TOINO ABEL takes a modern approach to craft and basketry. We bring together an in-house designed collection with a very unique savoir-faire, while adopting an unique role that merges nature, design and an ancient craft.
TOINO ABEL was founded by Nuno Henriques, who has experimented and developed an increasing interest for handwork over the past 10 years. Nuno uses his understanding of craft and his passion for nature to drive forward a tradition that has been lost almost completely. Nuno has started TOINO ABEL in 2010 in Berlin and moved to the Portuguese countryside in 2013 to work on a daily basis alongside with local artisans, at that time mostly elderly people.
Rescuing an Almost Lost Craft
TOINO ABEL was the first, and for many years the only, movement interested in the Portuguese reed basket making. We acted at a crucial time, when artisans were very few and all well over their seventies and rather demotivated.
TOINO ABEL started out by documenting, cherishing and sharing this craft to a new public - with whom we shared values and aesthetic affinities. We paid better prices, improved working conditions, documented all patterns and technical details, made the manufacturing process transparent, returned to the use of local materials, and invested in design and research.
A Long Heritage carried by a New Generation of Craftspeople
This ancient craft has been in the same family for five generations, interrupted only by the ‘baby boomer’ generation. Although we don’t know its roots, over time our bags became an icon of Portuguese tradition.
We are now a small but passionate team between their twenties and forties working with the very best crafters. Being crafters ourselves we are proud to bring this tradition forward as we feel a sense of responsibility for its history, process and balance with nature.
The Explicit Beauty of the Process
Once you have understood how our bags are made, you will look at them through different eyes. From day one we wanted to show how our bags are made. So we started with a regular Sony Cyber-shot, documenting Cidália and Emília, on their loom space, with more than a few cobwebs and a hung calendar forgotten in time. Since then many journalist and photographers passed by our village and helped us spread the word.
In 2017 TOINO ABEL commissioned artist Dinis Santos to document our process through his lenses. It took a whole year as some of our tasks are seasonal or performed once a year. The result was a 12-minute documentary, with no music, no voice nor interview. We would like to invite you to watch it here and visit Dini’s great work here.
Sustainable in So Many Ways
Sustainability means that living and working conditions are safe and dignified as well as an economy that supports the ecosystem. Unlike the straw bag general panorama our artisans are well paid so that they can do what they love: craft. Fair payments allow people to have a chance to work in craft as a passion and not as a last resource.
Within the last 8 years we have increased the price per piece paid to established artisans by 105%. TOINO ABEL employs directly 3 persons who are all paid equally, whether if it is a woman or a man, a crafter or our founder, as we all work hard to bring you the best craft in class.
Craft and Fashion in Harmony with Nature
Sustainability naturally also means support nature, its resources and cycles. Our main material grows wild, every year in a slightly different location. No human action is required and no pesticides, fertilisers, or polluants of any kind are used. Almost all our process does not even use electricity. We only use vegetable tanned leather and ecological certified cotton. Most of our production waste is decomposed in our own garden, a few steps from our workshop. We use no varnish and we hate plastic as much as lack of originality. Of course, there is still a lot to be done. It is extremely difficult to avoid the production of trash, so our dye baths have to be made in an entirely new way and transportation is still a problem.
While the Portuguese landscape is being transformed into an eucalyptus monoculture – with fires every 10 years, drying soils, damaging neighboring crops, being inadequate to other economies like livestock, its lack of beauty and of tourist value - TOINO ABEL is moving in the opposite direction, providing the depopulated countryside with an activity that makes sense. We keep and honour a cultural identity, with integrity and yet innovation. We respect our roots and give the world a bit of colour while we preserve a little portion - our portion - of nature.
Design and Innovation
With a female designer at the helm, we bring our intuition and lived experience hand to hand with a unique savoir-faire to create an original and beautiful collection. Creative director Sara Miller joined the label in 2016. With a Bachelor in Fashion Design from CITEX in Oporto, Sara has worked in fashion houses for 15 years. At TOINO ABEL she has designed a collection that pays tribute to textile history and that magically foresees today’s trends.
We are always seeking like-minded people to join the journey. TOINO ABEL has done collaborations with artists like Paco Ortí in an interchange program between Portugal and Catalonia, organised by Arte Próxima. Together with Spanish fashion brand Ailanto, TOINO ABEL produced the accessories for its SS16 fashion show presented at Madrid Fashion Week. Recently we have done a collaboration with the very talented REALITY STUDIO - breaking the boundaries of Portuguese basketry.
One in a Million
Together with painter Nuno Viegas, we have rebuilt a semi-ruin that will function as an Art Residency in our small village. It is now the home and working place of Nuno Viegas since the beginning of 2018.
While invited artists can benefit from a place to live and work surrounded by nature, enabling them to focus on their work, our community benefits from the opportunity to experience that thoughtful and unique voice that artists have within themselves.
A final thank you goes to your support. At the end of the line, our costumers make it all possible!