Today on thedailypretty.com, I sit down with Fabi Alvarez and Vlad da Cunha, founders of Akili, a unique and powerful brand that connects female-led artisan enterprises all over the world to Australian consumers. Akili are guided by the belief that products should be tools for positive social and environmental impact, and all products are cruelty-free, made with recycled or natural materials and have empowered artisans in multiple developing communities around the globe before they reach your hands here in Australia. Fabi and Vlad's mission is to amplify the stories of innovation, resourcefulness and social impact behind each product and brand that they sell including handmade shoes, bags, accessories and homewares that have a positive social impact and low cost to the environment. We chat all about the inspiration behind creating the brand, the importance of using purchasing power for good, Akili's values and working with female artisans from all around the world. This is an interview truly not to be missed.
Hello Fabi and Vlad, welcome to thedailypretty.com! Thank you for joining me to talk about your amazing brand today. Let's start with the Akili story. How did your brand start and what was the inspiration and initial idea that sparked creating Akili?
Fabi: I spent a few years working with female entrepreneurs in Tanzania. During this time, I got to meet incredibly talented and resourceful women. I was fascinated by the products they made and their determination to overcome every obstacle in what I thought was an extremely challenging environment, particularly for women. I could also clearly see that the products they made would be successful in Australia, with the conscious Australian consumers wanting to have a positive social and environmental impact. At the same time, it would also be beneficial for Tanzanian entrepreneurs to access a premium export market such as Australia. It was when Vlad and I started to brainstorm about Akili.
What an amazing experience and so inspiring! Fabi and Vlad, tell me about yourselves and your personal and professional background and experience.
Fabi: I have headed marketing, communications and commercial operations for market leaders, startups and non-governmental organisations in Brazil, UK, Europe, India, Africa and Australia. Working in developing communities has changed me as an individual and contributed a lot to redirect my career.
Vlad: I am a technical and creative problem-solver by nature. I’ve worked in photography, videography, web and software development. I’ve led production and educational projects in Australia, the US, Canada and Brazil.
Akili’s mission is to "Shape a new world, one product at a time". Tell me more about this mission....
We believe every product can be a tool for positive social and environmental impact. People are starting to realise that their purchase power can be a transformative force for good. Our mission is to create a platform to make products with high positive social and environmental impact accessible in Australia. One that benefits both Australian conscious consumers and developing communities and prove that style can and should be sustainable.
Your 4 brand values are also integral and part of everything you do, which is key when building an ethical brand. Talk me through each of your values, what they mean and how they each play a part in Akili.
We value craftsmanship as a transformative power. We also know that when we empower women, they lift entire families and communities. There are two driving forces underpinning everything we do: the love for products traditionally handmade and the beauty of fostering independence for women in communities where they are particularly challenged. The use of natural and recycled materials is second nature to us and to all entrepreneurs we work with. Traditional product-making has always relied on ethically sourced, natural materials with sustainability in mind.
Why do you think is it more important than ever that we look to more sustainable and ethical choices when it comes to shopping for ourselves and also when buying gifts?
There are so many benefits to making these types of purchasing choices, but most of all - it is because we all want to have a positive impact in the world, we now know we share responsibility for the planet and each other.
Let's talk about the collections and range of products. What are some of your favourite pieces from each collection and why are they so special?
Fabi: I absolutely love the hand-woven tote bags. They are crafted with dried Milulu Grass in rural communities in the highlands of Tanzania. Women spend weeks patiently weaving them. I have visited these communities, and each product speaks to me on a deeply personal level.
I would love to know more about how you work with female-led artisans from all over the world. How do you start a partnership and then continue to work with these amazing artisans and provide a platform for their products to be purchased by us here in Australia?
Fabi: The conversation flows naturally when you share the same values. It also helps that I do know a lot of them and their businesses in person.
What has been the most rewarding experience creating Akili and working with female-led artisans from around the world so far?
Fabi: Seeing the beautiful product range we’ve put together and knowing the story of each entrepreneur that joined the platform coming together has been the most rewarding achievement of my career.
What is next for Akili and your plans for the future?
We are establishing an inspiring partnership with WWF Australia to regenerate Australia, that officially starts this Wednesday, 25th August 2021. For every order placed on our website, Akili will plant in partnership with WWF a tree to regenerate Australia and will forward the GPS coordinates of the planted tree to the consumer.
Where can we find out more about the amazing work you are doing, shop the collections and find you on socials?Our website is www.akili.com.au where you can find out more about our story, values and shop the range. We also have interesting blog reads all about our community and collections. Follow and connect with us on Instagram at @akili_australia and on Facebook here.
Thank you so much for sharing your business journey and amazing brand with me and the TDP community. The work you are doing is simply amazing, and I am excited to continue supporting Akili here on thedailypretty.com! Please do check out Akili's website, shop the collections and show your support for female artisans and follow them on Instagram. I can't wait to see what is next for Akili.