From Prehistoric Rock Carvings to New Designs

 

Touda lives in Ait Bouli and is only a 25 minute drive to the near by prehistoric rock carvings. Last month, she visited for the first time ever to gain inspiration for new rug designs rooted in the culture of Ait Bouli.

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The picturesque and mysterious Tizi N’tighrst rock carvings of Ait Bouli are relatively unknown except to the local villagers of Ait Bouli. The carvings sit on a pass between two villages of Ait Bouli, often only frequented by shepherds and villagers traveling to the weekly souk. Little is known about them, but many say they are over 3,000 years old and may have been an important religious site. This is not lost on Touda, who believes that these carvings are an important part of Ait Bouli’s culture.

 

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Touda photographed her favorite symbols from the carving site with her smartphone. When she returned home sketched them in her drawing book. Here are a several of her favorite:

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After a week or so, Touda had developed over 20 designs and worked hard to integrate the symbols into her sketches:

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Touda thought hard and received feedback from Anou’s artisan leaders and team and eventually selected her favorite design to weave. After a month of weaving, her newly designed rug was complete!

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You can now find it on her online store at:

www.theanou.com/product/5800

Want a Custom Made Rug or Craft? Learn How With Anou!

Custom orders on TheAnou.com are easy. All you have to do is find any product that you love on the site and look for the “Request Custom Order” on any product page.

Request Custom Order Anou

You’ll be given the option to change the dimension or the quantity of the item. The site will then use the prices the artisan has listed on their store to provide you with an estimate. (NOTE: The estimates for currently listed products are accurate. Previously made products may have updated prices — we’ll let you know if this is the case.)

Tip #1: When changing quantity, the site will automatically calculate bundled shipping savings for you! For example, ordering two items will likely cost less than just one due to savings in shipping. Note: This only applies when purchasing from the same association/cooperative.

Once you perfect your custom order, enter in your e-mail and submit the request.  Anou’s community supporter will follow up with you to confirm your order and answer any questions you have. If all is good, the community supporter will submit your request to the artisan who will then provide their official quote. If the artisan’s quote is different than the estimate we provided, we’ll let you know and you can confirm whether you’d like to proceed with the order or not.

If you’re happy with the artisan’s official quote, we’ll ask that you provide the full payment upfront via a Paypal invoice. TheAnou.com will hold your payment as a deposit until the artisan completes the order.

Tip #2: If you’re in Morocco, you can send the payment directly to our account at any Moroccan Post Office so you don’t have to pay any credit card/Paypal fees!

Once the artisans begin we will provide you with weekly updates on the status of your custom order via e-mail. The artisan will do his or her best to take progress photos as they make your custom order request and we’ll e-mail you when they are submitted.

Tip #3: Artisans add progress photos via the community’s Instagram account. Follow the community’s account if you want to the progress photos as soon as they are posted!

Once the artisan finishes the custom order, they will post the item on their store on TheAnou.com for you to review. If you’re happy with the custom order the artisan will send it directly to you! If there is a problem with the order, we’ll promptly refund you your order!

Custom Orders for Products Not on Anou

If you have an item that you’d love to have but isn’t listed on Anou, we might be able to help. Send us an image or description of what you would like at hello@theanou.com. Anou’s community supporter will see if the the design matches up with any existing cooperatives skill sets, designs and/or materials. If there is a match, we’ll submit it to the artisan and get a quote.

Keep in mind that artisans do not create copies of images submitted from other websites. Depending on the situation, we may forward images to artisans so they can serve as inspiration for a new product, but we will never ask an artisan to recreate an item unless it is something that they designed.

Tip #4: Have a product idea that you’d love to see on TheAnou.com? Add it to the community’s Pinterest research board! All items listed on the community’s board serve as inspiration for future products.

Read more about custom orders on Anou: 

Making Custom Orders Work For You And Artisans

The Perils and Promise of Artisan Custom Orders

What is the Difference Between a Flatweave, Pile Knot and Beni Ourain Rug?

