basik 855

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basik 855

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

basik 855 grew out of a chance encounter between two entrepreneurs (one American and one Cambodian) and the friendship they forged.

In three years, we have grown from a team of 6 artisans working in their own homes to a weaving center with 46 full-time employees, including a team of Cambodian textile designers. 96% of our full-time staff is Cambodian.

All of our finished products are sewn by like-minded social enterprises, which allow us to financially support Friends-International, Stop Start and other Cambodian seamstresses and tailors in Phnom Penh.

In addition to direct sales through our website, we have approximately 60 wholesale customer accounts as well as a number of private label contracts and designer collaborations.

We’ve received coverage in a variety of trade and consumer publications including American Spa, Travel+Leisure, Trend Central, Stylesight, The Phnom Penh Post, Idea Mensch, Designare, Design*Sponge, and most recently, Redbook.

We are dedicated to our artisans and a renaissance of Cambodian ikat.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Weaving is a time-honored tradition and way of life in Cambodia; research shows that Cambodians in Takeo Province have been weaving since the 5th century. Ikat, one of the longest-standing textile traditions, involves hand-dyeing patterns into individual strands of silk or cotton before a fabric is woven. It is often a family endeavor in which a wife weaves while her husband takes care of all of the preparatory work – spinning, tying, and dyeing the threads. As the process is completely handmade, it is time-intensive and imperfect in nature – attributes which only enhance its beauty. Unfortunately, recent economic shifts have made it difficult to be a prosperous self-employed weaver. Many weavers have succumbed to predatory middlemen or unfavorable loans and are no longer able to support themselves or their families. Our weaving center is located in Chheu Teal Village, Takeo Province, and currently employs 46 full-time artisans from surrounding villages. We have seasonal work that we offer on a freelance basis as well as a waiting list of over 100 artisans who would like to work at basik 855. The goal of our weaving center and company is to stimulate a renaissance of Cambodian ikat so that the people of Takeo can make a better living—one rooted in their own customs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

basik 855 is a brand of textiles, fashion accessories, and home décor that provides full-time employment to Cambodian artisans. While many artisanal brands exist, we are unique as we marry traditional techniques with modern design aesthetics. Our products reflect seasonal trends and appeal to global consumers in their home countries. We are not a souvenir company; basik 855 products travel the world and look equally appropriate on the streets of Phnom Penh, New York City, Paris, or Mumbai. By focusing largely on export markets (wholesale and direct sales in the USA) we are able to price our goods at market value, which enables us to provide living wages to our employees as well as medical benefits, annual ophthalmology exams, paid maternity leave, paid time off, and skills training. When surveyed, our artisans revealed that many do not have reliable access to clean water and are frequently sick with stomach-related illnesses. Therefore we are starting Project 855, which will allocate 10% of our profits to fund clean water solutions for our artisans. When each of our artisans has access to clean water, Project 855 will evolve to fund the next highest priority. Prior to basik 855, our artisans were self-employed. By becoming full-time employees at basik 855 they have gained the security of consistent work, medical coverage, and additional benefits. By operating on a larger scale, we would be able to provide these advantages to more artisans.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In the nearly three years since we opened our weaving center, we’ve noticed a number of changes that demonstrate an improved quality of life for our artisans. Through informal interviews, we’ve noted increased wealth as many of our artisans have upgraded their transportation from a bicycle to a motorbike, have purchased livestock (like cows and pigs), have upgraded their living conditions or made home improvements, and/or have paid off loans. Many of our artisans are experiencing improved health. Due to earning a stable income, they are able to introduce more protein and variety into their daily diets. Access to a trained doctor coupled with full medical reimbursements ensures that our employees receive the quality health care they require. Most of our weavers have found it is more lucrative to hire neighbors to do their agricultural work than to take time off to farm. In this way, our artisans are stimulating the local economy.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

basik 855 lives in the crossroads between fashion and home décor brands, social enterprises, and artisan-based businesses. Often, our peers live in two or more of those worlds as well, like Andean Collection and Tom’s Shoes. However, we are also aiming to live in the same brand neighborhood as well-known fashion and home décor brands like Kate Spade and Jonathan Adler. Our success hinges on consumers’ perception of our fashion credibility. First and foremost, our products must be on-trend, seasonally appropriate, and of the highest quality standards. Fashion drives our sales; supporting artisans and social responsibility are bonuses that our customers appreciate. We founded basik 855 because of our artisans. Supporting them with living wages and an improved quality of life is intrinsic to what we do. However, it can be hard to compete in a market where social impact is linked to a buy-one-give-one mentality. In order to best serve each of our artisans, we need to evaluate their unique circumstances to determine what is needed. For example, some of our employees rely on pond water while others have access to wells but not filtration systems. We can only help to improve each individuals quality of life by first understanding his or her present situation. Therefore, we have chosen a holistic approach that recognizes the need for complex solutions.