Join me on a trip to the Moroccan countryside today….

After a rainy winter we’re having a wildflower explosion in North Africa this year! Year after year in March this sight does not disappoint. First its the yellow wildflowers, then orange, and lastly this week the poppies appear. Like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz, my mind is blown. On weekends families grab their picnic baskets and children run through wild and expansive fields. I am reminded of the grandeur of nature and recharged by this life once again.

Have a spectacular Saturday!

With love, Heather and family

Just outside of Marrakech’s all encompassing magnetism is but another level of living ~Starting my day venturing away from the bustle of the souks towards the climb of the snow capped landscape of the Atlas mountains is truly soul enlivening. One of my favorite parts of our work in Morocco has become our visits with the women artisans of The Eve Branson Foundation. Their berber village along the cliffs of these majestic mountains hosts a creative center for the local community to learn and grow their artistic skills setup by the Branson family and outstanding staff.

Just before working on a project I experience this familiar inner “excitement” as to how things will go, which direction it will take and hopeful it will be successful for all of those involved…you see, every effort is that of a community here in Morocco. This trip was yet another reminder that we all need one another for survival and success to abound. It is in this humble and artistic community that I find I am continuously learning almost more than I’m teaching while I visit for a workshop. My designs are inspired by my surroundings here and it is a joy to see them translated through the handwork of the artisans in this collaborative process. Just opposite the enchanting Kasbah Tamadot Branson hotel, the foundation offers the locals programs on seamstress work, embroidery, woodworking and a now hand loom for women, traditionally a craft of men. The growth of the center is inspiring and we’re thrilled to be a part of the journey. From color theory workshops to new clothing patterns, as Mushmina grows so will our ability to provide artisan employment opportunities with a focus on women’s empowerment while offering inspired pieces in partnership with EBF and beyond.

Something I’ve learned in this unpredictable work which continues to propel me is that when you follow the pull of the universe, in this case into the lure of the mountains, you will be rewarded with confirmations. I’m easy to please and the spirit of the women I meet is reward enough but I’m not opposed to a glass of wine at the end of the day while soaking in the energy of the Atlas Mountains on the veranda of Kasbah Tamadot. Life is majestic.

Cheers,                                                                                                                                                                    Katie O’Neill                                                                                                                                             Mushmina, Creative Director

View our collections at www.mushmina.com

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I recently spent a week on the island and as usual when I travel the thing I was most impressed with was the people. Cubans are as wildly spirited as the colors of their country which is necessary for their otherwise challenging day to day life in this socialist setting. Candy colored cars from the 50’s have been hacked to life as your vehicle on this journey. The weather and the foliage are tropical and architecture charmingly dilapidated. The billboards boast signs of the revolution- “Socialismo o Muerte” as the locals welcome tourists into their homes with a sweet demeanor that softens their strong resourcefulness in finding their own way. Garages and porches have been transformed into tasty restaurants and contemporary galleries and the nightlife of rum drinks, cuban jazz and salsa rock the city to sleep for yet another night. Though I only got to visit the city of Havana and the white sand beaches of the east, I was made to feel at home in Cuba and was surprised by the hardships of it’s past, the prospects of it’s future, and the ‘paciencia’ and spirit of the present moment, rapidly changing though still captured in time like a photo.

My advice for travelers is to learn with an open heart and take a break from your cell phones as the best and only connection there is the present moment.

With love,
Katie O’Neill
Creative Director, Mushmina
Photos from my personal trip. January 2017.

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This week and always we give thanks. Thankful for another day we wake up and greet the day. Thankful for another day to serve, to show up in the world, to give the best of ourselves.  

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This month Morocco saw many interesting visitors as the international climate change conference COP22 was taking place in Marrakech. I am so grateful to have been invited to meet U.S. Under Secretary Catherine Novelli who heads an American delegation to work on economic growth, energy, and the environment. Formerly Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe & the Mediterranean, Secretary Novelli coordinated U.S. trade and investment policy for the over 65 countries and helped negotiate the Free Trade Agreement with Morocco ten years ago that has increased bilateral trade between Morocco and the US by 300%!

Last Sunday morning Secretary Novelli (pictured below in red) and the American delegation visited the Eve Branson Foundation‘s new woodworking center spearheaded by American entrepreneur David Bult of Green Sahara Furniture. David took 8 trainees under his wing and is teaching them to do the most amazing and creative things with wood.

Then we visited the new Tamgounssi Weaving Center where we checked out the new horizontal looms and I met with Amina the teacher of the women’s group to explain Mushmina’s new clothing designs. To top off a great visit, lunch was coordinated by the US Embassy at Richard Branson’s Atlas Mountains retreat, Kasbah Tamadot overlooking this stunning valley. Put this on your bucket list! It’s one of my favorite regions of Morocco.