A customer recently wrote in and asked us what exactly is the difference between a flatweave, pile knot and Beni Ourain rug? We thought there would be no better place than to provide a quick answer to this question than on our blog!
 
To talk about Beni Ourain rugs, we first have to sort out the difference between flatweave and pile knot rugs. Flatweaves and pile-knot refer to the way the rug is woven on the warp. The warp is the foundation for every rug and consists of the strings (often white cotton) that run the length of a rug. One of the first steps of weaving rug is getting the warp set up on the loom, pictured below:
 
Photo Credit: Association Tithrite

Photo Credit: Association Tithrite

With the warp set up, the artisans can begin filling out the rug with what is called the weft, the thread which is woven in and out of the warp. Rugs that are solely woven with the warp and weft are flatweave rugs (local dialect: hanbel). In the following picture, a weaver from Cooperative Tisseuses of Ain Leuh weaves the weft (the color thread) through the warp:

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Photo Credit: Cooperative Tisseuses

The weft is what gives the flat weave its design. Here is picture of the rug from above in its final form:

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Photo Credit: Cooperative Tisseuses

However, not all rugs in Morocco are woven this way, nor is it the most common weaving technique. The most common technique is called the pile knot, which has a little similarity with a flatweave. On a flatweave, and artisan threads the weft back and forth through the warp continuously until the rug is complete. On a pile knot (local dialect: zrbya) however, the weft is separated with rows of knots tied around the warp.  It is up to the artisan how many rows of weft they will weave between the rows of knots. Many rugs are woven with a little weft woven in between the knots, which creates a pretty dense rug. Others, like this one, have a little more weft giving the rows of knots room to breath and provides a bit more texture. This picture below of a member of the Women’s Cooperative of Imelghaus illustrates this pretty well. The woman is threading a weft between the warp before tying in another row of knots:

Photo Credit:  http://photosby.si/

Photo Credit: http://photosby.si/

To get more of a feel of this process (which we’ve drastically simplified above), you can take a look at the following video which shows a weaver from the Imelghaus Cooperative tying knots and pounding them with her taska to lock the knots with the weft:

So where does a Beni Ourain fit within all of this? Technically, it doesn’t. A Beni Ourain is not a weaving technique. In fact, a Beni Ourain is always woven in a pile knot weave as described above. What separates Beni Ourain’s from every other rug is where it was woven, who wove it, and its design.  Authentic Beni Ourain rugs are those woven by the Beni Ourain tribe or those who have lineage to the tribe that resides/resided in mountainous areas south east of Fez. Proving lineage is difficult, obviously.  I am sure every vintage rug seller has an elaborate story about their rugs or will claim personal lineage to the tribe, so take it all in with a grain of salt. As for the design, there are no set rules as to what defines a Beni Ourain design but many would agree that their designs are almost always a pile knot rug with a cream, ivory, (read: natural wool) base with distinct black geometric designs.

If you’re interested in having a custom order Beni Ourain style rug, the Cooperative of Imelghaus is becoming the go-to coop that uses Anou’s online store.

For pile knot rugs from the highest rated artisans in the Anou community, check out:

Association Timdokkals

Association Afous G Afous

For flatweave rugs from the highest rated artisans in the Anou community, check out:

Cooperative Chorouk

Cooperative Tisseuses 

For all the other groups, just do a search on http://www.theanou.com!

Have any question you’d like us to answer? Want us to go more in depth on this topic? Let us know in the comments or e-mail us at hello@theanou.com

When Orders Go Terribly, Terribly Wrong…

We manage to make mistakes fulfilling orders every now and then. Rarely, we’ll have an order go terribly wrong. This past month, we’ve had two orders go terribly wrong:

A Custom Order Comes Out Completely Reimagined

A customer recently sent in an image of a rug that they’d like to have made and it looked like this:

The artisans started to work on it and submitted a progress photo, which the customer was incredibly excited about:

Then, the president of the Cooperative of Imelghaus, who oversees the rugs as they are made, suddenly left for a week because her sister was having a baby. As a result, the women just decided to wing it without any instruction or guidance and came up with something complete different but totally awesome:

The customer asked to have the rug remade since it was so radically different. But the rug which became known as the ‘mistake’ sold to another customer within a week. It then got two other custom order inquiries a week later. We ended up referring to this order almost everyday during our recent design workshop when discussing the benefit of trying new ideas inspired by traditional designs.

