New Kikoy Beach Ponchos - and a little more about Bushbells and its founder Jax Comyn
The history of our gorgeous Kikoy Ponchos!!
Restocked and available in new colours and new bigger kids sizes, we love our towel lined Kikoy beach ponchos.
But the BIG bonus is that for each one bought we help support a fab social enterprise in Watamu, Kenya.
Find out more Bushbells and its gorgeous founder Jax Comyn here:
Bushbells – a social enterprise based in Watamu, Kenya - make bright, colourful and beautifully vibrant products sold in the UK. The funds generated from these sales support a team of tailors who make them, as well as funding and supporting a local school called Bluebells. (Their first school - Bushbells - was completed in 2014. Bluebells is the sister school that they are now building).
More recently the very talented team of Bushbells tailors have also started to make towel-lined beach ponchos exclusively for Five Boys.
new orange kikoy poncho
We met Jax on the road at a Christmas Fair. It’s always a relief to be placed next to someone who will happily watch your stall when you’re desperate for the loo, or need someone who’ll give you honest feedback about what looks good where, BUT when that someone is warm, charming and someone you can have a real giggle with, you do feel like you’ve lucked out!
Jax was delighted to tell us more about Bushbells and its social enterprise in our recent Q&A session we had with her.
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?
How long have you got! Born and brought up in East Africa where I lived an enchanted childhood until I was 21. I couldn’t get over how dull and grey everything in the UK seemed when I first came here for my secondary education and was distraught that there were no mangos in the shops! I worked in London for 10 years and then my husband and were lucky enough to travel all over the place – from Hong Kong to the Middle East, Ethiopia and Turkey.
Our beach life wouldn't be the same without them
I feel I’ve been so lucky having lived such a varied and enriched life with all our travel experiences, and when abroad, I was never happier than when being involved in various social enterprises or charities – helping others. It gives one balance and perspective and is hugely rewarding too. I guess that’s what drives me to do what I do for Bushbells
What is the inspiration behind Bushbells?
My family is lucky enough to travel back to Kenya most years and we’ve known Sammy, our head tailor for a long time, having been introduced to him through very generous and kind friends. He was widowed just over10 years ago and has 3 children, and so his need for more work to support them became more pertinent.
Meantime, my mother was introduced to a man who’d sold his donkey to pay for a small palm roofed shelter in which to start teaching children about the environment and the need to care for it. A six year old climbed onto her lap and read better than most 6 year olds in this country – and her heart melted.
Putting our desire to raise money for this little school (called Bushbells –hence the name!) and wanting to find Sammy regular work, I dreamt up the idea of bringing back the brightly coloured kikoy fabrics which everyone loves and use the profits from any sales to build classrooms. And 10 years on it’s been wonderful to have been nominated this year as a finalist in ‘Be The Change’ awards for 2019 – championing small organisations like ours that have an impactful story to tell…. See our website for more details – https://www.bushbells.com/
The Bushbells School
Bushbells is a very colourful brand. You clearly have an eye for colour. Can you describe how you go about sourcing the wonderful fabrics that that Pull Ons and Ponchos are made from?
Beautiful Kikoy Colourways
A hundred years ago, I trained as a colour/image consultant and I guess with my childhood I was always surrounded by sunshine and bright colours. There is no doubt about it, colours have an energy and some colours really make you zing! So I guess with this background I am aware of what colours radiate that ‘happy energy. And there are some that are just flat and ‘dull’. You learn what are universal colours that most people like and suit and what colours drain. It’s great fun sourcing on a buying trip, but easy too, to get carried away – as the bright clear light out in Kenya shows colour up differently than in the UK.
Tell us a bit more about why Kikoy is such a great fabric to use.
It’s a lovely loose weave cotton – which makes it quick to dry and very comfortable to wear. The more you wash a kikoy item, the softer it becomes, and it’s got great durability. I have kikoys that are over 30 years old!
new light blue kikoy poncho
What do you enjoy the most about running Bushbells?
Within the UK, and the different sales I go to, I meet all sorts of wonderful people (such as Five Boys Clothing), and I love getting feedback, which is a real endorsement of what we do and why we do it! It makes all the hard work worth it!
And undoubtedly the greatest enjoyment and privilege, is seeing the faces of the children when we go back to visit the school and see how they have developed year on year. They’re always exciting projects going on at the school, and of course the real heroes are our tailors. They are like family, and again I get so much joy seeing them and their children flourish – thanks to the secure employment we give them.
So skilled, loyal and ever smiling, Sammy and his team of girls (Lilian, Ruth and Rehema) love what they do. Pictured here with Jax.
And the thing you enjoy the least….!
The sales can also get so very tiring and some are just very hard work – but that’s life! If my nearly 80 year old mother can still enthuse – so can I ! She’s a great role model for me and we’re so lucky to have her on board as Co-founder of Bushbells!
Top tip questions:
Favourite Holiday Location: Indian Ocean side!
Family Holiday Absolute Necessity: A bright Bushbells kikoy - essential!
Favourite Beach Game: Boules or reading an engrossing book with the waves lapping at your side!
We’re very keen to develop our links with this amazing enterprise - where do you see Bushbells going in the future?
For me, it’s important to secure the livelihood of the tailors, so I’d be delighted if lovely organisations such as yours continue to ‘use’ their skills. And really just to continue in the same vein, building on our shirts, tops and different products that we try out to keep our customers happy and engaged! As long as there is the demand, we’ll continue working!
And finally, we know you can get the kids ones here, but if you wanted matching adults pull ons where should we send people?
To me and the Bushbells website of course! And with notice - we’re happy to custom-make tailor (within reason) anything that’s requested.. so give us a try!
Thank you so much for your kind interest in Bushbells and all that we do! We so VALUE your support. xx
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