Gone Rural began as one woman's vision to empower women in Swaziland's most remote areas. Their founder, Jenny Thorne, began small income-generation projects in the 1970s with rural women across the country. Her focus moved to the mountainous areas where the beautiful lutindzigrass was growing and women were already weaving. She started designing handwoven products that rural women would create to earn a fair and sustainable source of income. As demand for Gone Rural's natural and creative products began to increase, so did the strength of the women's voices. These women became not only weavers, but an integral part of the company, and the sense of empowerment they gained through their business translated into their communities and homes. Gone Rural began to provide funding for community development projects led by the weavers to complement their increasing empowerment, projects which are now carried out by their sister organisation, boMake Rural Projects.
Gone Rural has blossomed from a local women's empowerment project to a global leader in handcraft and design, using creativity to ignite social change and now working with over 780 women artisans. A quarter of a century later, women and the community remain at the heart of everything they do. Registered as a trading entity in 1992, Gone Rural began to reimagine the traditional weaving techniques of Swaziland and quickly gained an international following. In 2009, the Rural Artisan Board was established to ensure that the voices of all 13 producer groups were incorporated into the growth of Gone Rural. From the company's vision to the pricing of products, the Rural Artisan Board is involved in decisions that impact their brand. Gone Rural has maintained its commitment to ethical production and women's empowerment, while expanding their market to countries across the world.
Gone Rural is a leader in handcraft design, partnering with artists and high-end designers such as Dokter and Misses and Misha Khan. Their products range from functional homeware to gallery pieces, including Signature Collections, inspired by the stories of the women weavers. Gone Rural is constantly reinventing traditional weaving techniques and interpreting them into innovative, contemporary designs. They remain committed to economically empowering their weavers, offering quality training to their artisans, maintaining the integrity of the handcraft tradition, and being proud ambassadors for Swaziland.