The strong women that make up the Maldives and add uniqueness to our boutique.
Each year we celebrate Women’s Day on the 8th of March, acknowledging the power of all women and girls around the world. This year’s theme is ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world’. We appreciate all of our women, in service, arts and crafts, care-giving, and community empowerment. We salute the work that they do for equal pay and calls for women’s right to decision making in all aspects of life.
In the Maldives, from its ancient roots in the rule of matriarchs to artisans and politicians, women have contributed immensely to our society. On such a day, we would like to acknowledge our strong bond with women artisans. We can proudly say that most artisans that we are in collaboration with are women. They continue to pave the way, shaping our current circumstances to be better and moving forward to the new world in a brave and positive way.
Each Women’s Day Island Bazaar have celebrated with our women artists and artisans. Last year we conducted a panel discussion with Aima from MACCS, Azu from Ogaa, Dhahau as our photographer we have worked with, Haajara from Elhabe', Hidha from Kasabu by Hidha, as well as Shafa and Aisha from Island Apothecary.
We have written about these talented ladies on our social media, which you can view on our instagram highlights under Island Women. This year, we are presenting some of the women we have recently had the privilege of working with.
Our Concrete Jungle series and Maldives Archipelago was designed in collaboration with the very talented Fathmath Azleena [Azoo]. She started off with her illustrations and artistic ventures from very early on. Her vibrant and unique designs are visible throughout magazines and on murals for local café hotspots such as Salt. After years of chatting about working together on a project our Creative Director Fathimath Salah (Koki) and Azoo finally collaborated together on the Concrete Jungle designs these were inspired by the natural and urban elements of our daily island life.
These designs were completed while we were in strict lockdown in Greater Male', and reflects, the nostalgia we felt for our island home through elements like the window pattern [jaali] the birds we see in our urban life and the vegetation that gives us food security, like banana and the papaya.
This year, we have also rolled out the Archipelago collection, showcasing a bespoke illustration by Azoo: a vibrantly coloured map of the Maldives featuring the people, flora and fauna of each atoll. The collection includes a 200 piece puzzle, postcards and magnets.
Her artistic skills are greatly appreciated by Koki, who notes how easy and effortless it is working on the intricate designs. Island Bazaar is truly inspired by Azoo, who adds warmth and pops of colour to our products.
Naza | Craft Studio
Inspired by the island life as well as her three year old son’s artistic watercolour palettes, Naza (Hawwa Nazaahath Shameem) is the artisan behind Craft Studio, creating sleek and simple cement-ware for all different spaces. Naza completed her Undergraduate in Interior Architecture and Master’s in Business Administration. She grew up witnessing her mother create beautiful crafts for the Mauraz or Expo held in Malé.
Whilst primarily parenting her son, in 2019 she got the opportunity to work on a guest house. This proved to be a good time for her to experiment with her love for exposed concrete finishes, and a passion to create cement pots and trays was born. In the same year, she herself got the opportunity to showcase her crafts at the Fannu expo, where she received third place in the sculpture category. Through 2020, Naza found a lot of free time that gave her the space to study new techniques and fine tune the production. One of her favourite pieces is the oval tray that got her the prize at the expo. We at Island Bazaar love her crafts that provide a modern finish to our homeware collection.
Naza believes all women should find their passions and give yourself the chance to try, “ take that leap. Say yes to all the opportunities that come your way ”. Moreover, for primary care givers like herself she wishes for more safe, reliable and easy child care services.
Sarah | Komas Beauty
Few makeup brands exist in the Maldives and Komas Beauty is certainly an exception amongst its peers. After living abroad for decade or so, Sarah Ibrahim ventured to get back to her Maldivian roots and nurture her creativity. Whilst, interning at Nada Salon she came across makeup palettes with beach themed colours. Hence, an idea by chance —- to create an eyeshadow palette with Dhivehi inspirations.
For Sarah, through Komas Beauty she found herself and the deep appreciation for the vibrant and rich Maldivian culture. In 2020, she launched the Komas Beauty Moodhu Palette inspired by the shades of the sea, the nature around us and the Maldivian culture. The palette is deeply personal with a custom artwork from 2018 when she was not in a good place. Turning something dark into light and positivity, she has even named two of the palettes colours after her little cousins — Luka & Lael . The palette evokes moods of the beach, sunny days with a hint of glamour.
She adores her photoshoots with Komas Beauty which has garnered her a like-minded community. Sarah believes in the advocacy and support for women owned business - “if men can do it, so can women”. Her wish is for an environment of acceptance where people do not belittle other women whether it be someone who is related to a public figure or invested in their business.
For Komas Beauty, exciting things await and Sarah wants us all to stay tuned for her new line of products.
Rau | girlfromathousandisles
Rauha Ali or affectionately called Rau @girlfromathousandisles [on instagram], has seen many young women enquire and get into embroidery recently . Perhaps this maybe unsurprising as her debut collection exclusively for Island Bazaar sold out completely within a day itself. At 25 years old she is an exceptional artists at her craft. Being taught by her grandmother at age 7, embroidery is somewhat natural for her —- “just like how a writer picks up a pen to teleport into their escape, I pick up my needle and embroider what I miss seeing or long to see.”
