If the smell of patchouli overwhelms you and the pan flute isn’t your idea of a soundtrack for a day of shopping, then perhaps you have avoided stores labeled “fair trade.” Honestly, I kind of feel creatively energized when I enter these stores. What can I say? I guess there is some Oregon hippie-ness to me. But if I’m being honest, there is a bit of Portland hipster there, too. (Hipsters aren’t actually supposed to admit to being hipster, but I said I was being honest). And hipsters can get picky about style. They have to look a certain way, you know?
Because of that inherent combo of philosophy, I have the need to find both ethically produced and amazingly designed goods. I also love to travel and have a deep respect for different cultures and people whose art reflects the world in a different way. So, I’m thrilled to see that some top brands are taking on styles inspired or created by artisans in the majority world.
The degree to which these goods benefit the artisan varies by the item, but each one has some impact on workers in other countries. I hope to continue to showcase different well-designed, ethically made goods on my blog, Humanity In The Mirror.
Here are today's picks!
1. J. Crew – Indego Africa bracelet (Rwanda)
2. Nicole Miller – Indego Africa shorts (Rwanda)
J. Crew and Nicole Miller are both carrying items created by a co-op of women in Rwanda, who export their goods through Indego Africa. Keep in mind that the two companies aren’t necessarily selling the product to give 100 percent of the profits to Indego Africa. While J. Crew doesn’t actually say how much profit is contributed, Nicole Miller is donating 15 percent from the sale of the shorts. Indego Africa uses its profits and donations to provide training to the women in management and entrepreneurship, literacy, technology and health. The programs are even administered by Rwandans. Indego Africa is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.
3. Drop crystal necklace (South Africa)
I love this necklace designed by South African designer Stephanie Roup. The crystal is sourced from Namibia and is completely raw and unrefined. It is available on Heritage 1960, which is an online retail store featuring African fashion, lifestyle and design. The site was created by Enyinne Owunwanne to showcase a variety of sophisticated goods from Africa.
4. Neon Pink Toe Cap Otavi (Namibia)
Eight gentlemen make only 20 of these shoes by hand each day in Swakopmund, Namibia. Called Velskoen or “vellies” they are a fusion shoe first made in the 1600s – inspired by the Khoikhoi tribe and then modified by British travelers. They are dyed with vegetable dyes and made of wild kudu leather, which is from a native antelope whose population is culled by the Namibian government as a means of control.
5. Swiss Miss Annaliese Clutch by Sseko Designs (Uganda)
While the print on this purse is actually Scandinavian-inspired, the artisans are based in Uganda. The purse is made of Kenyan leather. Sseko Designs, which is actually probably more known for being a sandal company, was started by a young American woman named Liz. Sseko hires young women who have just graduated from secondary school to work and earn money to attend university. The American side of the nonprofit is headquartered in Portland.
6. Infinity Scarf from the Andean Collection (Ecuador)
Scarves are definitely a year-round accessory in the Northwest. This scarf is from the Andean Collection, which partners with artisans in Ecuador to design fashion that fuses the tastes of New York City with Ecuador. Each item is hand-crafted using local materials.
7. Staple Skirt by AFIA (Ghana)
This skirt by AFIA uses cotton wax fabrics from the market in Accra, Ghana. Wax fabrics are iconic for Africa, but the variety in patterns is what always amazes me. AFIA works with local sewing cooperatives to make their clothes.
8. Maru Tunic by Lemlem (Ethiopia)
I couldn’t leave Lemlem off the list. Founded by Liya Kebede, a supermodel and actress, Lemlem celebrates the work of weavers in Kebede’s native country of Ethiopia. When Kebede discovered that weavers were losing work because there wasn’t enough demand for their goods in Ethiopia anymore, she started Lemlem, which means “to flourish or bloom” in Amharic. All of their designs are gorgeous.
Thanks again to Rebecca for this inspiring post, we'll be hearing more from her in the coming months as she takes on a big trip to Europe and shares some thoughts and adventures from that journey! Remember you can catch up with Rebecca at Humanity In The Mirror or on Twitter!