A word to describe Atlanta is dynamic. The city has seen great movement in the last 10 years; adding an average of 500,000 people annually, more than any other metro area in the United States.
Growth also means that Atlanta is becoming more diverse and young with an average age of 33 (36 is the average age for US population).
The young new comers bring new experiences and expectations that are shaping the city as a magnet for innovation and culture.
A good example, Jennifer Saadé.
Coming from a family of diplomats (her mother was part of the French Foreign Ministry and now a business partner) and having lived in Singapore, Geneva and France; Jennifer decided to stay in Atlanta and get a degree in Interior Design.
After a few years and stints at different shops, Jennifer decided that her love was art in all forms. “After seeing so much beauty and great work all around the world I thought it was a crime that hand made art did not have a prominent position in the retail circuit in the city so I decided I was going to do something about it. That is how 5Continents was born” says Jennifer.
5Continents, located in affluent Buckhead, is possibly the only shop in the city where everything is hand made or custom made. The boutique works as a collective for a select group of artists and artisans that design or craft their items in Atlanta but represent all continents in the world. Currently, the gallery has more than 40 artists representing 40 countries with items varying from hand stitched clutches made of vintage silk kimonos from Japan, hand embroidered french bibs and towels, to unique Kenyan soapstone plates and home accessories. From paper made from elephant droppings (yes, you read that right) by a fair trade co- operative of women in India to hand knitted stuffed toys made with organic cotton from Peru.
Every single piece you find at the store has been hand picked by Jennifer and everything is hand made, fair trade and/or sustainably made, bringing art, history and culture to the eyes and hands of ethically conscious consumers. In addition to supporting fair trade projects and local artists, 5Continents hosts monthly fundraisers for specific causes working with local partners in the countries, striving to be effective and efficient with the funds raised. This month, they are supporting efforts in Eastern Africa (Somalia and Kenya)
Last week, a client drove all the way from North Carolina to shop for presents at the gallery, that made Jennifer’s day, she shares with a smile. Still, it is an ongoing challenge to prove relevant in a city surrounded by huge malls and cheap mass produced items.
Jennifer is just one of many in the city trying to create a diverse and appreciative environment for art and international culture that is spreading to otherwise traditional neighborhoods and suburbs.
Other retail outlets in Atlanta offering fair trade and sustainable gifts are:
-Green Mosaics in Decatur @ 228 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue Decatur, GA 30030 404-371-5777 www.greenmosaicsco.com
-Ten Thousand Villages in Virginia Highlands @ 1056 St. Charles Avenue N.E. Atlanta, GA 30306 404-892-5307
-Propueblo Fair Trade in Inman Park 775 Lake Ave Ste 3, Atlanta, GA 30307 (404) 909-8176 www.propueblo.org
-Cafe Campesino in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, Radial Cafe in Candler Park, Java Vino in Inman Park, Octane in West Midtown and Park Grounds in Reynoldstown offer fair trade and sustainably grown coffee.