All of our pet accessory collections are made from fabric that we have designed in house or from ethically sourced fabrics from our travels. All of our in-house fabric designs are hand drawn by our Co-Founder and Head of Design, Amy. As well as these original designs, we also make our pet accessories from limited edition fabrics that we source throughout Co-Founder Bee's home continent of Africa. These fabrics often come from small local markets in Ghana or Senegal but we also buy directly from larger mills in Kenya and South Africa who have a long history of manufacturing our Shuka and Shweshwe styles respectively. Today we wanted to highlight the rich history behind the fabric of our most popular collections - Shuka Red and Shuka Blue.
Even if you have never heard of Shuka, there is a good chance you have seen it in interiors magazines or worn something inspired by it's design. Often red with black stripes, shuka cloth is often known as the 'African blanket' and is worn by the Maasai people of East Africa. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic group of people from East Africa who are known for their unique way of life, as well as their cultural traditions and customs. Living along the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania and Kenya, the Maasai population is currently at around 1.5 million, with the majority of them living on the Masai Mara National Reserve of Kenya. Red is the most common colour for Shuka cloth, but the Maasai also use blue, striped, and checkered cloth to wrap around their bodies. Shuka cloth is durable, strong, and thick which helps to protect the Maasai people from the harsh weather and terrain of the savannah.
So, how is it made? Shuka cloth is traditionally made from thick cotton or wool, although synthetic materials are becoming increasingly more commonplace. Our Shuka is made from 100% natural materials. The traditional use for Shuka is as a garment, designed to keep the Maasai people warm during the cold nights. Cotton is typically grown locally and woven into a kikoi fabric that is dyed with vibrant colours. This process would have traditionally been done by hand, but machines are used more and more. If wool is used, this usually comes from the sheep and goats that the Maasai people raise, and it is often handspun and then woven into the Shuka. Maasai Shuka blankets are known for their durability, making them the ideal material for our pet accessories.
Featuring bold, block patterns and vibrant shades of red, blue and black, Shuka is instantly recognisable around the globe. Red is the favoured colour of Maasai elders as it represents protection and unity. Blue is typically worn by married people, but is also symbolic of rain and a good harvest. Though many modern-day Shuka blankets are made outside of East Africa, even in China, we only ever source our Shuka material from ethical sources in Kenya.