When Rugs Destined for New York Arrive in the  Philippines

Early last month, we had a customer from New York (who we’ll call ‘N’) order two rugs from the women of Cooperative Tisseuses in Ain Leuh and another customer from California (who we’ll call ‘C’) who bought rugs from the women of Association Timdokkals in Ait Bouguemez. Immediately after his purchase, ‘C’ informed us he wanted to change his address.

Since the artisans didn’t ship the order yet, we sent the new address to the artisan director. However, for whatever reason, the artisan director sent the new updated address to Cooperative Tisseuses, not Association Timdokkals. Last week, ‘N’ notified us that his rugs hadn’t arrived. It wasn’t until we investigated the shipment and found that it the shipment had arrived at ‘C’s address did we realize the incorrect address was sent to Cooperative Tisseueses.

When he reached out to ‘C’ about the mistake, he told us that when he received his package (the incorrect one) he didn’t open the package, safely assuming it was correct and had the package forwarded to the Philippines. With the package en route to an entirely different country, it would prove to be incredibly difficult to get them rerouted to the original customer. But since all of our customers are awesome, C decided to keep the rugs so we wouldn’t have to ship them all the way back to New York, and N decided to have the rugs he purchased remade. We’re so sorry that this happened C and N!

Fortunately, the last two terribly wrong orders and two incredibly positive outcomes — phew!

The Last Generation of Metalworkers

 

Mohssine Benjalloun’s unassuming metal workshop can be found in one of the most visited alleyways of the Fez medina. The presence of his workshop in such a popular area is unique. Today, Fassi artisans are almost exclusively found in corners deep inside the medina or on the distant fringes of Fez’s suburbs. Rarely are artisans found where tourists often visit. Such popular places are now filled with whom Mohssine describes as “bazarists,” those that sell Moroccan crafts, but don’t make them.

Mohssine recalls that the alleyways of Fez didn’t always look like they do now. Decades ago, when Mohssine was just a teenager, he began learning metalwork from his father. Demand for his and his father’s metalwork was booming, just as much as it had for his grandfather. Before, Mohssine, recalls, artisans earned enough from their craft that they were able to innovate and design new products and ideas. He now only has memories of all the shops that lined the alleyways of Fez which were filled with artisans teeming with work.

Mohssine painfully remembered that as he grew older, the demand for his and all of the other artisans’ craft in Fez began to slow. “Cheap imitations from China,” he says, forced many artisans to close down their shops and either relocated to the suburbs of Fez, or simply quit craft all together.

Mohssine continued to ply his trade even as all the shops around him filled up with bazarists, reselling similar products at prices that barely sustain the artisan that made it. Over time, his sales dried up. Determined to keep his workshop, he began spending less time on his craft. In order to continuing earning an income, he has filled most of his time with making simple board games that he sells for $3. He also handles the occasional repairs for metal pieces people bring to his store and dabbles in cutting glass for picture frames. He earns enough to keep the shop open and to support his family. A picture of Mohssine’s grandfather, who bought the workshop nearly 100 years ago, hangs on the wall behind him where he works everyday.

Everyone once in awhile, when money and time allow, Mohssine pulls out large copper brass sheets, his old metal cutting scissors, and a torch and begins working on the craft he loves. His ten year old son, who often sits at the door of the workshop, watches as his dad begins to immerse himself in building craft by hand. “I hope my son never goes into craft,” Mohssinne says as he begins work on a new lantern, “There is no work left. He is better off doing something else.” His son silently looks on.

