three quarters of its area is bordered by South Africa and one quarter by Mozambique.

With a population of just over one million, about 78.9% residing in rural areas, the unemployment rate is about 37.1 per cent and life-expectancy is 49 years. 

Swaziland is a place where kings still rule relatively supreme and tribal traditions remain strong.

We spoke to Doron to find out more: 

What motivated you to start Quazi Design?

I was an intern at Gone Rural which inspired me hugely. I spent an amazing year working and learning about product development in a handcraft business and seeing first hand the challenges but also the immense impact a project like that could have. The combination of design, hard work, empowerment, business and sustainability got me hooked and I wanted to continue down that road…and a chance meeting with one of the magazine distributors, Anthony, and we came up with the idea of Quazi, he would supply the magazines and some finance and I would provide my hard work! 

Can you talk us through the design and production process?

All our products are made by hand at our workshop in Mbabane which I set up. Each artisan has their own desk space and we have a silversmith area, a pulp area and a grinding area for production. All products are laid to dry outside in the sun and varnished outside in the sun so we rely on the weather for production. The designs are mainly my ideas of how we can push the medium of paper into something original. I love it when people exclaim “it doesn’t look like paper” and the whole process of coming up with new designs is very organic, by trial and error and lead by the raw materials we have locally available. 

What part of your job do you enjoy most?

The creative side! Playing around in the studio, trying new techniques and making samples. 

Why do you think it's so important that people support independent design and ethical production?

Ethical fashion actually makes a massive difference. Nobody should underestimate what a positive social impact fair trade and ethical production actually has on the people that make these products. I can see how our artisans have grown, gained confidence, become decision makers in their lives and supported their families and sent their children to school, all because of financial and social gains. The main reason we exist is to create employment and that’s why its important to support independent and ethical production. Plus, we really are a little community at Quazi and have become a family. 

You've lived all around the world! What's been your biggest adventure?

Although I am now back in the UK for a few years Swaziland is in my heart and in my veins. That place is very special and the adventures I have had there will stay with me forever. I was there for a long time and feel that the rewards for all the hard work was just that – an amazing adventure. Endless nature, swimming in rivers, hikes over mountains, freedom and creativity. Life is a struggle for many people in Swaziland and it's a humbling and real experience. 

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