Throughout the years we’ve been approached by a lot of companies wanting to collaborate with us. Although it’s tempting to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way, we turned down most requests so that we can stay focused on building and improving Ugmonk.
But sometimes the perfect opportunity arises to work with a brand that I care about and that fits nicely with the Ugmonk ethos. Krochet Kids intl. is one of those brands. When I had the privilege of connecting with KK intl. co-founder, Kohl Crecelius, a few months ago and he suggested a collaboration idea, it was the perfect project to team up on.
As creatives and makers we believe it’s important to highlight (and give due credit) to the person behind a product or project. We believe products have more value when you know the person behind a product. The reality is our world is very disconnected from this idea.
Together with Krochet Kids intl. we are launching an exclusive t-shirt and poster set to help further the #knowwhomadeit movement. Designed by me (Ugmonk) and hand-sewn and signed by women in Peru, each tee is available for a limited time at KrochetKids.org.
AN INSIDE LOOK AT KROCHET KIDS INTL.
We chatted with Kohl Crecelius, Co-founder of Krochet Kids intl, to get an inside look at how they got their start, the mission behind what they do, and where they are headed next.
In a nutshell, what is Krochet Kids intl. and what’s your mission?
KK intl. is an innovative non-profit & a lifestyle brand. We exist to empower people to rise above poverty, and we do this through the provision of jobs, education, and mentorship for women in Uganda and Peru. 100% of the apparel, headwear, and accessories we sell are made at our empowerment projects in those locations and each piece is hand-signed by the woman who made it.
Why is showing who made your products so important?
As consumers today, we are extremely disconnected from the understanding of where our clothing comes from and how it is made. Our desire to find the least expensive items has forced millions around the globe to work in unfair conditions. We (as in all of us) have an opportunity to change this but it starts with education. As a brand, we want to educate people on not only how items are made, but how their purchase can create beautiful, long-lasting impact on actual people!
How many women to you employ around the world?
We employ over 175 women in the communities where we work in Uganda and Peru. They are two completely different environments, but two commonalities exist: 1) both communities experience extreme poverty, and 2) both are filled with amazing people who desire to create a better future for themselves and their families.
So many “charitable” brands seem to miss the mark on product quality. How have you guys been able to produce such high-quality products while not losing sight of your mission?
We knew from day one that the best way we could serve the people we wanted to help was to create the best product possible. So, that’s where we started. Creating great product was how we would sustain our work in the long-term because the bottom line is that people purchase what they like and what fits good. Our advantage was that we were our target market and we knew the level of quality – as well as the style – necessary to accomplish this.
What are some of the coolest unexpected opportunities that have come about since launching Krochet Kids intl.?
We have been fortunate to partner with and learn from some very amazing brands. Two years ago we partnered with Vans on a shoe collaboration. As a part of the launch we decided to take one of their professional surfers (Leila Hurst) down to Peru to see our empowerment project there. Not only did we show them the area, but we also took all of the women of KK Peru surfing! It was an incredible experience and a prime example of how empowerment is so much more than a person’s financial situation. The smiles and the confidence that came from these ladies surfing was nothing short of magical.
What are some of the biggest struggles about running an international brand and operating out of several different countries?
Logistically, there are plenty of challenges when it comes to our operations. In addition, we choose to work with the most vulnerable women in the communities where we work. This means that many of them have had little education and no previous training in apparel or accessories production. There is a lot of training involved to get them caught up to speed, but we do this because we believe it is what creates the most impact. All in all, I think the biggest challenge of them all is communicating all of this to a western consumer and helping them understand the complexities of how items are made and what it truly means to empower someone to rise above poverty. Our attention spans are pretty short these days.
What does #knowwhomadeit mean to you?
#knowwhomadeit is the acknowledgement that our products are much more than inanimate objects that exist to serve us. Acknowledging our products are made by people causes us to think about how our purchases are impacting them. Ultimately, it helps us realize that we have an opportunity to stand for something that matters as we are shopping.
Do you guys still remember how to crochet?
Absolutely. I don’t often crochet these days, but it was that act of creating that initially got us hooked (pun intended). It is a real confidence booster when you can create something that is cool and that other people enjoy (as I’m sure you know Jeff). That’s why we knew it would be impactful for others to learn.
What’s next for Krochet Kids intl.?
Other than this amazing collaboration with you? We are working on a lot of exciting projects. One thing we are extremely passionate about is helping other non-profits and social businesses improve and measure the social impact they are generating. We are in the process of building out some resources from our years of experience to equip others to do that effectively. It’s going to be fun!
BEHIND THE DESIGN
This design was such a fun project to work on. The phrase Behind Every Product is a Person really struck a chord with me personally as a maker and designer. I started by sketching out a variety of layouts and knew I wanted to place the main emphasis on the word “person.” From there I worked through multiple iterations of the design integrating my hand-drawn script with the clean, modern typeface until I landed on the final piece that you see here. I’m really happy with how the final design turned out.
We live in a culture that’s quick to consume whatever is the cheapest, fastest, and newest. Rarely do we stop to think about who actually spent time to make the things that we use and enjoy every day. Whether it’s a craftsman in another country or a chef at a local restaurant, there are real people behind everything. I’m excited about the #knowwhomadeit campaign because it highlights those people.
Being a maker myself has caused me to consider which products I purchase and think more about the where and how they were made. I’ve been a fan long-time fan of Krochet Kids intl. and their transparency about how their products are made is what initially drew me in.