Mohssine acknowledges that the artisan sector must change and innovate if it is going to survive beyond his generation. He laughs as he recalls a recent TV documentary he watched about rockets that fly into space, “It takes hundreds of people, a community of people, working together to build a rocket.” The effort and focus of many is what is needed to revive the artisan sector. To build a future where his son can become an artisan, Mohssine says, will take the collective effort of an entire community.

Visit Mohssine’s online store and view his newest item. 

Mohssine talks about his workshop and craft as his son sits at the door and listens in.

A picture of Mohssine in his early years.

A picture of Mohssine in his younger years.

A picture of brass lantern made by Mohsinne's grandfather.

A picture of brass lantern made by Mohsinne’s grandfather.

Two recently made lanterns hang above Mohssine's shop. A board game Mohssine made hangs on the wall.

Two recently made lanterns ordered through Anou hang above Mohssine’s shop. The board game Mohssine makes and sells hangs on the wall behind the lanterns.

Mohsinne's son holds up a lantern recently made by his father.

Mohsinne’s son holds up a lantern recently made by his father for a custom order on Anou.

 

The Economics Behind Moroccan Beni Ourain Rugs

As we noted in a recent blog post, the Women’s Cooperative of Imelghaus became one of Anou’s top selling artisans. With more sales combined with encouragement from Anou’s community leaders, the women finally started to record all of the material costs and time spent on the rugs they make. The women were shocked at what they learned.

The first rug they began recording on was a beautiful, custom ordered 10’ x 8’ Beni Ourain style rug. The artisans listed the price on Anou for $380. Since the rug weighed over 21 kilograms, the cost to ship it to the US came to $260. Anou’s community fee, which is about 6% of final listed price, added $43 to the price.The credit card payment company we use to process credit cards added $21, or about 3% of the final price. All of this combined set the listed price on Anou for $712.

The Imelghaus Cooperative listed their Beni Ourain rug for $712 on Anou.

The Imelghaus Cooperative listed their Beni Ourain rug for $712 on Anou.

Providing this much detail in how prices are calculated is unprecedented in the fair-trade industry, but we can learn even more by breaking down the $388 the artisans earned using the material and labor information they shared with Anou. The cooperative recorded that they spent $125 for the wool to make the rug leaving them with a total of $236 for their labor. The women recorded that it took over 280 total hours of weaving. This puts the cooperative’s hourly wage at $.93 USD/hour, or $7.44 for an 8-hour work day. This wage is less than what a day laborer makes in the rural valley where the cooperative is based. It is also below the Moroccan minimum wage for agricultural workers, which is the equivalent of $7.50 per day (learn more about Moroccon minimum wage on Wikipedia or fairwageguide.org).

The women recorded that it took a total of 280 hours of weaving time to complete their Beni Ourain rug.

The women recorded that it took a total of 280 hours of weaving to complete their Beni Ourain rug.

The time spent creating the warp (pictured above) or preparing the wool was included in the 280 hours the cooperative recorded.

The time spent creating the warp (pictured above) or preparing the wool was NOT included in the 280 hours the cooperative recorded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The numbers are surprising because they are incredibly low. So low, in fact, that you might think the wages couldn’t get any lower. However, cooperatives are regularly faced with buyers, both fair-trade and regular retailers alike, who request prices lower than what they list on Anou. Worse, it is not uncommon for women’s cooperatives to unknowingly sell their products at price that only meets a quarter of their material costs when selling to traditional middlemen. This is largely why it is not hard to find rugs for sale in the Marrakech medina for prices cheaper than what is listed on Anou.

Take a moment for that to sink in. 

With no other sales avenues other than local craft fairs, artisans, much like the Women’s Cooperative of Imelghaus prior to Anou, never have had the knowledge or incentive to push back when buyers want lower prices.

For the first time, the women met and decided that they wanted to increase their pay to $1.70 an hour, or $13.60 a day. This new rate would exceed the Moroccan minimum wage for industrial labor, a big deal in rural Morocco. As such, similarly sized rugs the cooperative produces in the future will now be listed on Anou for around $912 USD, an increase of $200 from their previous price.

