Between stitches, there are smiles, songs, and conversations. Without leaving their environments and without affecting their culture or lifestyle, the women of the Maasai community have learned about fashion, manufacturing processes and quality control systems. They are very meticulous with their embroidery, and each decorated piece of leather reflects the tribe’s strength, their colors and their identity.
Today, more than 1,000 women participate in the Maasai Project earning a stable salary – something that up until now had been reserved exclusively for the men. But most importantly, the work they are doing allows them to preserve their culture and lifestyle, and as a result of the income they receive, more than 1,000 Maasai families can access basic needs such as education, food, and medicine.
He was born about 40 years ago during a rainy season, and since his years of childhood, his journey has revealed him to be one born to pursue a great goal, to fill an essential role: to help his people and to preserve the Maasai culture, while adapting to modern times.
He grew up in a very poor family and worked hard ever since he was a child to pay for his mother’s hospitalization. He would walk for miles all the way to Narok (a Maasai city) in order to buy beads for the Maasai women to make their handicrafts.
His bead business grew until he was able to buy himself a bicycle, help his mother with her illness, and be able to go to Nairobi – the capital of Kenya – to ask for help for his community.
He persevered for ten years, traveling to the big city, talking with tourists, businessmen, and organizations, until one day he met Rosa Escandell – the President of ADCAM – and saw a gleam of hope.
William had always believed in unusual purposes for the Maasai men, in women’s right to own property, that girls should not marry before the age of 18, that women were the cornerstone of the community and should be involved in decision-making, and that the Maasai people should have financial income from sources other than that of the tourist industry. But above all, he has always been proud of who he is.
These beliefs are what have made William a leader. He has been concerned with conveying his ideas to the warriors in order to change these issues; and he has done it with patience and from within, while always maintaining respect for his culture and the Maasai community values.
Today, his efforts are being rewarded. He is the true drive behind the Maasai Project.
Education, health, women, and micro-credits are this association’s priorities; it promotes actions to be taken with regard to these issues, and to work on the root of problems suffered by disadvantaged towns, helping them to develop and evolve in line with their own values.
In this sense, Kenya is very much in ADCAM’s spotlight – particularly the Maasai Mara region, where the Maasai tribe is seriously threatened and declared in danger of extinction, according to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Rosa Escandell, President of ADCAM, is a woman with vast experience in opening channels of trade between co-operatives in southern countries and those in markets of the developed world. It was she who first contacted Pikolinos and proposed the possibility of launching this project with the Maasai community. ADCAM would be in charge of supervising all on-site production logistics, as well as supporting all the communication activity required to promote this initiative on a global scale in order to heighten awareness of how social responsibility can be applied within the world of fashion.
For a Maasai native, to have a good heart, respect for nature, and take good care of your community are the most important values in life – values that sometimes are forgotten in the Western world.
Most of the Maasai women who collaborate with the Pikolinos Project have needs such as drinking water, medicine and money to pay for their children’s education. Today, with this initiative and thanks to the stable income that they receive from Pikolinos, these needs are being met. We can all contribute to this project and help more than 1,000 Maasai families continue to have reasons to smile; we can all keep building a better world together.
Because we believe a better world is possible.
Another World is possible
Maasai Project ambassador
Olivia Palermo, the internationally renowned fashion icon, is Pikolinos’ Maasai Project ambassador for another year running. Right from the start the model got herself involved, stemming from a strong belief in this project, which has now become a well-known standard in sustainable fashion.
Our ambassador traveled all the way to Kenya, where she met and spent time with the Maasai women and became friends with William, the tribe’s leader. Olivia is committed to this project and believes in sustainable fashion and in improving the quality of life of the Maasai community. On this basis, she will represent the image of Pikolinos’ most special collection for another year running.
As a result, we have a very special collection of sandals that reflect the Maasai essence, with the colors and designs characteristic of that community.
Some fashion bloggers from Japan have visited the new Pikolinos PopUp-Store at Sony Building in Tokyo. They have posed with William Kikanae and the maasai collection. In this way, Pikolinos lands in Japan with this concept store where everybody can know more about the maasai project during the week.
Olivia Palermo, ambassador for Pikolinos' Maasai project, had the leading role at the event for presenting the collection. Along with William Kikanae, Maasai community leader and representative for the ADCAM Mara Vision Project, she presented to the media the project that has, for the last five years, been successfully improving the quality of life of the tribe.