I created PagaBags, an ethical eco-fashion brand of handbags and accessories, in partnership with women artisan weavers in September 2013. “Paga” means “woman” in Mooré, the local language of Ouagadougou, Burkina’s capital.
Our first material was a combination of cotton woven with threads of recycled plastic. This unique material was perfect for our intentions.
In 2015, when Burkina banned plastic bag, we were thrilled despite the direct impact it would have on our label and our system of production. In the wake, we decided to convert to using 100% cotton for our bags. To safeguard employment, we our plastic cutters were taught how to weave and and our plastic collectors were taught how to make traditional bracelets that we call "Smile Bracelets" !
During this conversion, we undertook research and development in the technique of “Bogolan”. Bogolan is a traditional know-how that uses plants to create dyes that are hand-painted onto cloth. With Bogolan, we not only preserve the environment but we also promote an age-old technique that is being threatened in Burkina with the arrival of chemical dyes (quicker and cheaper)!
Since this year, we have also been working with Batik Bio Deco in creating Batik prints on our cloth Faso Danfani and also on light-weight cotton Bazin cloth from Mali. I love the amazing Batik prints created with both sponges and wooden stamps plunged into melted wax creating the design. The Veolia Foundation funded a training program in the use of organic dyes and PagaBags provided professional training in business management. It is my desire to help Batik Bio Deco create markets locally for organic dyed Batik prints and also to help them connect to and develop on International Markets !
All our materials are carefully designed to create beautiful, sturdy and fun to wear bags and accessories that are sustainably made with respect for people and for the planet. I very much hope you love our collection as we do !
Meredyth Bowler Ailloud
Here at PagaBags, each piece is handcrafted with care for people and the planet. These are our two founding principles, and all of our decisions grow from them.
We pay our artisans fairly and organize production schedules with respect for their needs and priorities.
We include the women who work with us in the design process, encouraging participation and creativity.
We provide professional training so that our artisans can take ownership over their workloads and book-keeping. We believe creating shared goals is a key to success.
We offer professional development opportunities for women who wish to move from basic plastic cutting to more advanced weaving.
Health is everything. Since 2016 we have provided our artisans with a mutual health program. But, health is also about prevention. That is why we also work constantly to raise awareness on healthcare and hygiene.
Education is empowering. This is why we sponsor a back-to-school program for the women weavers and plastic cutters. At night school, they learn not only to read and to write, but also discover science and how to do math.
We don’t pollute. Our batik and cotton dyes are non-toxic, our bogolan dyes are natural. The lining of our bags is made of organic cotton and dyes.
Nothing is thrown away, because there is no ‘away’. Creating handmade products sometimes means there are inconsistencies or imperfections; we never refuse a batik, even if there is a slight variation in color or pattern, we never refuse a dyed bale of cotton that is not exactly what we ordered. We value the personality and originality intrinsic to our products.
We are energy-free, because all of our production is done by hand. Weavers use traditional weaving looms and sewers use traditional sewing machines.