By Audrey Stanton
Cesta Collective is an artisanal bag company made in Rwanda and designed in New York City. Courtney Weinblatt Fasciano and Erin Ryder are both fashion veterans who came together to create a brand with a purpose. The duo focused on the trendy basket-style handbag and set out to find female weavers. Soon they settled on a style inspired by cathedral baskets; a
traditional Rwandan bag usually made as a wedding gift. Cesta Collective sells “lunch pails” made by women throughout Rwanda which make 4 to 5 times the average national salary.
Each Cesta Collective bag consists of sisal, described as an “ideal biodegradable and renewable resource” on their website. The resident “Dye Master” dyes the sisal with organic vegetable dyes. After being properly dyed and inspected, the material is made into a new bag within 6 days. In addition to sustainable sisal, the company utilizes organic canvas for the inside of the tote. A natural, handmade process is important to the business. Empowered Artisans Cesta Collective promises that each weaving cooperative they work with has a Master Weaver which leads the entire team. The brand hopes that as they scale, so will the female leadership. Cesta has hired 1,400 women since its establishment in 2017 and is only continuing to grow. The partners they work within Africa are Free Trade certified B Corp, meaning all women earn a living wage. ‘We believe these women are the future of Rwanda,’ Cesta Collective states on their site.
The handbag brand makes sure to stay up to date on the latest color and pattern trends. Their woven bags feature 18-karat gold plated hardware, sturdy handles, and minimal finishes. These design elements keep Cesta Collective bags trendy with the possibility to become timeless classics. Color obsessions fade but the durable material and traditional structure will last lifetimes. Since its founding, the company has produced a few more styles that remain sleek and sophisticated. It’s important for Cesta Collective to maintain eco-friendly practices without its products looking “crunchy.”