The Cooperative's rug at its new home in Brooklyn, New York. Is there a need for high end boutiques to make these rugs look great?

The Cooperative’s Beni Ourain rug at its new home in Brooklyn, New York. Rugs purchased directly from artisans look just as great, if not better,  than the ones purchased from high end resellers.

Recently, Anou was featured in an Apartment Therapy blog post in which they discussed where to buy Beni Ourain rugs because their “popularity…shows no signs of flagging.” The average price of similarly sized rugs listed on their blog (minus the product listed from Anou) was $2,564 USD. This number serves as a good indicator of the average market value for these type of rugs. Imagine the impact a sale would make if the women of Imelghaus could sell their rugs at that price or even half that price. The only way this is even possible is if the artisans are able to sell directly to their customers and customers are knowledgeable about whom exactly they are buying from.

The cooperative’s new price is a lot higher than before but still much cheaper relative to the other products listed on Apartment Therapy. Time will tell whether the cooperative will be able to continue their recent pace of sales at their new price. If they’re not able to, you only have to scan to the bottom of the Apartment Therapy article to see what the future of artisan craft in Morocco looks like if artisans aren’t empowered to sell directly to their customers: 10ft x 8ft West Elm “Moroccan” rugs made in India. Perhaps the trend of Beni Ourain will never “flag”, but it is obvious that the culture and artisans behind this craft surely will if artisans remain dependent on others to sell their work for them.

The Potential of Djellaba Button Jewelry

Since the beginning of Anou, the Women’s Cooperative of Khenifra has been one of the site’s top sellers. This is no surprise given that the cooperative’s jewelry, made of traditional djellaba buttons, strikes the perfect blend of contemporary and traditional Moroccan design. Despite their tiny size, the djellaba buttons used to make the jewelry have the potential to make a huge impact on the lives of many women across Morocco.

The Labor and Background of a Single Button

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A standard Moroccan djellaba. Djellaba buttons can always be found vertically lined up beneath the djellaba’s collar. Photo credit: Shukrclothing.com, a socially conscious retailer.

While the exact origin of the popular djellaba button is unknown, many trace it back to the Jewish communities that used to reside in Fez. The buttons may have originally been used as actual buttons for clothing, but today, they are used as decorative pieces for djellabas, Morocco’s ubiquitous traditional dress.

As the demand for djellaba clothing continues, so does the demand for djellaba buttons. Many women in towns across Morocco, most notably in Sefrou and Khenifra, eagerly fulfill the demand to earn any income they can.

The process women go through to create djellaba buttons pays little and is time consuming to say the least. To start the process, the women go to a local store to buy sabra, a thread made from agave plant fiber that is traditionally spun and dyed in Fez. Using a simple needle, the women thread sabra into incredibly intricate buttons. It can take a weaver four to ten+ minutes per button depending on their skill level. Once a weaver completes about 400 buttons — the approximate amount of buttons that can be produced from one 3 dirham ($0.36) spool of sabra — they take it to the local dealer and sell their bundle of buttons for $0.015 per button.  (Note: all prices and times listed are approximate as there a numerous buttons with varying complexity and material).

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Members of the Women’s Cooperative of Khenifra buy spools of sabra at a local store. Photo credit: Christine Carlson-Aljani

Expanding on these numbers provides a glimpse at the income of your typical button maker. For example, it would take a relatively fast weaver (5 minutes per button) a little over 33 hours to complete a bundle of 400 buttons. When the weaver sells a bundle to a local dealer, they’ll earn a total of $6. Push these numbers through fairwageguide.org’s fair wage calculator and puts the wage of such a button weaver 31% below the $2/day poverty line and 88% below Morocco’s minimum wage.

The Slow Evolution From Laborers to Creators

In 2007, a Peace Corps Volunteer named Linda Zahava began working with a talented group of button makers in Khenifra in order to find a way for them to earn more for their work. The weavers and Linda experimented and eventually repurposed the djellaba buttons to make jewelry with the belief that it could command a much higher price for the weaver’s work. To say their experiment was a success would be a gross understatement. Since the founding of the cooperative, the women have sold tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry in local and international markets.  Their success has even spawned numerous other djellaba button cooperatives and associations across Morocco.