Indeed it was truly an escape for us as her 17 uniquely hand embroidered designs on our latest style of extra large tote bags under the Island People collection, pictured all the things we miss and adore. From coconut palms to the raalhu foshi, Rau’s embroidery reminds us of the beach and island getaways that we desperately miss.
It all started as a hobby. Initially on wooden hoops, it branched off to appeal for newborn babies as well as styling café aprons. The year that was 2020 and the mandatory 14 day quarantine post-trip from Malaysia, subjected her to pursue her passion for the craft. The collection that was created for Island Bazaar was her biggest project, and as she describes as a ‘pinch me’ moment.
Rau firmly believes all women are capable of pursuing their passion and the environment should be more supportive of small scale businesses —- “ Don’t hesitate to share a new skill you picked up, don't stop working on it and keep building it. If you come across another in your field doing well, support them too and build each other up.”
Her end goal is to reintroduce the medium to the younger generation not just for girls, but for boys as well; as a gender neutral skill.
Shifa | eyeschipha
Hailing from Dhaalu Meedho, Shifa (Aishath Shifa Shafeeg), is a photographer that delivers bespoke captures in travel, portrait, lifestyle and landscape. She has been working with Island Bazaar for the past two years. Her photos have an element of detail and simplicity that provides the mind a space to wonder and marvel at our environments, spaces and the people who live in it, evoking warmth and joy.
Her career started off working as a civil servant in the Ministry of Environment and then a shift as a stewardess on the airline Mega Maldives. This as she proved was her inspirational boost, where travel opened her to diverse cultures, people and landscapes of the Maldives and elsewhere.
“ ‘eyeschipha’ was just a fun instagram name I picked which in turn has come to define my personal brand’ — she explains how her family, friends and followers still continue to support and share her work. As with most people, 2020 was also a very difficult year to obtain clients. It enabled her to develop her own personal skills. Certainly, Shifa became a skilled and inspiring lens for Island Bazaar.
“To be honest every photograph I’ve taken so far has been one I will always cherish, especially when it’s loved by my clients.”
She wishes for the government to strengthen laws and regulation to encourage more women entrepreneurship. As for women who want to work in this field, she adds, “ There is no pre-requisite set of skills, experience or qualifications that one should and have. Find something you love, embrace the struggles and hardships and do your work passionately, with dedication and determination.”.
Immi & Aish | Vilunü
Immi (Emau Ahmed Saleem) & Aish (Aishath Rasheed) found inspiration through capturing the scent of a local madhoshi seed, becoming the brand now known as Vilunü. Ever since their debut in 2019 at Island Bazaar, our customers have raved over the uniquely Maldivian scents that bring freshness to our homes and interiors. Their work to capture the full spectrum of lush flora and plant life found on our islands gave us the uniquely bespoke scents made here in the Maldives.
“Our products and scents take inspiration from our tropical jungles, our lush flora, & especially our personal memories of our childhood homes and the island visits we have taken” — Vilunü’s appeal comes through their reed diffusers in two scents, a hand cream, as well scented beads.
Immi and Aish take note of how the society can foster an environment that loudly celebrates women in all forms of business. When we all celebrate them and push the idea of more women going into business, it sends a clear message to young girls and boys. Furthermore they are also of the view that most rules and regulations are made by men and for men, without catering the unique situations of women - “It would benefit women greatly to have better representation and say when such regulations are made.”
Vilunü’s products also prove that women can go forth in the science of chemistry and scent formulation. These avenues must not be dominated by men or big corporations.
“I started making washable face masks for my loved ones and my priority was to make durable, well-fitting and safe face masks for people.” — Zifu (Zifna) details her ventures during 2020. Masks have become a staple product sold at Island Bazaar and our customers love its designs, material and fit. Masks are a small part of her catalogue, which includes bags, clothing and accessories.
Zifu started off in the tourism industry, dipping into fashion apparel and accessories with the Berries outlet opened with her family. Her brand Zifna, came into being after she had her daughter, who became an inspiration. From sewing dresses and pyjamas for friends, to making a bag for her daughter’s kindergarten classes, Zifu now makes a variety of products including wallets and laptop sleeves. She is equally inspired by a creative group of friends who are passionate about their different artistic endevours.
“There are several hurdles being faced by women to venture into business. One of the main issues would be financial difficulties.” — Zifu firmly believes for more accessible accessible financial opportunities for women to grow in a positive economic environment. She wants all women to work with their passions without ever giving up.
Her washable face masks have been a a lifesaver during these trying times and it has been well received by our customers. We hope for even more inspiring products from Zifu in the coming years.
The Island Women of our boutique are just a snapshot of the vibrancy and talent of women in the Maldives. Let us embrace it all as we wish women, both here and all over the world, a happy Women’s day and Women’s history month!
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