Besting 39 other entries, five products emerged as winners of the 8th Mohammed Islam Design Awards. Paper Christmas Trees by Prokritee (Bangladesh) for Best Design for Gifts and Stationery, Jewellery and Accessories, Manta Ñawi (Alapaca throw) by ALLPA (Peru) for Best Design Home Wares and Textiles, Fashion Buttons by Manushi (Nepal) for Best Traditional Design Adapted to Contemporary Trends, four bottles of Ukavai Africa hot drops by Turqle Trading (South Africa) for Best Food Packaging, and the Chilean Araucaria ring by Manos del Bio Bio (Chile) for Best Product Made of Recycled Materials were judged as innovative and marketable Fair Trade products as well as showing the cultural identity of the makers.
The design competition is part of the WFTO conference, which is open only to WFTO members. Its aim is to encourage innovation and cultural identity in product design. It started in 2001 as commemoratory of the late Mohammed Islam of Oxfam Bridge who inspired grassroots empowerment and enhancing capacities.
Forty-four products were brought to Milan and competed for the awards. Five (plus one external) judges selected the winners. The judges were: Renée Bowers from Fair Trade Federation (US), Alexandra Doughty, Individual associate member of WFTO (Australia), Ana Asti from Onda Solidária (Brazil), Mike Muchilwa, Fair Trade Consultant (Kenya), and Michael Sarcauga, Communications Coordinator at WFTO Global Office. Laura Badalucco, Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Venice (Italy) collaborated as an external judge.
For category one, best design for gifts and stationery, jewellery and accessories: Paper Christmas Trees by Prokritee (Bangladesh).
“It was an exciting moment for me personally to be able to hear the announcement of OUR item to be winning the BEST Mohammad Islam Design Award 2015!” said Swapan Kumar Das Executive Director at Prokritee. “I was very surprised right after the announcement, when so many people came towards me to congratulate. I hardly could believe it." He informed WFTO that on the following morning Prokritee artisans got together in a meeting at their workplace to share the message and to express their excitements. They felt proud of being the maker of the product and thanked God whole-heartily. Swapan concluded by saying that some of their buyers already showed interests in considering orders to buy the winning product. Prokritee strongly believes that this international award will make the organisation known to a larger market.
For category two, best design home wares and textiles (incl. clothing): Manta ñawi, alpaca throw by ALLPA (Peru).
Luis Heller, ALLPA Administration Manager underlines that the throw that they brought to Milan was made in Paucara, a Peruvian village located 3,800 meters above the sea. “The throw was made of 100% alpaca wool and was handcrafted by artisans that used the traditional wooden loom. Its design included traditional Peruvian pre-Columbian iconography,” said Luis. For the ALLPA team it was a great pleasure to see that their work had been recognised.
For category three, best traditional design adapted to contemporary trends: Fashion Buttons by Manushi (Nepal).
“When I received the award I felt very grateful because I knew that through it our skillful artisans were given recognition. This Mohammed Islam Award belongs to them.” Padmasana Shakya, executive chairperson at Manushi, hopes that this award will promote the arts and crafts of Nepal, and lead the process of economic development and social progress in her country. Padmasana told WFTO that this award provides strong motivation for the Manushi team and stimulate it to diversify towards other jewelry items.
For category four, best food packaging: 4 Bottles Ukuva iAfrica hot drops by Turqle Trading (South Africa)
Rain Morgan, General Manager- Monitoring at Turqle, said that Winning the Mohammed Islam Design Award was a wonderful surprise and made the Turqle team very proud. He added that in the food industry ‘Design Awards’ are rare and that at Turqle they spend a lot of time and energy on design. The neck rings and beadwork are made by mentally challenged artisans at workshops of Cape Mental Health. The sauces are made at Fynbos: the people who grow the chilies and the peppers and also make the sauces. According to Rain “these sauces are so delicious and so very special that they deserved the head-dress of an African Princess.”
For category five, best product made of recycled materials: Chilean Araucaria Ring by Manos del Bio Bio (Chile).
Manos del Bio Bio won the award for the last category. Natalia Vasquez Gomez, its representative present at the WFTO Conference, told us that receiving the Mohammed Islam Design Award made her organisation very happy. At Manos del Bio Bio they are very proud of their hand-made products, especially because in Chile they had to endure commercial competitors. “Quite often in a month we do not sales in order to run our store. Therefore, this award recognises our craftsmanship, and encourages us to advertise our store and our craft production.” Natalia and her organisation are proud of being recognised through the award, which is very important to organisations in the south. “This award made us feel integrated, and part of a global market.” Looking at their future path, Manos del Bio Bio wishes to continue to work in Fair Trade. Their organisation will keep using recycled materials in the production process, taking care of the environment, and spreading the Chilean culture to the rest of the world.