Yet over the years the cooperative began running into the ceiling of their potential. As recently as 2012, the cooperative heavily depended on a revolving door Peace Corps Volunteers to facilitate orders from a small group of resellers both domestic and international. Since the resellers held near exclusive access to the popular jewelry via relationships built with volunteers, resellers were able to sell the artisan products to other resellers at prices five times more than the cooperative’s original price.

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Djellaba button jewelry for sale by fair trade certified Global Goods Partners: $69 (including shipping). Photo credit: Global Good Partners

After seeing the high prices their ‘partners’ were able to command for their work, the artisans decided to raise their prices. However, they were quickly met with resistance. Resellers, even fair-trade certified organizations, told the cooperative that by increasing their prices they would be unprofessional and violate the loyalty that they had demonstrated to the cooperative. In addition, the resellers cited that their mark up enabled them to help market the products and provide access to markets the women wouldn’t have otherwise. With no other means to sell their products, the cooperatives only marginally changed their prices. As a result, artisans continued to sell their standard necklaces for $15, while their partners resold the same products for $69 (including shipping).

To put such prices in perspective, each $15 necklace takes the cooperative about 21 hours to complete. Pushing these numbers through the fair wage calculator (www.fairwageguide.org), the cooperative earns a wage that is 59% lower than Morocco’s minimum wage and 62% below the recommended fair wage pay. To be clear, the $15 necklaces are resold as fair-trade certified products that are branded with buzzwords such as female empowerment when the artisans aren’t even earning a Moroccan minimum wage, much less a fair wage.

Evolving From Creators to Independent Businesses

When Anou artisans first started talking with members of the cooperative, they expressed that they no longer desired to depend on volunteers to sell their work. Instead, they wanted to sell independently, if not for a better wage, then at least for a more dignified way to sell their products. But they didn’t know how. Anou finally offered them this chance.

With Anou’s platform, the potential of the women is now only limited to the amount of work they are willing to invest in their business – not what resellers deem is ‘enough for them to get by’. Over the past several months the cooperative has invested an immense amount of time into their online store by adding a diverse range of products and relentlessly improving their photography. In fact, their photography is improving so much that many consider their photos to be better than the professional organizations that resell their products. Based on the increasing amount of sales they’ve generated on Anou, their hard work is literally starting to pay off. In short, they are beginning to operate as an independent business.

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Djellaba button jewelry for sale on Anou by the artisans who made it: $36 including shipping. Photo credit: Fatima Nouaman (djellaba button weaver)

Today, the weavers sell their standard necklace for $19 on Anou. Adding in costs of shipping from Morocco, Anou’s 10% fee (and other fees such as credit card fees) you can find the product listed for $36 on Anou. Putting these numbers through the fair wage calculator, and the artisans still have work to do so they can continue to raise their prices. To earn a fair wage, the cooperative will need to increase their prices for $50 on Anou – still cheaper than what fair trade organizations currently sell their work for.

Redefining Fair Trade

If anything, such numbers prove that the only way artisans can actually earn a fair wage is when they do the work themselves. Fair trade organizations today simply manage the entire value chain process in the name of good will, while artisans just provide the labor. As such, artisans don’t just get paid poorly, they don’t gain any skills either.

Because of the members of the Women’s Cooperative of Khenifra, the djellaba button has become a source of wealth for many women in Morocco rather than a symbol of their poverty. However, much more work needs to be done in order to ensure that women can gain the full value of each djellaba button they create. With Anou, it is entirely up to the artisans themselves to fully realize the potential of each djellaba button.

The Economics Of A Single Moroccan Reed Basket

One of Tigmi Bag's many bags.

One of Tigmi Bag’s many bags.

