As we head into an unprecedented holiday season, I’m more determined than ever to make it as joyful and hopeful as possible, and my heart is with all those who have suffered a loss this year. I've been a business owner for over 18 years and am so grateful to you, our customers who have enabled us to keep doing what we love to do. If it wasn’t for you all, DIANI would not have made it through the past 8 months. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And as we've all had to dig deep this year, for me, I've been exploring the question, what does the soul of small business mean to me? And, I believe it means knowing and understanding the intention behind the ethos of my company, the experience, the people, the merchandise, the storytelling and the symbiotic relationship between what I buy, from whom and why I buy it.
What I’ve also learned to understand through my own experiences shopping, especially in America is that bigger isn’t better. What I genuinely love is walking up to a cluster of local shops knowing that I will be greeted with a familiar face. They will know my name and I’ll be welcomed in and taken care of as if walking into their home. That lights me up and feeds my soul, especially in a time where so many feel so disconnected, and the world looks and feels so unfamiliar. We need connection. To people, to our community, to humanity and to ourselves. I want to really examine what feeds us, nourishes us - mind, body and spirit - and what feels right for the planet.
At DIANI, I've been focusing on sustainability more and more and what I like to call “heritage goods”... those things that we want to pass on from one generation to the next. To that end, I’m continuing to offer more brands that focus on those two things. Here are just a few...
I've always loved the look of a sheep skin rug, but wondered if there was a way to enjoy their fleece while ensuring that the sheep live a long, happy life roaming the fields with their flock. Then I discovered The Living Rug Company, a sustainable, high welfare company in The Peak District of England where the sheep come first. I'm excited to partner with the farm owner, Deborah, and bring her beautiful rugs stateside. Each rug takes over a year to make, from the sheep growing the wool, to shearing, cleaning and hand felting to make the underside of the rug. Crafted from wool – no skin - each rug is named after the sheep the fleece was sheared from and that name is embroidered on the underside along with the year the fleece was sheared. I recently added an Alfie rug to my home and he is currently working on growing us another to be fleeced in 2021. These rugs are made with love and are a true heirloom that will last for generations.
If you've visited any one of my stores, you'll find that every nook and cranny holds a gem with a story to tell. Known for unique, one-of-a-kind hand painted dishware, Spako Clay ceramics tend to sell out within days. Handcrafted in her home studio in Austin, Texas, Julie Spako values the importance of using beautiful objects for everyday use – a motto that I stand behind when buying for any of my stores.
A personal story that's near and dear to my heart is the collaboration with a childhood friend and graphic designer, Gail Bryson to create the DIANI Mazuri candle. It pays tribute to three of my homes – Kenya, where I was born, England where I was raised and California where I started my business. The packaging is a letterpress design encompassing the three national flowers from those places... the Kenyan orchid, the English rose and the California poppy. The jar of the candle is porcelain which is beautiful in and of itself with a crackled vintage effect. The candle's name, Mazuri, is Swahili for "pleasant" and the fragrant notes are a soothing blend of Amyris, Bergamot, Oak Moss and Patchouli. The candles are hand poured and the packaging sleeves made by a one man operation, and his friend creates the letterpress. Working with them is like a family affair and one of the many reasons I love supporting and working with small business. It's an enriching experience and by being involved, I learn so much.
Following centuries-old weaving and indigo dying techniques, Tensira creates 100% cotton fabrics that are spun, woven and dyed by hand in West Africa. Their core value is to promote sustainable production, foster respect for the environment and guarantee a safe and fair work environment. They believe in developing a market for this craft that has been passed down from generation to generation. They create beautiful, plush pillows, cushions, table linens and bedrolls, my personal favorite, that are meant for layering to create a relaxing haven, indoors or out.
While shopping at DIANI, my hope is that you fall in love with that jacket, that pair of boots, those earrings or that rug and that one day they get passed down through your family. I believe everything has energy and if it was made with love, you'll feel that. I strive to bring you timeless fashion and home decor that feels good and has the kind of energy to it that you want to keep. You'll also find more and more brands that promote sustainability, like California-based Jesse Kamm, who is known for using high quality small batch organic cotton and USA manufacturing to create cult classics like the Sailor and Handy Pants. And Raquel Allegra, who's committed to the tradition of artistry and craftsmanship, and manufactures and dyes almost all of her clothes in Los Angeles. You'll also find other sustainably-minded brands like Citizens of Humanity, Mr Mittens, Veja, Are Studio, Mirth and Soko. As well as many homeware designers who focus on sustainability, and wellness and skincare craftspeople who make clean and toxic free ingredients. It's an incredibly fun and rewarding adventure that I'm on and being the storyteller of all these creative pioneers feeds my soul. I can't wait to see who I discover and meet next.
Thank you, as always, for shopping small and supporting DIANI. Each time you support a small business, you're directly giving back and paving the way for a local craftsman or boutique brand. I love seeing this come full circle and look forward to building on this for years to come.