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SOARÉ – a woven place mat that makes a difference

Our vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people” extends to our co-workers and customers, but also to our suppliers and their communities. One way to put this into action is by creating products that have a purpose beyond business. Like this simple place mat.

A SOARÉ place mat upon which is a bowl of vegetable soup, a wooden spoon, a napkin and a glass of water.

    Weaving a future

    SOARÉ is a beautiful rounded place mat, woven from the vibrantly green, sturdy and fast-growing water hyacinth that thrives in the Mekong River in Vietnam. The process of harvesting, drying and weaving the plant is important to the people living along the river banks. It keeps the waterway passable, it preserves handicraft tradition, and it earns the weavers extra money.

      One woman told us that thanks to SOARÉ her daughter is now training to become a teacher.

      Lillemor FranzénSOARÉ team, IKEA of Sweden

      Visiting Vietnam to get the full view

      When SOARÉ became a popular product, supplies couldn’t cope with the demand. So, we thought it was time to change something in the production, or maybe replace it with a machine-made alternative. But before we decided, we wanted to go to Vietnam and look at the whole manufacturing process.

      A stack of harvested water hyacinth that is partially dried.

      Women working together

      The IKEA SOARÉ team visited the weavers, listened to their stories and took part in their daily lives. The workers – mostly women – gather in different homes to weave together and have the freedom to decide how much and how often to work. They chat, keep an eye on the farms and look after their kids.

      Two people wearing woven sunhats crouching in the Mekong River harvesting water hyacinth on a sunny day.
      We’re so glad we went, because we saw how SOARÉ is having a positive impact on the people making it.

      Lillemor FranzénSOARÉ team, IKEA of Sweden

      Doing good while doing good business

      Visiting Vietnam and meeting the weavers gave the IKEA team a fresh perspective. They arrived thinking largely in terms of costs and business, but left feeling emotionally connected to the people and product.

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      SOARÉ place mat on a table together with a selection of Vietnamese dishes and decorative flowers.
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        Scaling up to meet customer demand

        Hand-woven natural fibre place mats have proved popular with customers. So much so that our Vietnamese suppliers have been unable to keep up. To make sure more tables around the world can enjoy these products we have now started production in India.

        A single SOARÉ place mat laying on a white surface.