In its second installment, Holt Renfrew’s H Project is back with a continent’s worth of craft and culture to uncrate — that of Africa.
The pet project of Alexandra Weston, director of brand strategy at Holt Renfrew, who immerses herself in the local life of a chosen region as she searches for artisans and craftspeople, “H Project: Uncrate Africa” in-store shops will open April 1 at select Holt Renfrew stores.
H Project supports local artisans by buying an assortment of apparel, accessories, home and beauty products, as well as items made from socially conscious materials and those that support a charitable cause. “We’re helping small groups that were never properly exported and also teaching our internal people to be a little more patient,” Weston said.
Over 22 designers — including Dannijo, Stella Jean, Lemlem, FEED Africa, Mark Holden, Indego Africa, Me to We, Otago, Kiya Kenya and Chantecaille — collaborated on exclusive collections, with each giving back in a unique way.
“I’ve always had a passion for India,” Weston said. “I went there with my family and with my husband on our honeymoon. The Dannijo girls were in Toronto during Uncrate India [the launch of the Project H] and said, ‘We love this concept, we want to be involved.’ They started the ball rolling.”
Dannijo set up production at Indego Africa’s Cocoki, Ejo Hazaza and Ibaba cooperatives, which assist women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education. “The Dannijo girls told them how to price themselves and brand and market themselves,” Weston said. Dannijo’s jewelry consists of multimedia pieces with horns, braiding, beads and amulets.
Me to We’s bespoke atelier in Karibu recruits skilled Maasai artisans and provides sustainable employment. Weston collaborated with Me to We’s in-house designer to create authentic handbags and pouches exclusive to Uncrate Africa. Kiya Kenya was discovered along the journey. H Project will be carrying an assortment of their brass jewelry and home décor items.
“Olivia Chantecaille did an exclusive blush palette for us with her elephant stamp and gave a portion of sales to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which protects the endangered Rothschild giraffes that roam the grounds,” Weston said.
Prices for “Uncrate Africa” range from $40 for three woven seagrass bangles to $535 for Lemlem’s jumpsuit. Dannijo’s horn and tin choker is $212, Stella Jean’s giraffe cuff, $145, and Otago glasses, $294 for a set of four.
Asked where the upcoming “Uncrate” will unfold, Weston said, “I have my eye set on South America and Peru next.” The program will be in Holt Renfrew’s four flagships: Calgary, Vancouver and Bloor Street and Yorkdale Street in Toronto. “I think the program will expand,” said Weston, who has no interest in opening freestanding Uncrate stores. “H Project is an important part of the Holt Renfrew brand,” she said. “I want to take people who want unique things on a trip.”