Behind the scenes at Bongolala
The artisans we work with are talented and creative, but often have no way to market their products. We believe in empowering people – no matter where they live or how disadvantaged their background – to make the most of the skills they have. We do this by seeking out the quirkiest, coolest, most creative pieces made with true integrity.
From a young age, Irena loved fashion design, creating her own designs and clothing. This led her to study art and design in Zagreb before moving back to her beautiful home island of Lošinj where she now designs and produces unique clothing, handbags and home decor for Bongolala. Working with Petra introduced her to African wax fabrics. Their vibrant colours and designs in luxurious cotton have been a true inspiration and main feature in her creations.
In 2019, we started our own line, working with Croatian designers and artists to create unique, limited-edition products. We make women’s clothing, handbags, earrings, aprons and home decor items such as pillowcases. Owner Petra’s concept behind the Bongolala brand is to bring together the two threads of her life in Africa with her life in Europe, combining European style and traditional craft with the beauty, originality of African fabrics.
Moyo is a quirky, East African design house creating vibrant home décor that embodies the carefree, sassy kaleidoscope of modern Swahili style. Each statement piece is handcrafted using African wax textiles and features Moyo’s fabric pompoms and Maasai beads.
The Mabinti Centre
Mabinti means ‘girls’ in Swahili. The centre trains young women recovering from fistula surgery in screenprinting, sewing, beading and crochet. During a 12-month course the trainees develop the knowledge and skills to establish an income and become financially independent. At the end of their course each graduate is supplied with a starter kit containing a sewing machine, scissors, a supply of fabric and a calculator. After training for a year the Mabinti women are ready to start their own business.
Sovica means ‘owl’ in Croatian. It is a family business speardheaded by artist mum and entrepreneur Helena. Based in Zagreb, Croatia, Helena’s unique children’s stuffed toys and pillows are designed and handmade by herself with the rest of her family helping in the various processes. Bongolala has collaborated with Helena, combining her beautiful designs with African wax fabrics.