By Dan

The reed of each bag is meticulously collected by hand from a near by river. The artisans weave the reed strands together with palm rope on a horizontal loom to create panels of reed. The bag takes its final shape when the families sew the reed panels together and attach handles made of genuine leather. The process takes hours of skilled work. It is no easy task.

With the amount of work it takes to create one of the bags, it might be a surprise to learn that the families of Tigmi Bags make a whopping $0.24 in profit for each bag they create.

Yeah, that’s right. The material costs for one bag is around 10 Dh, or $1.16 US. The artisans then sell their work to Moroccan resellers in a near by city for 12 Dh, or $1.40 US. The artisans, for obvious reasons, prefer to sell their product in huge quantities — it’s the only way they can make a living from the products they create.

The resellers in near by cities willingly buy in such huge quantities because the products are immensely popular and profitable. Take a short walk through any souq in Morocco and you’ll find these baskets for sale starting around 200dh ($23 US). The families of Tigmi Bags keep about 6% of the selling price. It is not hard to see why artisans remain so poor even when their products proliferate across the country.

Limitations Of Current Fair-Trade Models

It is this environment that has given rise to fair-trade, a movement focused on ensuring artisans are paid a fair-wage for their work. But even this movement has its limitations.

In the case of Tigmi Bags, fair-trade organizations pay around $4 US for a bag at

wholesale costs. While that is a substantially larger sum than traditional middlemen, it is not uncommon to find the same bag for sale for $50 on socially focused e-commerce sites. Again, the end result isn’t much different than working with traditional middlemen as Tigmi Bag families keep around 8% of the final selling price.

The fact that artisans make a fraction of the final sale price isn’t always because resellers and organizations are exploitive; it is just that the sellers have their costs to cover, too.

But that’s where the actual problem starts to emerge. The value chain that connects the families of Tigmi Bags to their customer both domestically and internationally is long and at best convoluted. The average international value chain for artisans like Tigmi Bags runs five links deep. And according to flagship fair-trade organizations, it is acceptable for each chain to add a percentage of varying costs to each product as shown on the right.

After reviewing hundreds of e-mails that are sent to artisans in Morocco from their fair-trade partners, it was common to find e-mails filled with complaints anytime an artisan tried to raise their prices. The e-mails frequently accuse artisans of being ‘unloyal’ or ‘unprofessional’ when artisans were simply trying to price what they thought was fair compensation for themselves.

The e-mails were hardly surprising. With so many links in the value chain and a hard price ceiling customers are unable to exceed, there is continuous tension as to where the ultimate value of the product stays. And because artisans like the families of Tigmi Bags have little leverage, they get stuck with the smallest percentage at 8% of the selling price.

Eliminating The Value Chain

Anou changes the very structure of the value chain that separates you and Moroccan artisans. With Anou, artisans finally have the ability to directly connect with their customers, select their own prices and gain valuable skills in the process. Anou’s mobile platform fosters transparency and ensures that the artisan who made the product is paid the price they selected. And better yet, each product is labeled with the picture and story of the artisan who made it. Quite a bit better than a opaque network of wholesalers selling to other wholesalers and then to retailers. Buying through Anou keeps things simple, where the ‘value-chain’ consists of you and the artisan.

There is no better way to explain the impact that Anou has than how Tigmi Bags sells their products.  With Anou, the families of Tigmi Bags sell their work at their ideal price of 100 Dh ( $12 US), nearly three times as much as the fair-trade price they were once paid, and even with direct shipping from their rural village in Morocco included in the price and the addition of Anou’s selling fee of 15%, their prices are equal to or cheaper than typical fair-trade prices.

After a quick search for Tigmi Bag’s items online, I was able to find one of their products for sale by another merchant. The following two screen shots sum up the difference between Anou and other options quite nicely; which would you rather purchase?

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Handwoven Moroccan Straw Wine Holder for sale by Traders and Company
$36.50 US Including Shipping

Wine Basket From Essaouira for sale by Tigmi Bags

$35.00 US Including Shipping

It is a pretty easy decision, if you ask me.