We have been loving the latest additions to our Wedgies (@meetthewedgies) in store over the past few weeks and we've noticed so many of you getting them in for Christmas gifts. There are so many to choose from and with the amazing production and ethos behind the brand, we we're so keen to know more. The team are so clearly dedicated to providing support and opportunity in rural communities. We are really proud to support such a great cause at Frankly.
Hey guys, it's so great to get an insight into the amazing work behind Wedgie! Could you tell us a little bit about how Wedgie began? What were your early inspirations?
Wedgie is a friends-and-family meets Sri Lanka love affair. Original Wedgie founders, Mark & Hayley, first met on the tropical island of Sri Lanka back in 2007. Somewhere in between their 9 years of living (and marrying!) on the island, they met a local fellow called Mahendra. A man who just so happened to own a small wooden craft workshop. The newly engaged couple wanted to craft wedding favors for their guests and came up with the idea of a Mark & Hayley (Bride & Groom) doorstops. They were a hit and so, in 2014, the Wedgie ‘empire’ was born.
With the advantage of being near to where the products were made, this enabled Mark & Hayley to make regular visits to meet the workers, observe working conditions, as well as monitor the quality of hand-carving and hand-painting work in progress. Wedgies chosen supplier has a fine history of working on handicrafts with almost 25 years in the business and is still, to this day, heavily focused on empowering rural communities.
With an eye on the western customer with their pop-culture inspired characters, Wedgie needed another member of the team to push the Wedgie message to the UK side. Cue Daisy, Hayleys old school friend, who joined the team as the last piece of the Wedgie founding jigsaw, in 2015. A UK based warehouse was opened in 2018 to help with distribution, which just so happens to be run by Sue & Mike; otherwise known as Mark’s Mum & Dad.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Wedgie are proud to be a part of the creative ethical shopping movement, a passionate team, all enjoying being a part of this door-stop adventure.
How does the empowerment of rural communities in Sri Lanka influence the work you make? Could you speak a little bit about this work and the positive impact it has on communities?
According to the United Nation, rural areas are home to about 43 per cent of the world’s population and most of the global population living in poverty. Wedgie is proud to be part of an incentive scheme based in Sri Lanka aimed at the empowerment of rural communities. Unpainted door stops are delivered directly to employees’ houses, along with paints, brushes and tools. Once painted and completed, the Wedgies are paid for on collection. This allows people in rural communities the convenience of earning an income whilst going about their daily routines.
It is always very important for us to communicate the hand painted nature of our goods to our stockists and customers. We do not wish to mass produce in a factory, as the heart of our production is inside the rural communities, which means a slower process but we prefer to focus on purpose rather than solely on profit. Wedgie has grown quite significantly this year, which means raising employment opportunities inside these rural communities. It is delightful to know that with our growth, we continue to change lives too.
Alongside this incentive, we also donate 20% of our profits from the sales of the Strong Women collection to the Rosie May Foundation. Rosie May Foundation’s Pink Tuk Tuk project is for single parent mums in rural Sri Lanka. Mums are given pink Tuk Tuks and taught how to be professional Tuk Tuk drivers. This enables them to generate a sustainable income for their families and provide personal safety for women and girls travelling to work or school; women driving women.
How important is sustainability when designing Wedgies?
Sustainability has become a hot topic recently, yet it is something that Wedgie has embraced from the beginning. Our products are made from certified wood and non-toxic paints, plus this year we have been working closely with a Sustainable Business Coach @jadenavega to continually develop better practices. So far, we’ve focused on the packaging materials, the products themselves, how we ship internationally and exploring how we can commit to certain sustainable development goals. We’re very proud with how far we have come and excited to keep learning how to reduce our impact on the environment.
We love all your Wedgies! I think my favourite is your David Bowie design, Major Dave! Do you have a favorite product?
It changes every time we bring out more designs! I love Our Kid at the moment. He's inspired by Liam Gallagher. I think it’s the sulkiness of his character that comes through even as a door stopper. For me it’s always the designs which best encapsulate the character they’re inspired by. There are some ideas we have that just don’t always translate well onto door stops despite how popular the character may be. That’s always a shame when an idea simply doesn’t work.
I’m also a big fan of Planet Greta, who’s inspired by Greta Thunberg. She is a new design and already flying off the shelves! Greta is particularly topical and that’s what adds to her popularity as a Wedgie.
And there are the classics like you mention; Major Dave, inspired by Bowie who is consistently popular. That does mean we’re able to bring our limited edition designs of the same character. We have a limited edition Major Dave available now that takes inspiration from the "Ice Blue" outfit as worn by Davie Bowie in the early 70’s and designed by Freddie Burretti. An iconic image, an iconic outfit, and now… an iconic doorstop.
What are some of your biggest influences when designing Wedgies?
Pop culture, what is happening in the world around us, what we were fans of growing up, what we’re feeling affected by in the world. They are gentle social commentary which I love.
What’s lovely is Mark, Hayley and I all have different interests which helps provide such a range of successful designs. Mark is a music-intellectual so often comes up with our eclectic musician designs, Hayley's our philanthropist and comes up ideas like Planet Greta and Planet Dave, and I am the intersectional-feminist who comes up with the Strong Women and Black and Proud range.
But it’s you, our stockists and our customers are also our biggest inspiration. We have a constant stream of suggestions, some great, some simply bizarre! But always welcome and we always try out the suggestions we are given.
We can't wait to see what you do next, the new Wedgies just keep coming! What are your plans for the future with Wedgie?
Although we are still to officially launch (so this is hot-off-the-press), this year has been the year of charity for Wedgie!
We are extremely excited that we are officially a member of 1% for the Planet. 1% for the Planet was created in 2002 by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Blue Ribbon Flies founder Graig Matthews. Members donate 1% of their annual sales to environmental non-profits. This means that every time you shop with us you are automatically supporting people that are working tirelessly to create a healthier planet. This is not a time limited offer or a sales pitch. This is our lifelong commitment as a company to support people making crucial changes that will help us all.
In response to Covid-19 pandemic, Wedgie worked tirelessly to look at what we could do to help our immediate community during the challenging time. We designed Doc and Nurse Wedgies, donating 100% of profits made going to NHS Together Charity. NHS Together is a charity which represents, supports and champions NHS’ official charities, enabling them to save more lives. We’re thrilled to announce we donated £250 to NHS Together Charity, and although this particular charitable effort is closed, we are always looking at what quick-responsive charitable work we can do.
Moving forward, as mentioned above, we’re committed to reducing our impact by continually exploring our practices, committing to the sustainable development goals and working with charities and/or third parties to support us in this. We’re very excited about 2022!
Thank you so much to daisy from Wedgie who took the time to have a chat with us last week. we are so excited about this brand and love everything they stand for. What better way to bring a personal (&hilarious!) touch to a gift this Christmas, whilst also helping to change lives by supporting rural communities in Sri Lanka.