Mar y Sol, Madagascar
In 2003, Laurel Brandstetter traveled to Madagascar to build on a community development effort initiated by a relative. She met with dozens of artisan groups who had a vision of making their products available in the global marketplace. Laurel and the Mar Y Sol team have built an accessories brand recognized for its unique designs, exquisite craftsmanship and creative use of sustainable materials. Mar y Sol maintain our commitment to this tradition by using organically tanned leathers and responsibly sourced raw materials. The sale of Mar y Sol products enables families to gain economic independence, preserves traditional craft and promotes environmental conservation.
The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia (raphia) palm tree, which grows in tropical regions and in wet soil in Madagascar, Africa and the Philippines. The raffia palm (Raphia farinifera) is made of long leaves that can attain 60ft (18m), which makes it the palm tree with the largest branches.
Collectors go deep into the island to harvest the raffia palm. They strip and dry the freshly cut pale green strand and sun dry them.The dried raffia fibers then turn beige in color to yield the natural colored raffia we all know.
Part of this natural raffia is also dyed to obtain colored natural raffia.
All these processes from the raffia harvesting, to the dying are done manually by the local people with the utmost respect to the environment.
The raffia fiber is soft, pliable, strong, durable, easy to dye and biodegradable making it an excellent material for weaving baskets, hats, mats and rugs.
The harvesting of the leaves encourages the growth of new leaves and is completely sustainable.