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Crafted from the sustainable hand-woven jute that Maison Bengal is known for, the collaboration is made to capture the sense of ease at the heart of SMR Days – our laid-back philosophy. “Aesthetically, we want these bags to be an extension of our collections,” say our founders Adam Shapiro, Dan May and Gautam Rajani. “Totally versatile and relaxed, able to work on a plane or at the beach, on a trip to the market or out for lunch.”
The two different colour-ways were chosen to recall the landscapes Adam, Dan and Gautam have encountered on their global travels – the warm and inviting tones of sun, sea and sand. Imagined for brighter days ahead, when we can begin to explore the world again, each bag is finished with a symbolic leather luggage tag.
The collaboration with Maison Bengal began with a chance encounter earlier this March, when the world was still in lockdown. “We happened across Maison Bengal online, reached out to them directly, and the rest is history,” say Adam, Dan and Gautam. “We were completely blown away by the work that Maison Bengal do, and the women, families and communities they support, so we dreamt up this collaboration and were incredibly excited when they were open to creating something with us.”
“We were completely blown away by the work that Maison Bengal do, and the women, families and communities they support, so we dreamt up this collaboration and were incredibly excited when they were open to creating something with us.”
Sharing SMR Days’ commitment to working with artisans ethically across our collections, Maison Bengal was founded in 2004 by Sheenagh Day to help fight poverty in Bangladesh. Now working with thousands of women across the country, they create bags, baskets and homeware using traditional techniques passed through generations. All of their craftspeople are fairly rewarded for their work, allowing them greater access to education, healthcare and housing.
“I lived in Bangladesh for a couple of years in the early 2000s, working for a UN-affiliated family planning and reproductive health organisation,” Sheenagh says of how Maison Bengal first began. “Poverty, and in many cases extreme poverty, was the underlying cause of so many of the issues affecting the women I worked with. In many cases poverty denied them basic human rights – access to education, nutrition, decision-making, choices and life opportunities.
“At the same time, I was struck by the high level of artisanal skill in weaving, macramé and basket-making I had seen while travelling around the country. Providing women with an income for these skills, very often for the first time in their lives, was the driving force in creating Maison Bengal.”
Jute – the material from which the bags are made, and the material at the heart of Maison Bengal – is one of the world’s most sustainable natural fibres, and indigenous to Bangladesh. Using very little water to produce and in plentiful natural supply, it is a biodegradable material that, once woven by Maison Bengal’s craftspeople, becomes strong and durable, creating bags to last a lifetime.
It felt a natural fit for SMR Days’ first collaboration. “It gets to the DNA of what SMR Days is about – championing local artisans but interpreting their work through our lens and bringing their skills to a global audience,” say Adam, Dan and Gautam. “It also allows us to create something totally unique and special.”
“If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is how connected we all are, wherever we live in the world and whatever our circumstances. The time has come for us all to pay much greater attention to our choices as consumers, and to think compassionately about the people who make the products we buy,” adds Sheenagh. “It is more important than ever to work together, and to build on what Maison Bengal has already achieved.”
The bags will also be SMR Days’ first accessory since our launch last year. “We love the story, we love supporting an organisation doing incredible work,” say Adam, Dan and Gautam. “It’s about building out who we are as a brand. There are so many natural extensions of our laid-back, holiday vibe – bags are an organic first step, but there will be much more to come. We hope that you love them as much as we did dreaming them up.”
SMR Days x Maison Bengal is available exclusively on SMRDays.com. All profits from sales in the month of February will go directly back to the women who work with Maison Bengal in Bangladesh, and the communities they support.
This east-west tote made from sustainable hand-woven jute is part of our collaboration with Maison Bengal.
This north-south tote made from sustainable hand-woven jute is part of our collaboration with Maison Bengal.
Our take on the classic grandad shirt, with a twist. A relaxed fit, in lightweight white cotton, it has unique break-stitch detailing. Made for all occasions.
Made for relaxation, whether at home or away, these loose-fit trousers – here in this season’s yellow and white woven stripe cotton – fasten around the waist with a drawstring.