Smateria's vibrant coloured, long-lasting bags are designed with Italian flair and made by Cambodian artisans. Smateria’s philosophy is to use materials that already exist or that have been designed for another purpose. Temples and Markets are over the moon to be bringing their creations to you. We simply adore their bags and we know you will too.
WHAT IS SMATERIA?
Smateria is the brainchild of Elisa and Jennifer, two expat Italian women in Phnom Penh. They have created so much more than a company that sells colourful bags and accessories, they have created a Social Enterprise. In their words...
"Smateria is not a charity organisation but a producer that, through its activities, demonstrates its care for the social context in which it operates. Training exclusively local women to then entrust them with the work. Dedicating the company day-care centre we created to their wellbeing.
Things that are beautiful represent us, things that have social value enhance us to be doing even better. Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is Smateria."
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Smateria started in 2006 when Jennifer and Elisa met by chance. They talked about creativity, design and business and Elisa invited Jennifer to look at the designs she was working on using materials like nylon netting and plastic bags.
Jennifer loved them immediately and they agreed to try their luck at developing a line of bags using up-cycled and re-purposed materials. They sourced mosquito net locally and searched the markets for fabrics to use as lining.
Fast-forward from 2006, they now buy fishing net in local markets and combine with plastic bags or remnant leather scraps from sofas to create the pieces you will see here. These materials now form part of a fashion collection that is sold in 5 vibrant stores in Cambodia and is admired around the world.
THE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
Jennifer and Elisa started Smateria with two very clear objectives: to create a beautiful, high-quality product using ‘bizarre’ materials, and to employ Cambodian workers in a fair and sustainable way, giving priority to women and mothers. They have succeeded on both counts in spades.
Smateria’s employees (85 percent of whom are women) enjoy comfortable working conditions, a thirteen-month salary, health insurance, professional training and the freedom to train across the whole organisation – from pre-production to sales.
Possibly best of all is a free preschool and childcare centre right on the premises so new mums can breastfeed their babies and staff with young children can work; happy in the knowledge that their children are getting a good education – right upstairs. The professionally trained teachers also oversee a library and encourage children to borrow books to read at home.
Smateria’s greatest triumph is recycling plastic bags while training and employing women displaced from Phnom Penh under the city’s wave of building and urbanisation.
Every Thursday, long-term employee Lina travels to a shanty village 20 kilometres away, set up after a public-housing eviction from the city. Here she trains the w
omen to crochet and knit plastic strips. She takes new patterns and templates, oversees their techniques and checks the quality of the products.
As sub-contractors for Smateria, the women work at their own pace, in their own time.