Bao was formed through a rather serendipitous friendship while I was studying at a leather school in Florence, Italy. On the first day of class, I met a fellow leather apprentice from Nairobi, Kenya. Something told me that I would be great friends with this woman. I ended up at a desk next to her, and we spent the next few months sharing stories and far too many laughs.
She ran her own clothing company in Nairobi and would tell me about all the artisans she worked with and about Kenyan culture. I was hooked, and a year later I took her up on her invitation to see Nairobi.
It took me about 5 years to figure out how to make a business like this work, to find the right artisans to work with and to build a good relationship with them. In December 2016, Bao participated in its first market, in Toronto, Ontario.
Baobabs are a very spiritual tree. It is believed that benevolent ancestors and spirits inhabit the tree. There are legends about the picking of the flowers angering the spirit world, or the drinking of the water in which pips of the baobab tree were soaked will protect a hunter from crocodiles. It is also known as the tree of life, for it can store 120,000 litres of water in its trunk and provides people with food, water, shelter, rope and medicine.
One of the many legends about Baobab trees is that the god Thora did not like the baobab growing in his garden, so he plucked it out and threw it out over the wall of Paradise. It fell on the Earth below, landing upside down and simply continued to grow.
In the spirit of the Baobab, or the tree of life, Bao was built on creating positive and lasting relationships with other artisans while honouring the art of making by hand. We create heirloom quality, statement pieces, from natural and up-cycled materials.
Brass findings, bone and horn beads and bangles, tote bags, canvas beading and printing, and Maasai bracelets are all handcrafted in Kenya. Recycled leather jacket handbags are handmade in Canada. All bags and jewelry are designed and assembled by the founder, Amanda, in Toronto, Canada.