Jennifer and Elisa started Smateria with two very clear objectives: to create a beautiful, high-quality product using ‘bizarre’ materials, and to employ Cambodian workers in a fair and sustainable way, giving priority to women and mothers. In today’s world it is not enough to create beautiful designs. Consumers want to know that a product has been produced sustainably and that the people who produced it are being treated well by their employers.
Elisa and Jennifer can confidently tick both those boxes. Smateria’s employees (85 percent of whom are women) enjoy comfortable working conditions, a thirteen-month salary, health insurance, professional training and the freedom to train across the whole organization – from pre-production to sales.
Possibly best of all is a free preschool and childcare centre right on the premises so new mums can breastfeed their babies and staff with young children can work, happy in the knowledge that their children are getting a good education – right upstairs. The professionally trained teachers also oversee a library and encourage children to borrow books to read at home.
Smateria’s philosophy is simple: give new life to ‘poor’ materials, create something beautiful from materials that were meant for something else, and at every opportunity, recycle.