LONDON, United Kingdom — I am walking from Trafalgar Square down Northumberland Avenue en route to afternoon tea with a very special guest for The FG Magazine at the Lobby Lounge in the Corinthia Hotel. While I admire the spectacular Baccarat Chandelier that illuminates the main salon, I can see my guest waiting, already sipping a cup of tea. As we shake hands, I think how lucky I am to meet Tracey Chiappini-Young, CEO and Co-founder of Taunina, the sustainable luxury brand that creates bespoke soft toys such as Noella Bear that my daughter has her eyes on for Christmas.
Taunina Bears Made in Cape Town
The high quality and impeccable finish of Taunina’s bears and bunny rabbits speak for themselves, but the uniqueness of this brand does not lay purely on the products it offers but on the story behind each item, the rationale behind this business and the motto it uses to inspire its team of African embroiders at Taunina’s luxury atelier based in Cape Town.
Taunina a Social Luxury Brand That Has a Story to Be Shared
Taunina was born by the desire of Tracey and her colleague Karen Jansen to create a business that revives ancient skills and provides disadvantaged women with financial security and personal recognition. The idea was not to embark on a charitable project that would be based on piety or compassion from buyers, but to create beautiful items as a result of real talent, entrepreneurship and empowerment that would really spark people’s attention. As Tracey comments:
“Taunina is a social luxury brand that has a story to be shared. In many occasions it is the brand that sells the item, not in Taunina’s case, it is the skilful design and the story behind it that sells the item.”
Each Collectable Taunina Bear Is One of a Kind
Each collectable Taunina bear is one of a kind, created over a period of four to seven days with beautiful fabrics from iconic textile houses embroidered and appliquéd with a magic array of coloured threads featuring the artist’s imagination, style, history and hopes for the future.
“We have a group of embroiders coming from countries such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose hand skills in embroidery and appliqué artistry taught at school (a practice in many parts of Africa), are combined with South African tailors, creating a two way learning approach. Currently, we have around 200 people training at our facilities and 20 fully employed artists. Our embroiderers and tailors are also trained for finishing a luxury item as this process of mentorship to help them refine their skills.”
Helping the Embroiders Become “Lions of Their Own Destinies”
Taunina understands that recognition of the artists as the creators of such internationally recognised, high quality, one of a kind gifts develops important feelings of self-esteem, confidence and competence within the women. This is also the message behind its name: ‘tau’, meaning ‘lion’ and ‘NINA’, an acronym for ‘No Income, No Assets’ helping the embroiders become “lions of their own destinies”. Moreover, Taunina recognises through its Taunina Values Award the exceptional talent and commitment of its employees to further seed the spirit of abundance.
As Tracey explains: “Our team of embroiders are so proud of their designs and their self-esteem gets stronger. We have an artist studio, not a factory. We provide them a space where they can leverage their skills, boost their confidence and feel secure. How can people create if they do not feel secure? If you create self-esteem you create creativity and beauty. “
“We promote artists. We support them and their families through the Taunina Trust Fund. We also take care of the wellbeing and health of our employees and through this support, we create a give and take approach. If you create loyalty it will come back in abundance. As of now, we have had zero staff turn-over, and this is the result of strict communication which has turned into incredible loyalty towards Taunina.”
Our Team Takes Part in Every Process of the Business
Taunina provides its artists with a secure source of income, a share of the company’s profits and, most importantly, a feeling of dignity and pride. “We gather every Friday and discuss new designs, new techniques and talk about important topics for the group. Communication is paramount in these type of initiatives. Our team takes part in every process of the business, the inventory, the sales funnel, and the business strategy. We use transparent channels of communication.”
Tracey also explains the importance of constantly stimulating its group by bringing in new challenges in the elaboration of new patterns and designs to further nurture the flexibility of the embroiders who try to accommodate all the requests they receive in the same line of contemporary designs but with new interpretations. This is evident in the recent collaborations between Taunina and Patrick Mavros, the internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean silversmith and master sculptor, and New & Lingwood, the quintessential English bespoke shirt maker.
Aimed at a socially conscious consumer, who is looking to use her purchasing power to make a difference, Taunina bears and bunny rabbits are uniquely labelled for each collector. They have a unique identification number, the initials of the artists and a soft toy passport, presented in a handcrafted hatbox that itself is already a beautiful decorative item. Once you purchase a Taunina bear, you can register to the World of Taunina online community and follow the progress of the artist of your new companion.
Considering that 35 percent of European adults keep teddy bears from their childhood, Taunina’s bears can certainly fit this trend as they are made to survive over the years and be passed on to future generations. As Tracey proudly states: “A long lasting item that is beautiful, carries a story and helps a community to stand on its feet.”