When the pictures of the new AW20 range from Voice International landed on my desk I could barely contain my excitement! This gorgeous team of women have done it again (this time with the small added complication of a global pandemic) & created another stunning collection of ethical, affordable jewellery.
Today we meet founder Natasha Katumba to look behind the scenes of Voice International & find out more about what goes on there day to day.
So Natasha because you know that at Frankly that we love a story, I think we should start at the beginning!! What was it that first inspired you to launch Voice International?
Voice was inspired from a dream to release creativity through community across East Africa. After moving to Uganda for five years to volunteer with a charity working in slum communities around Kampala I became increasingly aware of the unemployment issues for women as well as the lack of creative opportunities to all ages across the country.
I have a huge passion for sustainable fashion development and absolutely love being creative and it was from these two foundations that Voice was birthed. To offer creative, sustainable employment to women from impoverished communities, enabling them to rise above the poverty line through training in jewellery design and manufacture and use their own Voice’s whilst dreaming bigger for their own futures.
I personally love your jewellery (I’m rarely seen without your Strength Studs, two styles in one, what's not to love!!) Please could explain a bit about what makes your products just so special?
For me what makes our products so special is the story held behind every piece handmade by one of our artisans. When you purchase a Voice piece of jewellery you not only look fabulous but you empower Regina to keep believing in her dream to start her own business, you stand with Scovia in being able to save towards her children's school fees and so on. Our women are directly impacted through our empowerment cycle which includes those purchasing from Frankly!
As well as this it’s the sustainability of our product. We always ensure our design processes encapsulate both British and Ugandan fashion culture. We ensure through choice of materials that our artisan partners are also empowered through our product, for example the gorgeous Ankole found within all our ranges. Ankole cattle are famous for their beautiful horns which are commonly used as a by-product of the food industry across East Africa. This means we are able to further empower farmers providing a second stream of income by recycling and designing beautiful Ankole jewellery.
Your AW20 collection is looking absolutely stunning. I imagine that the small issue of a global pandemic made pulling this together a little more challenging?!
It has been an adventure! The decision was made early on that we wouldn’t compromise our initial vision for our A/W collection. There were definite moments of uncertainty around material usage and how we’d be able to effectively develop products from our initial design samples whilst Uganda remained on lockdown. But we did it and I am so proud of our team.
I always wanted to call this collection Origin as it was inspired by things I love about Uganda, but now the name fits even better. Our whole collection was made solely by our women without stepping foot in Uganda to help! Designed here in the UK, explained and developed via numerous video calls. It has been a true accomplishment and has inspired me to dream even bigger with what we’ve got next.
Now that life is getting back to some sort of normality, what does a typical day look like in the world of Voice International? If there is such thing as a typical day!
In Uganda a typical day consists of so much creative fun!
Our women arrive by 9 and spend the first 30-45 minutes drinking delicious vanilla tea and breakfast snacks. This time of community is important to us to spend together and share on life.
After that Fedy our operations manager will set out the daily tasks for each of our team, this depends on the time of year, whether we are manufacturing our next collection or fulfilling stockist orders etc. Once a week Regina cooks an incredible lunch for everyone and we spend more time dreaming about our individual futures as well as what’s coming next for Voice.
The afternoons are a continuation of the daily tasks and normally some delicious local watermelon or pineapple to keep us refreshed!
Seasonally things change! When it's quieter we have skills training weeks. At the moment each of our artisans have a skill that they pioneer, so we really value weeks where they are able to train each other in our strengths and encourage one another.
What are your dreams for the future of Voice?
My biggest dream for the future of Voice is to continue expanding and empowering more women through our social enterprise, but also to launch our Creative Academy. We want to offer so much more than financial sustainability to women in Kampala. Our grand plan is to launch an academy offering creative workshops and courses to women, men and children of all ages in a whole selection of creative arts.
At the same time as this we can’t wait to begin empowering more women here in the UK. Our story has grown across the country in the last 18 months and we love seeing our product impact the lives of people here. We’ve recently had the opportunity to begin inviting more women to be a part of our creative processes here and we can’t wait to see how that unfolds further!
And finally, because at Frankly we are obsessed with food can you share a favourite recipe that has got you through lockdown?! Or if cooking is not your thing where is the first place you ate out & what did you have?!
Love this - Well if I had been in Uganda my favourite recipe would have definitely been beans and rice! But here in the UK a favourite recipe has to be my homemade honey & mustard chicken with roasted potatoes. As simple as it sounds!
Shop the Voice International range here