Mushmina – designing change

By Bel Esprit | Women
Posted Nov 28, 2012

Wander around the Rittenhouse Square area in Philadelphia, and you will find new shops and businesses redefining the neighborhood. Tucked away on South Street is a charming store built around the philosophy of fair trade called Mushmina. Step though the small storefront, and you are instantly transported to the magic and mystery of Morocco. Founded by sisters, Heather and Katie O’Neill, Mushmina is a lovingly curated display of carefully crafted clothing, accessory and home items. The sisters partner with artisans in Morocco and Mali to create and develop the high quality, fashionable items.

Their dream began with Heather’s Peace Corp service as a small business advisor, working in rural Morocco and helping women diversify their product offering to increase exports. Heather was joined by her sister Katie, and the two traveled and lived in Morocco and Mali. Their commitment to help economically disadvantaged people grew into the idea of Mushmina. The sisters work with communities to develop commercially successful products, and give them a direct sales market through the Mushmina website, the shop in Philadelphia and retailers throughout the US.

The sisters discovered that in these countries artisans often work in their homes and have very few opportunities to generate income. They also have limited bargaining power in the local market and limited access to international markets. Despite these challenges, the artisans are full of ideas, spirit, and vision. Mushmina creates employment opportunities for women and men in developing countries. They view their creative process as a global exchange of ideas and an opportunity to develop new relationships across cultures. In the way each one contributes to this process, the products empower all people to be beautiful and expressive.

In Morocco they work with over 9 different artisan groups, employing over 75 artisans. Some of the superstar women’s groups have been the ladies of Arazane, The Embroidery association of Oulmes, Tifaout Cooperative, L’Association D’Artisanat Des Femmes De Khenifra, metalsmiths Cherif Rismi and Ahmed El Guerch, and many more. Mushmina also works with the women of Oued Zem who help with all the finishing, labeling, and shipment of the products.

Mushmina is a little shop with a global mission. If you are in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by the store and talk to Katie about the many beautifully crafted products in the store. But be forewarned – once you hear the amazing stories behind each of the items, you will find it impossible to leave empty-handed!

Mushmina, 1540 South Street, Philadelphia, PA

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