Innovation That Matters

Disability social enterprise

Social enterprise sells upcycled accessories from artists with disability

Work & Lifestyle

A South African social enterprise is helping disabled unemployed through upcycling projects.

Founded by an artist, the ZulaGal Retro art company is a business with a social purpose. Based in Durban, South Africa, ZulaGal Retro works with young people with disabilities and special needs. In addition, local self-employed artists teach them crafting skills to help them earn a living from their work. Much of the local skilled crafting knowledge is passed down between generations, with many of the artists living rurally and practicing native Zulu beading techniques.

Items for sale include accessories such as beaded sunglasses, necklaces, cuffs and belts, along with homewares and decorations. The company also uses upcycling techniques to turn waste products into useable, wearable art. Chip wrappers and sweet bags are woven into various sizes of purses and carry-alls. ZulaGal Retro products are currently available for sale online from a variety of retailers, including Hello Pretty and the International Folk Art Market. Development of the company will focus on expanding sales into new markets and supporting additional artists in their craftwork.

Local buys retain their cache as consumers remain devoted to bespoke products and experiences. In Kenya, hundreds of thousands of discarded flip-flops that would otherwise be polluting the local marine environment are turned into gifts and sculptures. More than 100 local artisans are employed in the work. In Mexico, a new e-commerce platform connects consumers with producers in a transparent, straight-forward supply chain. The site sells handmade items from artisans around Mexico, often working with some of the most vulnerable people in society. How could smart cities work with these types of initiatives to help alleviate poverty on a wider scale without losing the low carbon footprint of the local aspect of the businesses?



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