With distributors all around the world, there is no typical Ali Lamu client, but for me it will always be the effortlessly chic babe (and there is always one) on the small plane to Lamu. As soon as the plane lands she pulls her Ali Lamu Weekend Bag down from the overhead compartment, whisks through the airport and heads straight for the pier. There, with a quick step, she boards a waiting boat and heads for Shela, Manda or one of the other islands that make up the Lamu archipelago. She may not live in Lamu but she sure looks at home sitting in the boat, bag at her feet with the wind in her hair.
For close to nine years, the picturesque island of Shela has served as the base of operations for Ali Lamu. Co-founded by Swiss photographer Daniela Bleattler and Kenyan fisherman Ali Omar in 2008, the company makes beautiful bags, pillows, bed spreads and aprons out of weathered dhow sails. The company has 25 full-time employees, but brings in as many as 80 more from the community when there is a large order.
Hearts, stars, the peace sign and the words ‘Love’ and ‘Peace’ are painted onto the dhow sailcloth. And occasionally, Ali Lamu designs have uplifting and inspiring quotes such as “Become Your Dream”. The message, Daniella explains, is inspired by the “mood of the day” – making Ali Lamu products 100% heart and handmade.
Photograph courtesy of Ali Lamu.