Interview with Eszter Rabin

To Estzer Rabin – who spent nearly 15 years in advertising before launching Sidai Designs – less is more. At Lesouque, we share the same philosophy. The simplicity of Eszter’s designs is what makes them so interesting and refreshing, not to mention unique. When we're wearing one of her bracelets we're almost guaranteed to be stopped and asked where we got it.

What inspired you to start Sidai Designs?

I have always been fascinated with artisanry and dreamed of being involved in that world. Seeing the Maasai beading, I saw an opportunity to achieve a whole lot of good within the Maasai community using an already existing incredible skill and artform with just a few design tweaks and access to markets.

All your pieces have a fresh, modern look. How do you come up with your designs?

My business partner and I design the pieces together. We try to create designs that are inspired by the Maasai beading patterns, but use more contemporary colors and color combinations. I have always been the advocate of the idea that “Less is More” and it is our motto in our designs. Becky and I do a lot of test pieces before we end up with the final designs, we draw them on paper first and have our sampler producers create it. The ones we end up not using in the collection, we sell in our retail store in Arusha.

Can you talk about the process and materials you use to make your jewelry? How do you maintain high quality?

It’s very difficult to source high quality materials in East Africa, especially in Tanzania. That being said, a lot of our raw materials are recycled and easily found on the ground, like yogurt containers or plastic oil canisters. We test a lot of raw materials and sometimes find the right ones by trial and error. Each piece is truly handcrafted using upcycling materials. We trust our producers to find the right materials to work with, they know what works or doesn’t.

How do the Maasai culture and centuries-old beading technique inform your designs?

Each of our collection tells a story and signifies a specific group or style in the Maasai culture. For example our Sipolio collection is inspired by the belts the newly circumcised warriors wear. We adhere to the Maasai techniques and rather than reinvent the wheel, we just try to upscale the materials and infuse it with a modern esthetic.

What’s the biggest challenge you have doing what you do?

I think our biggest challenge is to maintain a consistent qualified workforce. Most of our producers come from villages afar. When there is any problem in the village they immediately go home and it’s impossible to track them down or know when they come back. We spend an incredible amount of time trying to teach them the understanding of time and planning ahead.

What are your favorite place(s) in Arusha and Tanzania?

Arusha is the fastest growing towns in Tanzania, with not a lot of thought put into planning. Finding places is difficult, but there are quite a few worth visiting. Arusha Coffee Lodge, Blue Heron, Le Patio are good places to eat in the city. Tanzania as a country has a lot to offer, Tarangire National Parks have lots of elephants and baobab trees, the Serengeti is an incredible place for wildlife, Ngorongoro Crater and the highlands are breathtaking and of course Zanzibar is a magical island with superb beaches.

Do you have a favorite piece in your current collection?

I’m always partial to the Warrior bracelets, they come to life when worn - I put on a different one every day and inevitably, I will always get asked where I got them.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Fill your heart with what’s important and be done with all the rest.” I’m not sure who said it, nonetheless I love it.