our story and ethos

We’re a home textiles company based on the edge of
the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
Our mission is to create hand-painted quality textiles for your home
in a transparent and sustainable manner empowering our local community.

Our Story Begins With A Tree And A River

It all started in 1991 under a big Acacia tree in a small safari camp on the banks of the Luangwa River. With limited resources, no electricity or running water, our founder Gillie Lightfoot started experimenting with various techniques and dyes, using her surroundings as the inspiration for her designs. Tribal Textiles slowly emerged under the limitations that are now its trade mark and grew with the support of local Safari operators and tourism.

More than 25 years later, things have changed and our family has grown. Tribal Textiles is now providing sustainable employment, fair wages and economic empowerment to up to 100 local people. The company is one of the biggest employers in the Luangwa Valley, an area where jobs are scarce. With one earner caring for an average of ten relatives, our staff indirectly support over 1,000 people. Our workshop is on the grounds of an old mill factory and next door to our flagship store. It is the embodiment of our commitment to transparency in the production process, with the entire place open to the public. You can read more about our workshop and how we make our textiles. 

Gillie On The Banks Of The Luangwa River
Sarah Painting At Our Workshop

The Ethos Behind What We Do    

We strive to empower our local community through creative and sustainable enterprise. We believe that empowering people and giving back locally are our responsibility and the key to a happy flourishing business.

We love and respect the artisans we work with. We provide them with a positive and happy working environment through fair terms of employment. Some of them have been with Tribal Textiles since it started in 1991 - the best possible testimonial that it feels good to work with us! We are committed to creating beautiful home textiles in a sustainable way for people and the environment. In a textile industry mostly driven by economics, Tribal Textiles stands out and wants to maintain the standards of a sustainable production in a non-industrial environment.

We’re using traditional techniques to create quality products for people to live with. We don’t compromise on production methods or raw materials and pride ourselves on the quality of our textiles: they are durable and can be washed easily. We use 100% cotton fabrics produced in Africa Each of our designs is hand-drawn and painted using a vibrant palette of hand-mixed colors. We use only the best quality pigments and emulsions to produce our paints: they are water based, non toxic, non hazardous and safe for the environment. Wherever possible we operate a zero waste policy and recycle everything! We believe that our products and the way we create them will help improve the world we live in.

We hope that people will value our creations more when they understand where they come from and how they were made. And that this will nurture conscious behaviors and consumption… Do you know the legend of the Hummingbird ?