|Inspired by the beauty of the Swahili Coast and the magnificent landscapes of East Africa, Mikuti merges the world of jewelry, fashion, and socially minded economic development. With a focus on sustainability, we create jobs, form partnerships, and support existing workshops and employment chains in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We create innovative designs and quality products using locally sourced materials and artisan skill, while being mindful of the impact we have on the communities where we work and the individuals we work with. Our principles include a firm commitment to paying fair wages, establishing long-term relationships with our partners and suppliers, and harnessing local talent. The materials we use are sourced from a variety of organic, recycled, and local materials, including banana bark, recycled metals, textiles, beads, and repurposed ankole cow horn.
Designer and founder Erika Freund launched Mikuti in 2009, while she had been attending graduate school at New York University. At the time she was studying social work, but was very interested in economic development, so she traveled to Tanzania to work in the field. While creating and implementing a training program on small business formation, she noted the abundant natural resource of banana trees.
|After a series of serendipitous events, and a chance meeting with a woman highly skilled in weaving the material, Freund thought “let’s see if we can make a basic bangle bracelet out of banana bark”, that’s exactly what they did. When she returned to New York City with a stack of these bangles on her wrist (and 100 more in her suitcase), people started asking her where they could buy them. She saw an opportunity to create a quality product out of an existing free resource.
Naturally curious, and truly a free spirit, she saw no reason to not explore the potentials of the continent. Since then, Freund has taken her designs and ideas to Kenya, Uganda, and beyond. The original banana bark bangles have graced various runways, accessorizing shows at Mercedes Benz Swim, London Fashion Week, Swahili Fashion Week, and The Hub of Africa Fashion in Ethiopia. Freund is deeply inspired by possibility. She draws her inspirations from love, alchemy, the vibrant colors of East Africa, religious symbolisms, art, and much more. She also loves to laugh, have fun, get lost in local markets seeking out inspirations, attempts speaking Swahili as much as possible, jumps at every opportunity to eat local cuisine, and her respect towards the African continent run deep. She splits her time between Brooklyn, NY & East Africa.