Many thanks as always to the lovely Barbara de Bastier the foundation’s coordinator for arranging our visits (pictured here in a lovely navy and black jacket…coming to Mushmina shops soon!) She is always so generous with her heart and her time. And thank you to the men and women of Asni the small Berber town in the Atlas Mountains for welcoming us.

So this week I give thanks.

I am so grateful that our world is so abundant in culture and traditions and open-minded people that travel to see the world, to discover the ways of others, and who contribute to making the intersection of cultures so rich.

With love and gratitude, Heather

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Pictures from our day in the mountains and ‘Welcome’ in four languages.

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Did you know that today is International Day of the Girl!

We wanted to share an except from Marrakech Confidential by former Peace Corps volunteer Brenda Garcia Jaramillo on big things happening for Moroccan young women and young women everywhere….

In honor of October 11th being International Day of the Girl, today CNN International will be presenting a special documentary “We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World”  The documentary will depict interviews and highlights of First Lady Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Freida Pinto, and CNN journalist Isha Sesay’s travels through Morocco and Liberia as part of her Let Girls Learn global initiative.  This week a delegation of Moroccan young women were invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to the U.S. to watch the premiere of “We Will Rise” in the White House tonight. Wow, wow, wow!!!

Let Girls Learn is Michelle Obama’s initiative with the U.S Peace Corps to bring awareness and change to the estimated 62 million girls around the world who do not have access to an education. In Morocco, enrollment is lowest among rural girls at only 26% attendance after age 11 compared to 79% of rural boys who continue to secondary school.

We hope you join us in watching this important documentary,“We Will Rise” at the times described below.

Tuesday October 11
6:00 am, 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm EST – Asia, Europe, Africa on CNN International

Wednesday October 12
9:00 pm EST– CNN U.S. and CNN International

Thursday October 13
12:00 am EST– CNN International

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FLOTUS is amazing!

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The lucky young ladies are being escorted to Washington by Project Soar field manager and Peace Corps Volunteer Olivia DiNucci and field coordinator Bouchra Laghssais

 

It’s 9.9…that means today is the day Katie will be on TV selling our classic Mushmina Hobo bags!

Have you seen our latest reveal? The classic black and white.

This bag is called the Zelig, meaning tile in Arabic.  She was designed with inspiration from Morocco’s traditional ceramic tiles, artistry, ebony, and rich contrasts. Get it today along with our other newest patterns below made especially for our QVC debut. Katie will now be on air at 2pm EDT with Jayne Brown, in the Jayne’s Closet segment. She is the second guest on so look for Katie at about 2:15PM. Thanks everyone for your continued support of what we do. Help us spread the word today! We are hoping for a sellout!

Which style woman are you? Check out all four fall looks.

The Zelij, a classic. Timeless. Never goes out of style.

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The Grenadine, bold. A statement. Stop traffic with this bag.

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The Mediterranean, dreamy. Traveler, laid back. Blue hues and Mediterranean dreaming.

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The Jasmine, nature lover. Adventure, outdoors, earth toned and beautiful.

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In the spirit of community, women’s empowerment, and transformation…

“Women have been coming together in circle since ancient times. In fact, the very survival of a tribe depended on the cooperation and collaboration of women. Often they gathered to weave fabric: singing while fusing images from the natural world into the cloth and storytelling while interlacing the tales through the threads.”

The Aluna Adventures team are teaming up with us this Fall for ‘Weaving Beauty,Spinning a New World’ Women’s Circles’ at Mushmina. Join us in expressing our creative nature, using our hands and hearts and being guided in a meditative Yin yoga practice. Visit the event page for dates, tickets, and more info about this powerful fall series.

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The countdown is on, 3 weeks until our QVC debut! 
This week: Meet Miss Jasmine Hobo. Hand drawn textile by Mushmina co-founder Katie. This pattern was inspired by the beautiful Jasmine flower and the vast and varied landscapes of Morocco. This collection is limited edition and will be available on QVC on 9.9.16 at 2pm EST.

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Did you know that Katie hand draws each of our fabric patterns before they are put into a computer and onto a jacquard loom?

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In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.-Deepak Chopra

 

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9.9.16. This is a big deal for us. Mushmina Hobo Bags are going to be on QVC!

This is the culmination of many months of hard work designing new patterns and material sourcing, lab testing, artisan production, DHL shipping, repacking in Philadelphia, and a delivery (yesterday!) of close to 900 bags on pallets to the America’s largest televised retailer. QVC—which stands for quality, value, convenience—broadcasts to more than 350 million households in seven countries. Wow!

