What is ZAAGOL?
ZAAGOL is a for-profit online store that offers beautifully designed and intricately handcrafted contemporary home decor products made by artisans in Ethiopia. At ZAAGOL, we blend the rich culture of Ethiopia with contemporary designs to bring cultural diversity. We offer one-of-a-kind decorative pieces that are contemporary, high-quality, and unique.
What does ZAAGOL mean? What does it stand for?
ZAAGOL is an Amharic word for cowrie shells. Traditionally, cowrie shells have been used to decorate women’s hair, neck and clothes in most parts of Ethiopia. Cowrie shells are natural and authentic too. Likewise, just like cowrie shells adorn the women, the brand ZAAGOL also adorns your living space. The brand also represents use of natural and authentic materials to produce its products.
Are all your products handmade?
Yes, all of our products are 100% handmade using locally sourced materials. They are either hand-woven (baskets), hand-loomed (pillows, wall hangings, napkins, table runners, curtains etc.) or hand-sculpted (pottery). [The hand-loomed and sculpted products are still in the development stage]
Why handmade products?
At ZAAGOL we believe that handmade products are a beautiful alternative to mass produced and fabricated products. We appreciate the rich artisanal tradition of making handmade products. We value naturally and locally sourced, beautifully crafted, high-end cultural decorations that have a contemporary twist.
All of our products are produced in Ethiopia, an African nation with a very rich history and culture, full of traditional handcraft skills and artistic expressions. The tradition of making handcrafted goods, from basket weaving to sculpting, hand-looming, and woodcarving, is a craft that has been passed on from generations. At ZAAGOL, we want to celebrate this rich culture and tradition by introducing it to the rest of the world and contribute towards preserving this tradition as modern technology replaces most handicraft skills.
This handicraft industry is also the livelihood of many marginalized artisans and generates employment for hundreds of thousands of artisans. At ZAAGOL, by creating a market for authentic, handmade product, we believe that we can bring a social impact through the creation of sustainable jobs, building of skills and generation of meaningful and sustainable income for the artisans and their families.
Are your products very ethnic or traditional?
By design, our products don’t look very ethnic or traditional. Our goal is to blend this rich tradition of Ethiopia with contemporary designs and lifestyle. Hence, culture meets contemporary! As the go-between guys, our goal is to mediate between traditional handicrafts and a sophisticated global market and to translate these skills into marketable products.
Where are your products made? What does the design process look like?
All our products are designed here in Atlanta, GA. The designs are then sent to the artisans we partner with in Ethiopia. The artisans use their unique skills and personality to translate the designs into beautiful handmade products and bring them to life.
How do you find or reach the artisans you work with?
We partner with reputable local social enterprises and cooperatives in Ethiopia that are already working with local artisans. They are our eyes and ears on the ground and the ones who recruit the artisans.
How do you provide business solutions to poverty?
We believe that businesses are the best solution to alleviate poverty. By engaging people in business they become an integral part of a developing economy rather than becoming dependent on charity. When people have disposable income, whether from wages earned or profits made from selling products, they can afford to eat, educate themselves and their children, have access to proper medical care, live in descent houses etc.
This handicraft industry is the livelihood of many marginalized artisans and generates employment for hundreds of thousands of artisans. Through our partnerships with social enterprises and cooperatives, we believe that we can bring about a social impact by creating a global market for these products and thus creating sustainable jobs, building skills and generating meaningful and sustainable income for the artisans and their families.
Our part at ZAAGOL is to create contemporary designs with global appeal, develop handmade products by utilizing the handicraft skills of Ethiopian artisans, to build brands, and to create a global market for these beautiful products.