Everything She Wants has a thing for jewelry and accessories, especially when they benefit a worthy cause. So allow me to introduce Harkiss Designs, created by Harriet Zaffoni. The 38-year-old native of Uganda started her company as a way to assist Rwandan women, many of whom have HIV/AIDS or are victims of gender-based violence and single-handedly provide for their families.
Everything She Wants: How did you become an accessories designer?
|Harriet Zaffoni of Harkiss Designs.|
Harriet Zaffoni: I fell in love with East African accessories and started by improving on the original ones to make sure they met the North American market standards. And boom, I started designing my own.
ESW: Why did you start your company, Harkiss Designs?
HZ: Because of my love of fashion, African colors and fabric, I saw that there was potential for me to empower East African women through fashion. That's how Harkiss Designs was created.
ESW: Where does the jewelry you sell come from?
HZ: The jewelry I sell is mostly designed by me in collaboration with a Kenyan artisan named Stephen Mwangi. He brings my designs and ideas to life.
ESW: What is the jewelry made from?
HZ: The jewelry is made from various African materials such as banana fiber, Masai beads, semi-precious stones, metal, coffee beans, sisal, coconut seeds, white art stone and others indigenous to the East African region.
|Harkiss Designs' jewelry and sandals./Photos by Tracy E. Hopkins|
ESW: Tell me more about the charitable benefit to your business?
HZ: At this time, I employ more than 200 women part time in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. Each particular project is allocated to a county and most of the people working on my designs are women. I sell sandals, bags and wallets [in addition to] the jewelry, and each category has a its own group and country that brings the designs to life. After the sales, 20% goes to two foundations: Support HIV/AIDS Rwanda (SHIVR) and Lend A Hand Uganda, which helps to get displaced and orphaned children off the street.