The story of ZAY began in the hot historic city of Mandalay, a place that changed my life and lives in my heart. ZAY's name derives from the Myanmar word for "market". The local markets are central to life in Myanmar, full of colour and where most people take their Zay Khin (market baskets) to fill with tropical fruits and flowers. I am inspired by this city, known to locals as, "market city," as every family seems to have a small shop perched in front of their house.
It was here that my love of beautiful hadwoven bags started to grow, they were so practical for lugging watermelons, onions and potatoes home from the market. Perfect to throw in a couple of water bottles, snacks and towels to go swimming. To carry books and art resources to the Buddhist nuns I taught English. At night I would use it to take an umbrella, plate and drinks to a friend's house. I stored toys and books in them around my home, I used them everyday.
Carrying my basket would make me so happy. It was obvious they were handmade and I wondered who made them and how they were made, so I started asking my friends about them. Eventually I found a lady trhat weaves them across the road. At her house she showed me how she used a frame to weave around, and her stockpile of used pallet tape. I appreciated these baskets more and I became a bit obsessed. We worked together to create some baskets that would work well in New Zealand.
I took them home and gave them as Christmas gifts. Everybody loved them and my friends and family asked for another one in a different size as the needed it for swimming lessons, or to carry and sewing equipment. The next summer at home I took some more and set up little, bright, quirky stalls in summer market fairs and realised that people loved them as much as I do.
The day New Zealand announced that it would go one use bag free by July 2019, Zay was created. Inspired by the environmental movement in New Zealand and around the world of eliminating one use plastic bags. I knew they were a perfect alternative as they can be reused hundreds of times.
Through relentless searching I found the most skilled weavers from the traditional back streets in Mandalay to remote farming villages that don't appear on google maps. All of our bags are made from families who for generations have past the skills down from mother to daughter.
Living in Myanmar I was able to build trust with the weavers and focus on designs, quality and transportation needs. Logistics in Myanmar face huge difficulties but with wonderful people on the ground (who I miss seeing daily) and the desire of the weavers to make this happen, we continue to overcome them.
The outcome is that we can bring these portable pieces of artistry, which are designed to be used every day.
Our guiding principle is one of kindness.
Our work is a huge part of our lives so we want to create a wonderful business that makes other people happy to be a part of this. At the centre are the weavers. We support the weavers (mostly women) to be able to work from their homes with sustainable incomes. Also 5% of all profits will be given directly to the weavers. Every bag you buy will take us one step closer to being able to increase this amount to 10%.
Everything we earn is going back into growing Zay into a successful, sustainable business. We have personal relationships with the weaving families, which provides us huge motivation to continually move forward, improving Zay's brand and providing new opportunities for the weavers.
We are just getting started in supporting women in Myanmar. Ma Thida is one of the first female rickshaw owners on the streets of Mandalay. Zay provided the funding, plus the driving and map reading training to make this happen. We also are involved with a group of over 30 vulnerable girls, mostly from Northern Shan, that are living in a Mandalay monastery because of proverty and/or safety from conflict. We support them by paying for regular doctor's visits and all medicines required.
We are very interested to work with any organisations that help place children back with their families, or extended families in Myanmar, who are living in orphanage style conditions.
Please note we believe that children should be safe and grow up with a sense of belonging with family. We highly encourage tourists not to visit orphanages or institutions where children are living.
About Our Bags
We create simply beautiful vibrant bags that will make you feel happy using them, because of their design, utility and strength.
Foremost they are designed to have a utility; all our bags stand on their own, allowing you to always find what you need. Due to this aspect it will become your 'take-with-you-everyday.' It's easy to clean and fully recyclable.
The material used is shipping tape, it's incredibly strong, enabling your Zay Bag to be reused hundreds of times. They carry a heavy load without even buckling.
Our Willow range is made from used upcycled shipping tape and the other ranges can have upcycled componets. For our other bags we use the strongest highest-quality materials to ensureour our bags will last for years.
We are constantly working towards increasing our use of recycled products. Zay bags are fully recyclable. We will pay for and organise shipping of any used goods to be returned to ensure they are recycled correctly.
They are beautifully handwoven by the most skillful weavers. The colours are a wild mix of vibrant combinations and there is one that will suit any lifestlye. Every bag has it's own beauty and is a one of a kind piece. We hope you enjoy using them, as we much as we enjoy creating them.