Functional Elegance

Chibani Leather empowers the marginalized
Before Eden Gelan launched Chiban Leather in September 2015, she worked as a consultant in the leather sector, spending her days in tanneries and manufacturing companies. Previously, she had worked in the world of handcrafts where many of the workers came from marginalized backgrounds. 
 
Her goal, as she stated in an email, was to bring Ethiopian leather to the marketplace and create employment opportunities with a fair living wage to vulnerable people in Ethiopia. “Ethiopia has the biggest livestock population in Africa, but only a handful of manufacturers reach the international market. Moreover, many marginalized men and women who go through countless rehabilitation programs are unable to find jobs. Coupling our passion to empower people along with bridging the industry gap was our inspiration.”
 
The artisans she’s hired come from rehabilitation centers who were formerly sex workers and homeless street children. Training consists of teaching employees how to cut and piece together the leather handbags and wallets the company manufactures.
 
The design process starts from Chiban's own local and international designers as well as from the company’s  clients who prefer their own designs. Before proceeding to production, Chiban creates prototype samples and gets confirmation from the clients. “Once we purchase the raw materials, the production starts which includes splitting, skiving, cutting and brand stamping. Then follows stitching of the bags. The finishing process includes cutting and burning off threads and polishing. In the quality control stage, we carefully check whether each finished bag meets our standards. Finally, we pack and get the bags ready for shipment,” Gelan explained. 
 
Like many new business ventures, Chiban has had its share of successes and disappointments. The  biggest success thus far has been able to cross borders and reach out to the international market in a relatively short period of time and delivering orders promptly. On the other hand, many of their fair trade customers make small custom orders that reduces Chiban’s production efficiency and overall output. 
 
Gelan hopes that attending NY NOW’s Artisan Resource from February 5-8 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City will bring in new customers with larger orders that she can bring back to her production team in Addis Ababa.  The current collection to be shown includes the women’s line consisting of beautifully made totes, handbags, cross body bags, wallets, makeup bags, and clutched. The men's line includes their renowned messenger bags, shaving kit bags and elegant wallets.
 
To view the products and for more information visit www.chibanleather.com. 
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