Our founder, Mary Ow, is an entrepreneur who has built successful start-ups with a common theme: Sustainability. Cane Republic believes in selling products that are made from recyclable material and sourced from disadvantaged communities in Asia.
Mary started a small furniture and homeware business in Malaysia many years ago, specialising in furniture made from recycled aged wood, fashioned in the Art Deco style. She was the sole designer and commissioned the manufacture to skilled local craftsmen. Much of the homeware, which included vases, baskets, lights and paintings, were sourced from rural villages in Malaysia and neighbouring countries. Over time the business grew, and became the preferred supplier to renowned architects and interior designers. Her mission was to help raise the living standards of the villagers and exhibit their craft, and her company exceeded her modest expectations in every sense of the word.
Mary moved to Somerset in 2017 and started Cane Republic, based on the same principles of her previous business. Cane Republic’s handmade bags are made from recyclable packing straps and woven by the womenfolk of the Penan tribe, a nomadic people indigenous to the island of Borneo.
For centuries, the Penans have relied on the rainforest for their existence. Unfortunately, in recent years, indiscriminate logging and urbanisation has encroached on their living space and many of them have moved to resettlement camps, with no access to the forest that sustained them in the past.
Cane Republic collaborates with the Penan Women Project (PWP), a social enterprise in Sarawak, to showcase these colourful and intricate bags - each individually made with love by the Penan women. They need all the help they can get and this collaboration helps to provide them with a regular source of income, so that they can provide their children with food, shelter and education. Equally important is the continuation of this rustic weaving tradition which will be passed on to the tribe’s future generations.
Cane Republic’s coconut shell products are made by Vietnamese artisans in the rural villages that encircle Dong Ngo and Ben Tre, where there is an abundance of coconut trees. These are biodegradable, reusable and completely natural. In other words, they are made into useful items and are spared from polluting our oceans and taking up space in landfills. For anyone transitioning to a responsible and waste-free lifestyle, these products are a must-have.
Cane Republic has a clear mission to promote eco-friendly products and continues to source mainly from disadvantaged communities in Asia.