A trip along the Great Ocean Road was the inspiration Madagascan couple Guillaume Buono and his partner needed to start their own raffia accessories brand, Tanora.
“When we visited Australia for the first time, we were thrilled by Australian diversity and the outdoor lifestyle—the craft markets, beaches, and boutiques,” says Buono. “We felt that there was no better country than Australia for Tanora, which means youth [in Malagasy].”
Madagascar is known for its raffia, and Buono says Tanora is about promoting Madagascan handicraft with a modern touch through its range of bags and hats. All products are handcrafted in Madagascar using traditional looms, a practice that has become increasingly rare.
Buono says this situation is a win-win, as he is able to provide jobs for Madagascan workers by offering quality products to Australian retailers.
“An integral part of our mission is to maintain the human side and artistry of a craft native to Madagascar. Also, today, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world… We actively encourage fair trade work conditions in an effort to help the people of Madagascar find their own financial independence.
“We are one of the few, if not the only, Australian brand that offers raffia accessories and manages its entire supply chain… Too many brands choose to buy Madagascan raffia in bulk and have their production done elsewhere.”
While crocheted raffia is already popular in Australia, through Tanora Buono wanted to introduce consumers to more traditional forms like handwoven and bobbin lace.
“The raffia lace is our latest baby, we are lucky enough to count amongst our workers one of the only women left in Madagascar who knows how to do bobbin lace of raffia,” he says. “It is such a challenging technique, brought by French colonisers centuries ago. Madagascan people acquired this technique and adapted it to local materials such as raffia.”
Tanora exhibited at Life Instyle Sydney recently and was a finalist in the GALA Awards handmade category. Prior to this Buono exhibited at Maison & Objet in Paris.
“We got great returns from the show and look forward to establishing our brand in some selected European stores,” he says.
“Our dream in the longer term would be to launch our own store where we could fully immerse visitors in Tanora atmosphere.”
By Ruth Cooper