Hi everyone, nepchin is really excited to bring you this post. nepchin is going to talk to Sarah of HQW Distributors who distribute the new and exciting brand, “Smateria” from Cambodia. Yeah Cambodia! We were surprised at first to be talking about something from Cambodia but Smateria is a cool brand making sustainable handmade bags and accessories from common and recycled materials. So think plastic bags and motorcycle seats transformed into fashionable handbags, it’s almost like works of art!
nepchin: “Hi Sarah and thanks for your time. Now the bags and accessories from Smateria, the designs are really cool and funky. We read that it was started by two Italian friends, Elisa and Jennifer a few years ago in 2006, how did it start and how did you get involved?”
Sarah: “Yes, you’re right. I have been working in Cambodia for the past 3 years and saw the Smateria shop in Phnom Penh and loved the products. I use them myself and came up with the idea of distributing them in Australia. My partner’s family business is HQW so I suggested bringing Smateria under its fold once we returned to Australia at the start of this year. I have a huge amount of respect for Jennifer and Elisa who started the business from scratch with very limited experience in this industry – through great determination, an eye for design and strong business savvy they have grown this business from 5 to 50 employees in just 5 years!”
nepchin: “That’s pretty amazing to be able to start something like that. It’s quite inspiring to see new businesses have a go and really rewarding that this kind of business also helps local families in Cambodia too. For local families, what does the opportunities of Smateria mean to them?”
Sarah: “Absolutely, Smateria represents an opportunity for Cambodian employees to learn new skills (to an international standard) which improves their employability and standard of living. Smateria employs all of its workers using fair trade principles and contracts them under international standard labour laws. They even run a program where they outsource work to the families of the employees at their warehouse and buy them a sewing machine to get started which they pay off gradually with their wages and soon own it – a great initiative which really makes a huge difference to these people’s lives!”
nepchin: “Looking through the range you have, the materials are quite varied. How is Smateria able to fuse the unique design, the use of recycled material and the practicality of the bags. We were expecting really low end design work but they really do look fantastic and the colours are quite striking and the materials seem quite durable.”
Sarah: “Yes it is definitely a worldwide concept that developing countries will develop products that are below par in the developed world, but it’s just not true, there are a growing amount of innovatively-designed products coming out of this region, particularly in Cambodia. It is true that the Smateria bags are Italian-designed but the materials used are all common to Cambodia and are put together by Khmer staff. The staff learn a new way of using these materials that was probably not familiar to them before and they can now assist Elisa in her designs. It is also true that given the lack of resources in Cambodia, you can see that people know how to recycle – I’ve seen all sorts of tools fashioned from recycled materials for everyday use. Yes, the colours are striking – very bright – you’ll never lose your overnight bag on the baggage carousel at the airport! And you’re right durable too – the ‘smoto’ range that has been made from recycled motorbike seats and has probably been used for the past 10 years or so – you can imagine how many bottoms it’s seen in that time – and it’s still going strong, now in the form of a messenger bag!”
nepchin: “so HQW have brought them to Australia, if one is interested, what options are there to get involved with Smateria’s line of products in Australia”
Sarah: “That’s right, once I discovered these amazing products I worked with Jennifer and Elisa and with HQW to realise the possibility of bringing these products to Australia. We are beginning to get the word out there and now have 3 stockists all in my hometown of Adelaide surprisingly enough and many more stockists on the horizon. If you have a shop and would like to stock these products, please get in touch with us. Or you can buy a limited collection direct from us online at www.smateria.com.au.”
nepchin: “ok great, if anyone is interested, you’d better get on to it quick!, Sarah, thanks for joining us at nepchin.com and for your hard work to bring Smateria to Australia, we would otherwise never have got to know about this secret brand. The Techno bag has caught my eye, so I’m going to have a closer look.”
Sarah: “That’s great – The Techno bag is a really durable laptop bag that comes in three sizes and a fantastic colour range – great for travelling. There’s also the Ye-Ye which can perfectly fit an ipad or kindle in it.”
Now you don’t have to go all the way to Cambodia to get some cool hand-made pieces from common and recycled materials. To get your items or to look for a bag or accessory from Smateria, you can contact Sarah at Smateria or Post a need on nepchin.com to reach her.