Where can I buy your products?
If you are living abroad and an individual buyer or a shop owner, please check our list of international buyers to see if there is a buyer in your particular country. Please contact one of those buyer for your order. If there is no buyer in your particular country and you are interested in ordering a minimum of 500Euro of products, please contact Sabahar (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly. If you are interested in ordering less than a minimum order, we recommend you first contact a buyer in the country nearest to you.
If you are interested in becoming a buyer, please contact us directly.
If you live in Ethiopia, you can buy our products at our retail shop. It is located near Salaam Nurse’s College in Mekanissa. Please call us at 0113215112/3 for directions. The shop is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
Can I order one item on-line?
Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to produce single items for international sale. If you are interested in buying a single item, please see the list of buyers on the website and contact the buyer nearest to you.
Learn about Sabahar’s exclusivity policy
If a company is interested in selling particular Sabahar items or a series of Sabahar items on an exclusive basis in their country (one country), we are happy to sign an agreement to that effect. This is, however, contingent on the sale of a minimum order of items. To read the policy, please download it here.
As one independent store, can I buy your products to sell?
If you are an individual shop owner, please check our list of distributers or wholesalers? to see if there is a distributer in your particular country. If there is a distributer in your country, please contact them to purchase your Sabahar products. If there is not a distributer in your country, please contact Sabahar directly or a distributer in the nearest country to you.
Where can I get complete price lists for all your products?
Our prices depend on the quantity you order. If you would like a price list, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are very loyal to our distributers and wholesalers and will defer individual shops and buyers to them in the first instance.
How long does it take to get an order filled?
The length of time it takes to produce an order really depends on the size of the order and the products requested. If you request products from the catalogue, we will try to have the products ready to ship to you within 60 to 90 days. Only some items are kept permanently in our inventory stocks, all others are made to order. Depending on where the products are being sent, the shipping time will vary between five to 15 days.
If you are asking for custom orders, it will take more time. This should be negotiated directly with Sabahar.
Please keep in mind that we are a small team of people working in Ethiopia. Our staff contends with frequent power outages, family tragedies and day-to-day struggles. These can cause delay. We try, as much as possible, to keep stock so that your order is not delayed, but please bear with us.
How are the products made?
When buying a Sabahar product, you are buying a truly Ethiopian item. Sabahar buys silk cocoons from rural farmers, and other marginalized groups, who grow the castor leaves and raise the worms. The cocoons come from Southwest Ethiopia. We get the cocoons from rural and semi-urban households. The castor plant, which is the stable food for the eri silk worm, grows easily in Ethiopia. The worms are raised, they form cocoons and, once becoming butterflies, the cocoons are collected and brought to Sabahar.
On our premises, we have staff who spin the cocoons into fine thread. Some of the women work at the store while others spin in their homes. We also sub-contract out some of the spinning to marginalized women’s groups. The spinners use drop spindles and spinning wheels.
Once the thread is prepared, it is dyed with a variety of natural dyes, such as coffee, flowers and insects. Many of the dyes are sourced locally. Most of the dyes for silk are 100% natural. The dyes we use for the cotton are all low-impact, chemical dyes.
After dying the thread, it is finally woven into a final Sabahar product. The weavers use traditional looms which have been used for centuries. We have six weavers working at Sabahar and more than 25 working in their homes or in co-operatives.
The products are designed by a variety of people; the weavers come up with some of the designs themselves, some are designed by the General Manager while others are designed by designers from the fashion industry who spend time at Sabahar helping us with new product lines.
Do you use chemical dyes?
Many of the dyes we use for the silk are 100% natural. Many are sourced locally, such as the coffee, meskel flower and cochineal insects. The other dyes, such as indigo, which cannot be found in Ethiopia are purchased through a reputable dying company in Canada, Maiwa: www.maiwa.com
For all of our cotton home products, for easier cleaning, we use low-impact, reactive dyes. These are all purchased locally.
Why is their variation in the colors of the silk products?
The art of natural dyes creates an array of beautiful colors. Part of that beauty is that no two items will be exactly the same color. Each will have variations within it influenced by the thickness of the silk itself and the season some of the plants and animals used to dye the products are harvested.
How do I wash the products?
For the naturally dyed silk products, wash in cool water with a mild soap. Please do not hang them in the hot sun for long periods of time (i.e. days). For the cotton products, they are machine washable with conventional soap. Please wash them separately for the first time as some color can run
Who is behind the company?
