andu amet Ltd.Hiroko Samejima
Tell us about andu amet.
andu amet runs an ethical leather fashion brand using Ethiopian sheepskin, one of the world's finest leathers. Processes from material procurement to manufacturing are all done in Ethiopia, where the leather is produced. While pursuing luxurious quality, we also strive to make social contribution through our business by considering social and environmental effects in all processes from product planning, procurement and manufacturing, to distribution.
In the product planning phase, we try to keep cutting waste—which is often produced in the course of manufacturing of leather products—to the minimum, while also tapping into the traditional craft techniques of the local communities.
In the procurement phase, we make sure to procure materials in an eco-friendly way, such as using normally discarded by-product leathers from the meat industry and working with a company that has a cleansing system for leather processing chemicals.
As for the manufacturing phase, we make the final products in Ethiopia, i.e. the production area of the leather, in pursuit of fair trade. By this means, we promote a shift from the existing business model that depends on the export of low value added raw materials (rawhide) and contribute to the creation of high value added products and industrial development in the local areas. Our products are highly appreciated and received the “LIDI* the highest value products” award from the Ethiopian government.
As for distribution, we employ a slow marketing approach. Amid the recent fast fashion boom where people tend to consume products in short cycles, we try to communicate our own value that using quality products for a long time, with great care, is a precious thing.
*Leather Industry Development Institute
Tell us what made you start your own business.
What inspired me to start a company was my volunteering experience in Ethiopia. After graduating from university, I worked for a cosmetics company. But as I worked there, I gradually started to feel uncomfortable with the consumption culture where massive products are produced and disposed in short cycles. So, I joined the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), which dispatched me to Ethiopia. However, I found that the support they were providing was not necessarily contributing to the sustainable economic development of local communities or industrial development. With hope of solving this issue, I started some projects with local companies and I realized that there was a business opportunity.
After that, I had a chance to hold a fashion show in Ethiopia where I encountered sheepskin. While I was very impressed by its quality, I also saw a problem in the industrial structure where rawhides were exported at cheap prices. That was when my discomfort with the consumption culture in Japan and the business opportunity and issues I found in Ethiopia connected. I decided to make products in Ethiopia, using Ethiopian materials, and to start a brand that promotes the value of using quality products for a long term.
Tell us about the future developments.
First of all, I would like to open a flagship store by the end of this fiscal year and further promote our brand value and increase the brand's publicity.
I also hope to expand our business overseas and establish andu amet as a world-class total lifestyle brand. Sadly, Ethiopia tends to be associated with negative images, such as poverty and conflicts. It would be our pleasure if we could promote the image of Ethiopia as a land of exquisite leathers and leather products, as our brand grows.
I also hope to offer consumers new lifestyles and values, such as the freedom of selecting what they truly consider valuable regardless of trends and prices, the joy of using products over a long term while cherishing their aging, and the preciousness of enjoying the products and the stories behind them altogether as a whole package.