Deirdre King, Creative Director of Indego Africa
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Deirdre King, the Creative Director of Indego Africa. Indego Africa is a fair trade social enterprise that lifts women-owned businesses in Rwanda toward economic independence through access to international markets and your source for high quality and on-trend jewelry, accessories, and home goods. 100% of profits go to business training and development programs for their talented women artisans. Read my interview below:
Tell us a little about yourself: Hmmm… my social media profiles say a lot! Fashionista for social change, lover of bathtubs, creative director at Indego Africa, shop girl at Homeward Found, godmother to Lady Genevieve (the cutest 2 year old I know)
Where are you from? When and why did you move to New York? I grew up at the Jersey Shore, went to college in Virginia and moved to NYC for law school right after college. After five cramped but oh-so-fun years in the city, I just moved back home to the beach and couldn’t be happier! I’ve found my happy-creative-relaxed place and a little more room has done wonders for my sanity.
How and when did you join Indego Africa? I joined Indego in the summer of 2010, right after I took the bar exam. Originally I was a legal fellow at Indego but quickly shifted gears to the creative side– and haven’t looked back since.
As the Creative Director at Indego Africa you wear many hats. Tell us a bit about what your job looks like on a daily basis. Everyday is different, which is one of the best things about my job, but also what makes it so challenging. Some days I pack up shipments for hours and some days I run around to pitch or design meetings downtown at the most beautiful workspaces and showrooms in NYC. Other days are full of back-to-back skype calls and production emails with our team in Rwanda. I also work from home two days a week and that’s when I get most of the design and creative branding work done. In NYC, we work in a shared workspace (literally, at a conference table) so I use those days at home to spread out with samples, color charts, fabric photos and tech packets.
You have traveled to Rwanda. How would you describe the country and the people? Rwanda is just beautiful. Rolling hills, lush green landscapes and such a vibrant atmosphere. You can’t walk outside without stopping for a moment to take it all in. I love everything about it. I’m so inspired when I am there – the entrepreneurial spirit is palpable and Rwandans are very friendly and accommodating to visitors.
Describe some of the training programs that Indego Africa offers the women artisans.Our training programs focus on long-term skills in technology, entrepreneurship, literacy and financial management. We also work hard to provide any special programs that serve of-the-moment needs of these cooperatives – most recently we’ve completed breast cancer awareness, occupational health training and sexual health awareness. Recently we had a client visit some of our partners to give a lesson on creativity and inspiration – that was a super fun one!
Tell us about the process of working with the artisans to create a product that is suitable for the western market. Sampling, sampling and then more sampling. The more our brand and profile grows, the more we are learning that quality and durability is the most important thing when selling handmade product. Design-wise, we work in a few different ways – we design in-house, we work with clients to make their designs a reality and we turn to our artisan partners for their input – many times they give us the answer to the design questions we are stumped on – they really do know best!
Indego Africa has had some pretty noteworthy collaborations: J.Crew, Nicole Miller, Anthropologie to name a few. Do you have any exciting new collaborations you can share with us? We do – but I can’t say just yet! We did launch with Jonathan Adler this summer and have some exciting new projects in the works for fall and next year! Stay tuned…
How does Indego Africa find the female artisans to work with? Word of mouth in Rwanda! As our profile in Rwanda has grown, cooperatives are often recommended to us to check out and many times approach our production team themselves. When we are looking to bring on a new partner, our production team in Rwanda goes to visit and looks at their products and the crafting skills they have to evaluate market-readiness. We always make sure the cooperatives understand the partnership structure in working with Indego and that they are open to doing business with us. When it comes down to it, a good partner cooperative needs to have the technical artisanal skills to work with us, but its more important that there is a good, transparent working relationship and potential for long term partnership.
What is the most exciting part of your job. That’s a tough one – going to Rwanda and spending time sampling with our (really amazing and inspiring) artisan partners is pretty darn exciting but I also love getting to meet and interact with our high-profile clients here in the US. A little bit of both keeps me pretty excited going to work everyday!:
How old are you? 28
What is the awesomest thing you have done recently? Got engaged & went on a gorilla trek in Rwanda!
How would you describe your personal style? I try to stay casual, especially on days when I’m commuting and running around the city. Go-tos would be soft t-shirts and slouchy silk pants with sandals for summer and jeans with oversize sweaters and boots for fall. For accessorizing & jewels, I try to wear ethical, globally sourced brands – which are great conversation pieces and remind you to feel-good about shopping!
Who or what influences your style? Right now I love the combo of casual surf culture style and the patterned mix and match global look. I find inspiration everywhere though – I am going to Capri for my honeymoon and can’t wait to style watch all the chic Italian jetsetters.
What do you never leave home without? Iphone, Moleskine
What makes you feel beautiful? (who) – my fiancé!
What are you proud of? The new antique home goods store I opened with my family this summer! Homeward Found in Bradley Beach, NJ – come visit!
What is your favorite Spring recipe? Guacamole bruschetta!