Ma Té Sai is a social enterprise on a mission to support communities in Laos, through partnerships with artisans - preserving cultural traditions by sharing with the world the beauty of handcrafted products.
Ma Té Sai was founded in 2010 by Emi Weir and Cleménce Pabion. At that time Clem was working for in development in remote communities in Laos, and she could see the benefits of handicraft sales for rural women, and the immediate impact that had on family life in terms of health (buying medicine) and education (being able to afford to send children to school). Emi came to Luang Prabang with many years experience in tourism and she recognised the lack of Lao products represented in the tourist markets: many cheaper handicrafts were imported, and still are from neighbouring countries. Between the two of them, they could source products around Laos and increase the income for rural families, sending the tourist dollar further out from Luang Prabang. Emi has made Luang Prabang her home and is active in the business daily.
Since Ma Té Sai's inception, we have worked with Lao people, our staff and our producers to grow our range of product for the international market. In 2013, supported by a Malaysian foundation, Ma Té Sai trained TaiLeu women in Nambak district, Luang Prabang, to sew. Now a group of women in their homes, in the village, sew the naturally dyed and woven cotton cloth into garments and homewares. Since 2016 in the south of Laos, in Savannakhet, we have been working with Sengsavang, a centre for women at risk of trafficking. The young women sew our products designed with fabrics from the PhuTai community nearby. And in 2020 we are training women to sew from Tai Daeng, Tai Dam, Lanten and Hmong ethnic communities in Northern Laos, Luang Namtha. By empowering women to sew we are able to support village production whole heartedly, and co-create modern handcrafted items for your lifestyle.
In 2018 Emi set up Ma Te Sai Pte Ltd in Singapore with her long-time friend May-Sze Lee. May-Sze runs the logistics and sales operations in Singapore. We are an active member, or khaki as they call us, at The Green Collective, and you can find our products there in Funan Mall, and meet us through events organised by @thegreencollective.sg.
We are also members of RAISE, a Singapore government initiative to support social enterprises.
(Video courtesy of Carley Byers who was part of the Massachusetts School of Art and Design group that travelled with us in January 2020. Photo of Emi courtesy fo Whitney Legge. Image above is a Khmu woman preparing "piad" or jungle vine to make bags, Udomxay Province August 2013. )