TEXT: TONIA MARIE HARRIS
At age sixteen Anthony Mulli countered boredom with the discovery of traditional Kenyan beadwork. He is the young beadwork designer behind Katchy Kollections, a company that serves a pay-it-forward ethic and creates beautiful accessories and homeware that defy conventional African design.
Anthony’s mother, Jennifer Mulli, was a widow with four children when she founded Katchy Kollections. She worked in collaboration with her children beginning in 2005, working from a back room in their own home. The young man took inspiration in modernizing traditional African motifs. Jennifer, one of a small minority of Kenyan woman to have graduated secondary school, worked as a secretary in the Nairobi office of the United States Agency for International Development. Within two years, the small company expanded its range of products and met with its other goal- to provide employment to the largely unskilled, uneducated, and undervalued local women.
With few jobs but laundry and child care available to them, these women walked to the Mulli household and were paid not by the hour, but by the piece. Though this meant low and varied wages for a time, it provided the women of Nairobi, Kenya with hours they could manage around their children and new skill sets. The Mulli family provided them with respect and safe working conditions.
Jennifer realized the foundling company was a pivot point for the dreams of her family and the disadvantaged women. The single mom faced gendered restrictions in a country where it’s prevalent for a man to cosign on a loan. Expanding her company base allowed room for financial growth and gave them the resources they needed to further empower women. She resigned from her job in 2011 to become the company’s manager. Her son heads sources and marketing while her daughters handle the accounting and human resources divisions. Soon, the expansion included a move. Because public transportation is expensive and inconvenient in Nairobi, they found a place close enough for their employees, some of them homeless, to continue walking to work.
Katchy Kollections continues to be inspired by this heritage and values traditional African skills and knowledge, believing that the workmanship is as powerful a tribute to the company and its buyers as the product itself. Though some pieces are mass-produced, much of the bead color and patterns vary by design. Each piece represents a weaving of culture and heritage. Each piece, though delicately designed, is uncommonly durable. These are handmade accessories made by women coming into their own for women who want to meet the next trajectory in their own personal revolution.
Katchy Kollections will be exhibiting their line of accessories and homewares at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City from February 5-8.
For more information, or to purchase these remarkable products, please visit http://shopkatchykollections.co