If you’ve ever wanted your one-of-a-kind child to have a one-of-a-kind teddy, then you’ll adore the bears of Taunina.

At first sight, it’s obvious these are no ordinary bears.

Their heart is truly worn on their sleeve with rich embroidery weaving stories of flowers, fluttering butterflies, singing birds, floating kites, magical balloons across tummies, toes, hearts and hands, transforming the bear’s very being into a rich tapestry of colour, design and storytelling

They might look like works of art, but they make the perfect playmate too! Despite their high-price-tag, these teddies are also safety certified for even the youngest of children and are ready and have a whole non-fiction back story that will make you happy to have them come to stay in your home! So, here’s how this non-fiction fairytale goes…

Once upon a time, two girls went to the London School of Economics – South African Tracey Chiappini-Young and Brazilian-American Karen Jansen. They were idealists and dreamers who shared a passion to make a difference in the world (not the run-of-the-mill attendees in the hallowed halls of LSE!). They had a *crazy* idea to build a company that would empower women from disadvantaged communities to use their traditional handskills to earn a living, while revitalising age-old artistries. In 2011, they opened Taunina’s Cape Town-based atelier, and today there are 20 artists working alongside various craftspeople to create these brilliant bespoke bears!

The name Taunina is an anagram of the African word ‘tau’, meaning ‘lion’, and ‘NINA’, an acronym for ‘No Income, No Assets’, and Taunina’s workshop is the location where women, once without income and assets, are today becoming lions of their own destiny. For the artists, the atelier is a home away from home – a place where their artistic talent is nurtured and ideas flourish, where beautiful art is created, and where their dreams for their family and future are realised.

Ennis Chikudza is one of those artists. She explains that “Life before Taunina wasn’t easy. I’m trying to help my mum back home. She is looking after my kids and I miss them. I want to go back to school and study at night because even though I was good at school when I was growing up, there was no money for the school fees, so I had to leave and work on the farm. Education is the key to everything…”

The atelier also happens to be a place where exquisite fabrics are turned into exceptional toys. Speaking of which…  Who are the bears and how can you find your very own? There are about 25 collections currently available including the Zip Zap collection, the colourful Africa collection, the floral Emerald collection, the Cherry Blossom collection, the umbrella embellished Raindrop collection, the elegant Velvet collection, the animal print Leopard collection… Yeah, there’s a collection for every kind of aesthetic you might think of.

There’s Petite, Classic and Studio sizes (from 26cm tall to 40cm tall) and there’s also a Bunny style if you like long floppy ears instead of little pointy bear-ears. Every precious teddy is designed and embellished by a single artist and carries the initials of the woman who made him or her. When it comes time to depart, the bear travels in a handcrafted hatbox with their own certified passport, which has the name and photograph of their creator, as well as the artist’s inspiration and wish for the world.

Without a doubt, this is an heirloom toy. But it’s not merely an heirloom to be passed from one generation to the next, but also a transformative heirloom, changing the world from one generation to the next – both for the family of the creator as well as the owner. How so? One of the coolest things about buying a Taunina teddy is that children are given a first-hand love for socially aware consumerism. The people at Taunina say that buyers of Taunina bears are “discerning consumers, ambassadors for making a difference and protagonists for a better, more sustainable world”. And… well… it’s a good point!

Sure, your baby might not appreciate the value of their teddy bear’s ‘back story’ from day one, but as they get older, the fact they can read about the specific woman who crafted this specific bear to help their own family break a cycle of poverty has a much stronger impact than knowing your teddy was mass manufactured on a production line in China. It’s a bit like having a physical version of “this is the house that Jack built” to have and to hold and cuddle and love… You never know, it might just spark your own child’s passion for heading to LSE to become the very next ‘agent of change!’.

Good For… hand/eye coordination, expressing thoughts, imaginary play, story telling and role playing

Keep in Mind… Of course, we all know that the smudges and pen marks only make toys more beloved, but at this price you might feel a little protective of this play pal, so consider holding off until your baby is perhaps two or three before giving them their own Taunina teddy.

What Kids Love The fact that this is a teddy doesn’t go unnoticed, but as children get older, they will also love being able to ‘meet’ their teddy’s designer and learn about their family life too.

What Parents Love The fact that this is socially responsible consumption is a huge bonus. But you can’t help but love the fabulous fabrics and designs of these bears too – these toys work as well in a minimalist interior as they do in a cutesy cottage! Truly a keeper!

Designer Details There are 20 artists involved in the designs at Taunina – each with their own aesthetic. Here is a video introducing you to a few of the artists at Taunina…