Travel bags and accessories handmade in Ethiopia
AFAR was born in this wonderful land starting from the design of prototypes to study shapes and colors that best suit the needs of the African journey up to the realization of the final product. The details are improved or added, the superfluous is eliminated until the bags come to life under the watchful eyes of those who work with us.
What Afar bags and accessories are made of?
AFAR products are inspired by the nature, soul and energy of the African land.
The hand-made bags are designed to withstand the harsh environment in which they are born, they are light in order to face a nomadic life and, most importantly, made with natural materials.
Years of studies and experiments were needed to perfect processing and finishing methods that allowed the materials to face travel conditions in Africa better than artificial fibers.
The parts of the bags that are subject to greater wear are hand-sewn with very strong waxed threads and perforated leather reinforcements.
Horn and titanium elements are used for their strength and appearance and because they are materials that are easy to compost or recycle.
Much of the cotton used for AFAR bags comes from small farmers’ cooperatives in the North West regions of Ethiopia where cotton is still grown using traditional methods. No pesticides, no herbicides, fertilizers or fossil fuels. Just think that weeds are pulled out by hand five times during the life of the cotton plant!
What is really remarkable is that the seeds are not GMOs but close parents to the ones of the Ethiopian wool tree mentioned by Pliny the Elder. The cotton is also rain-fed which means a lot: to grow a single kg of cotton fibers may be used as much as 20.000 liters of water! Growing cotton in such a way makes a huge difference to the environment.
The canvas of the bags is woven with tight strokes using twisted yarns to increase its strength and surface uniformity; it is also slightly water repellent to be able to face all travel conditions.
The leather used for AFAR products comes from Zebu cows, the ancestor of all bovines that lives on the Ethiopian highlands where they are raised to help farmers plow the fields.
Coming from adult animals living outdoors, the leather has a density of fibers and exceptional resistance; it also has a look that shows the marks left by a long life spent in the outdoors and, what really matters, it is a by-product collected at the end of the animal’s life from which the farmer earns an additional income.
The appearance of the skin, very similar to that of a wild animal, is further enhanced by vegetable tanning and handmade waxing, a process that prepares it to last for a lifetime.
Most of the elements used to produce AFAR bags are made of horn, an extremely resistant natural material that also comes from the Zebus. These humped animals are raised throughout the Horn of Africa and are able to survive even in very hostile environments without medicine or housing.
In Ethiopia there are 7 main families of Zebu whose shape and size varies remarkably but almost all have horns with beautiful veins ranging from amber to black.
This splendid material is used for AFAR products because it is light, very resistant and because it makes every bags a unique peace. It is the material that even more than others makes an AFAR bag inimitable. It is certainly the best complement to an African travel bag.
Having decided to use as little industrial metal products as possible since they wouldn’t have been responding to the AFAR philosophy even if nickel-free, titanium has proven to be the ideal candidate for its truly unique characteristics: the buckles and rings, handmade in the workshop are, in fact, extremely resistant and very light and have the amazing look and touch of this unique high-tech material .
The pigments that are used to dye the fabrics are extracted from the soil and from local plants.
The colorful Ethiopian soils are ground until they become a fine talc which is immersed in hot water together with fabrics, salt and other natural substances. Everything must remain in suspension until the color is absorbed by the fiber.
The result is beautiful and has a non-existent impact on the environment.
When you stick to nature, nothing seems out of place.
Water Based Prints & Energy
For the printing of AFAR fabrics, only water-based colors are used and the process is made by hand with traditional wooden screens that the Chinese invented 3 centuries ago. It is a fascinating working method that takes time but makes each product unique and precious.
Much of the energy needed to produce an AFAR bag comes from the skilled hands that patiently transform fabrics, leather and all other materials into a finished product but what is truly remarkable is that even the machines are not consuming a single drop of fossil fuel.
In Ethiopia, in fact, electricity comes from dams, from wind or solar plants and from geothermal stations but not from oil, coal or other polluting or non-renewable sources.
Every single KW is clean!
All the machines used for the production of AFAR have been adapted to the electric power supply.
There is one thing unique in Africa: time.
Living intensively the present is so important that some dialects do not even include the word “future”. Here people live their time. In Africa people are so rich in time that it is natural to dedicate this precious resource to create unique objects, nothing to do with the production of efficient modern machinery.
AFAR is also this and you can see it in every cut, stitch and detail.