The idea of Sabahar started in 2001 when eri silk was newly introduced into Ethiopia. Being a pioneer in the silk industry, the company growth has been slow and steady with lots of learning at each step. In 2004, Sabahar had five employees. In 2006, we grew to 12 employees. In 2012, we now have 50 permanent employees and another 30 spinners and weavers working in their homes. This does not include the outsourced labour pool of more than 25 women spinning and 25 men weaving.
The company was started by Kathy Marshall who moved from her development career with Oxfam Canada in order to contribute to development by creating sustainable income for vulnerable households. Kathy and the company believe in the potential of silk in Ethiopia. Because it is a new sector, it requires a lot of passion and hard work to make the silk sector viable.
Kathy, a Canadian from Beaverlodge, Alberta, has been living in Ethiopia since 1994 with her husband and two daughters.
Where does the silk and cotton come from?
We use three different kinds of silk: eri silk, tusser silk and mulberry silk. Eri silk is a ‘wild silk’. A key characteristic of eri silk, and a difference to the popular mulberry silk, is that eri cocoons do not have a continuous filament and are, therefore, spun.
The intent of the company is to source all eri silk from within Eithiopia. However, given the newness of the eri silk sector, a percentage of our eri silk comes from India until such time that local supply meets our demands.
As eri silk production in Ethiopia is still quite new, only a few farmers are producing it. Sabahar is consistently encouraging more farmers to grow the castor leaves and raise the worms. We also provide training on how to raise the worms and constantly look for new groups of marginalized people to teach them how to produce the cocoons to supplement their income. We do all of this capacity building in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In order to create a more varied product, we combine the eri silk with mulberry silk which we are sourcing from a farmers’ cooperative in Uganda.
The combination of the traditional mulberry silk with the wild eri silk creates a unique look.
The cotton we use is all grown and spun in Ethiopia. Our machine-spun cotton for warps are purchased from Ethiopian cotton thread factories. Our hand spun cotton is from a number of women’s groups around Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Ethiopia still does not have the certification process in place to ensure cotton is grown organically. Since we know all our silk producers, we are confident of their organic farming methods.
Why do your products cost more than at the local markets?
Sabahar prides itself in its ethical business practices, with a goal of ensuring small farmers, spinners and weavers can make a living doing their trade. Traditional trades, like spinning and weaving, are often not paid very well in Ethiopia. Most of the products on the local market are produced by people who earn less than what it requires to keep their families fed, educated and sheltered.
Sabahar pays a fair wage, provides medical care to its staff and a pension. The extra money you pay for the products is going to ensure the hands that make it can also feed themselves.
Sabahar products are also locally manufactured in small quantities, making it more costly to produce than mass-marketed materials. None of the material is made on big machines – but is all done by many different skilled hands. This takes a lot more time and energy to produce.
All of this results in higher prices than can be found on the local market- but it also means that by purchasing a Sabahar product, you are helping local artisans have a living wage, save an age-old tradition of spinning and weaving and encourage silk production in Ethiopia.
Be careful- a lot of the easily-available, bright colored scarves produced in Ethiopia are made out of rayon, not silk- despite what the shop keepers will tell you.
Why does your silk look different than the silk I know?
The traditional, finely woven, shiny silk you know comes from the mulberry silk worm- a totally different worm which creates a totally different fibre than the eri silk. The linen-like texture of our products is because eri silk is hand spun. Mulberry silk, on the other hand, is reeled into fine, consistent thread.
What kind of support do employees and local producers get from this business?
All employees get a fair wage (as assessed by external business consultant), medical care, no-interest loans, pension fund and support for and access to training. In the rural areas, the training for cocoon producers includes educational and motivational visits to Sabahar in Addis Ababa, training on how to raise the worms and possible in-kind support for materials. The employees and producer groups in Addis Ababa get on-the-job training, including exposure to professional, international designers and global textile producers.
What is the scale of your operation?
Sabahar is a small company. We have 50 employees and work with another 50 people in Addis Ababa to produce the products. We produce about 15,000 products per year. We sell to more than 15 international buyers in eight countries. We would like to scale up our sales, but not at the expense of quality. When working with artisans who make everything by hand, it is challenging to ensure the quality remains high and the materials are acceptable on a global market. So please be patient with us and understand that it might take us a bit of time to fill your order and the colors may not all be exactly the same!