Katie, Mushmina’s creative director is going to be LIVE on AIR with Shawn Killinger on QVC’s Shawn Says Accessorize ShowSo mark your calendars and tell your friends! Sept 9th at 2pm EST.

Stay tuned for our weekly unveiling of the 4 newest colors.

This week, meet Miss Grenadine.She is bold. She is colorful. And she was inspired by Morocco’s countryside and royal red hues.

This is a limited run of these patterns are we hope with your help it’s a sell out show!

Hello world!

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The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. -Oprah Winfrey

 

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A Significant Moment

July 28, 2016

The front page of yesterday’s New York Times read, “A Significant Moment for American Women.”

“What does it take to be the first female anything?” actress Meryl Streep asked the Democratic National Convention in our great city of Philadelphia this week. She continued, it takes “capacity of mind, fullness of heart and a burning passion for their cause.”

As I read this from my home in Morocco I was brought to tears as I was the day before after watching Michelle Obama’s speech. What a significant week it has been for American women indeed.

In this increasingly complex time, we are reminded every day that the playing field is not level. That people do not in fact have the same opportunities everywhere. I love living abroad because I am an American woman living abroad and that makes me one of the most free in the world. I owe that to the generations of women before me including Hillary Clinton who paved the way for my freedoms.  I owe that also to my parents who made sure that I had a great education and exposure to the ideals of a country where there are no limits on who we can be and what we believe in.

I couldn’t agree more with Michelle Obama when she said, don’t let anyone tell you that America is not great. Other ex pats probably agree, sometimes it takes leaving the country to see with your own eyes what makes American ideals so powerful.

Whether you are a democrat or republican we all can agree that the power of this past week has been undeniable. Madeleine Albright, Elizabeth Warren, Gabby Giffords, Senator Amy Klobuchal, there are so many powerful women role models and change-makers among us. “The world is changing beneath our feet and it’s past time to embrace a twenty-first century approach to advancing the rights and opportunities of women and girls at home and across the globe.” (Hillary Clinton -Women in the World Summit, April 5, 2013)

“She’ll be the first, but she won’t be the last.” Closed Meryl Streep.

As my daughter Hiba watched parts of this convention with her Aunt Katie in New Jersey this week,  I am proud and honored for her to be there and witness this historic and transformational moment in American history. Because even at two she understood that something powerful has just happened.

Our First Lady called for America to get to work and elect it’s first female president, and oh yes, along with all of us Hiba clapped!

 

Girl power

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It has been an eventful month in Morocco!

It’s the holy month of Ramadan, Michelle Obama and Meryl Streep were just here, and today starts a ban on plastic bags in the country. Nothing short of amazing!

As many of you know, I first came to Morocco as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2003. When we volunteers first arrived one of most disturbing observations of the gorgeous Moroccan countryside was the amount of plastic bags the littered the landscape. According to recent data, Morocco is the 2nd largest consumer of plastic bags, only second to the USA. On average, plastic bags are used for 12 minutes, but they take between 100 and 400 years to be degraded. I am so excited to say that in the last 13 years there has been a noticeable improvement with many local ‘Espace Verte’ Green Space clean-up programs. I am even more impressed that the Moroccan Govt has stepped up to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores starting TODAY! Good thing there is no shortage of cool straw artisan bags here! 😉

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Ok enough about bags, I know you are wondering why the First Lady Michelle Obama and Meryl Streep were in Morocco!?  Wow talk about powerhouse women. The First Lady and America’s most famous actress arrived last Tuesday evening in order to meet with young women and encourage them to stay in school. The First Lady also made a big announcement….

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which is an global anti-poverty agency, will be working closely with the government of Morocco to invest $100 million to transform Morocco’s middle and high school education system, helping students across the country – including about 50,000 adolescent girls – get the skills they need to have the careers they dream of. MCC is also launching a new $4.6 million Education for Employability Partnership Fund to support programs that will address the needs of girls – things like internships and after school clubs to get girls excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or new classroom technology specifically designed with girls in mind.

In addition, USAID will be supporting school dormitories (which are called “Dar Talibas”) for girls from rural areas so they can continue their education beyond elementary school, even when middle schools are far from their homes. And the Peace Corps (yay!) will be announcing Morocco as one of their next Let Girls Learn target countries where volunteers will be organizing girls’ education and empowerment projects nationwide. As you know, women’s education and empowerment is something we feel strongly about at Mushmina. Read more here!

And finally, to top off  an amazing month, we just got the green light on our biggest order yet. Mushmina bags (and Katie!) will be airing on QVC on Sept 9th. Tune in to see our newest line designed by Katie and produced by our artisan team in Morocco especially for QVC.

Much love and gratitude,

Heather, Katie, & the Mushmina team

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