Q&A- Why do you think brands are working with artisan entrepreneurs in developing countries?

In Wild Tussah’s 2nd Q&A session, 3 sustainable fashion experts share their thoughts about working with artisan entrepreneurs in developing countries. Read on to learn ethical motivations of these sustainable fashion organizations.

Stu Bowen from Patagonia

Stu is Patagonia’s Environmental Project Manager. At Patagonia, whom most are familiar with, they design and create outdoor gear for explorers. 1% of all sales is donated to grassroots environmental groups who have similar missions in preserving the natural wonders of the world.  The Footprint Chronicles was recently launched and involves a transparent Patagonia supply chain and stories from suppliers and makers.

Stu Bowen

Why do you think brands are working with artisan entrepreneurs in developing countries?

Working in developing countries with Fair Trade factories, farms & workers can improve their livelihoods and you get great products sewn with care. In an attempt to improve the lives of the workers who make our products, in May 2014 we began selling Fair Trade Certified™ apparel. Though we started small with 10 women’s sportswear styles sewn in three factories in India owned by Pratibha, this is a big move for our company & we aim to have over 100 styles in coming seasons.
Garment workers are paid some of the world’s lowest industrial wages and in many cases have little hope of getting ahead. Fair Trade can make a difference, in particular, every Fair Trade Certified item Patagonia buys from Pratibha, we pay a Community Development Premium determined by Fair Trade USA. The money goes into an account that is controlled by the workers who decide how best to use it. The funds are specifically designated for social, economic and environmental development projects. Workers may choose to use the money to distribute as a bonus, help build a school or a health clinic, create a scholarship or invest in some other aspect of their community.

Qinnie Wang from Oz Fair Trade

Qinnie is the founder of Oz Fair Trade, an NGO that offers a friendly and secure online marketplace with its high quality, unique and ethical products. The aim is to help people live above their poverty by their own hard work and talent. You can find more about Oz Fair Trade here.

Qinnie Wang

Why do you think brands are working with artisan entrepreneurs in developing countries?

I think the big brands are responding to a surge in consumer demand for ethical products. Conventional wisdom tells us that meeting a demand is much easier than creating a demand. I have deep respect for the businesses that educated consumers and helped to create this demand. They had a really tough time. Some of them are small businesses run by passionate individuals, others belong to large not-for-profit organisations.

By working with artisan entrepreneurs who are mostly women, businesses provide an opportunity for them to earn extra income from their skills and help to preserve traditional cultures such as hand weaving. In developed countries, we are increasingly looking for a slow lifestyle, and we appreciate handicraft skills that have been lost in our societies. I believe that civilization comes in circles, and we will come back to appreciate things that we no longer have or able to do.

Media has also played a big role in spreading the message of ethical consumption. Ethical businesses are praised. Sweatshops are exposed. Consumers feel empowered to change the system. Big businesses are getting on board to meet this new demand, and because they are big players, they can make significant impact.

Dave Chorlton from Hispid

Dave is Hispid’s founder; a UK based clothing company working to help empower women in Pakistan by employing and helping them make creative handmade garments. You can find more about them here.

David Chorlton

We are working with artisans in developing countries as we believe this way community growth and prosperity will have more longevity and there is no ceiling to how far this can go. As much as we greatly admire and wholeheartedly support the concept of charity this ultimately relies on an individual’s generosity. By creating a business & development network with artisans the community does not rely on generosity, but can stand on its own two feet and sell local crafts due to their aesthetic & functional properties. In short, people will buy that product as they like it giving a much larger scope for development. Also rather than an artisan receiving charitable donations they have a sense of pride that they actually support themselves and their family through their own unique skills in the exact same way an individual would support their family in a developed country. Generosity can dry up, but trade has and always will be an integral part of human society. From a community development perspective this is why we as a brand work with artisans and we assume this is why other brands do also.

Thank you guys for your in-depth answers. If you’re a sustainable fashion expert and would like to be featured in our next Q&A, please contact us

You can read more recommendations on how to be a better consumer with 3 sustainable fashion experts in our previous Q&A.

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