Mata Traders is a wonderful Chicago-based line, featuring unique, handmade women’s apparel, accessories, and home decor, featuring indigenous crafting techniques, such as block printing and embroidery.
I first came across Mata Traders on Twitter, where I instantly fell in love. I was so excited to find out the boutique I used to work at now carries them, and I was more excited when the designer’s aunt saw that we carried them, which led to an amazing, enlightening conversation about the progress of fair trade fashion!
A little about Mata:
After spending 4 months traveling through India with her friends in 2003, Maureen Dunn decided to start a fair trade business, leading her to import all kinds of goods on yearly buying trips. Aware of the poverty in India, Maureen used her buying power as a leverage to make a difference, looking for artisan groups that gave back to the community through fair wages and fair trade. Not long after, her travel buddies and friends, Joni and Michelle, joined Mata Traders as partners.
Working with organizations that “educate, employ, and empower women” (source) is the company’s main mission.
Indigenous Designs is a fantastic clothing line elevating artisans and providing income to the poorest regions of South America. This line first started in 1993, after Scott Leonard witnessed the beauty of local artisans while on a trip to the continent. Together, he and co-founder Matt Reynolds have built a remarkably socially conscious and sustainable company. The line now works with over 300 knitting and hand-looming artisan groups, providing fair wages, support, and environmental sustainability, all while preserving their rich cultural heritage.
Indigenous takes pride in their eco-friendly, fair trade, and organic clothing. Each piece is handmade using natural fiber yarn (organic certified cotton, alpaca, silk, merino wool), Global Organic Textile Standards processing, and Oekotex-100 approved natural dyes.
Learn more about Indigenous and their processes here.
Nowadays, there are so many socially conscious shoe brands out there. Honestly, they are all great – TOMS, BOBS by Skechers, and Keen Shoes, just to name a few. Which ever of these brands you choose, at the end of the day, the money you spend is doing something good for the world! Right?
I recently came across giraffe WALK on Refinery 29’s blog. All I could say was, “Oh my gosh! THESE!”
These shoes are gorgeous and unique, featuring indigenous techniques, locally sourced materials, and eco-friendly dyes. On top of that, each pair of shoes purchased brings income to families in Chennai, India. giraffe WALK shoes are first handwoven by the local women of Chennai, using vegetable-tanned leather, and are then finished in New York City, where an Italian-made vegetable-tanned leather sole is inserted.
I really love the different styles of the shoes – they are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before!
Manos de Madres (which translates to “Hands of Mothers,” respectively), founded in 2003, is a wonderful non-profit focusing their efforts on improving the lives of women and their families, working directly with cooperatives to provide financial, technical, business, and creative assistance. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, as well as Green America, Manos de Madres currently hosts initiatives in Rwanda, South Africa, and Honduras.
Ejo Hazaza Initiative, Rwanda: Jewelry made from African fabric and paper beads, by women with HIV/AIDS who decided to form a collective to raise money to buy baby formula to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their babies.
INEZA Initiative, Rwanda: A sewing cooperative featuring 25 women living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, formed by international initiative, WE-ACTx (Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment), as a means for these women to generate income and have a place for physical and emotional support, including HIV testing, treatment, and education.
Solidarite Initiative, Rwanda: An association of 375 Rwandan men and women seeking to fight HIV/AIDS and alleviate poverty. They also care for 240 orphans and vulnerable children. Their income is solely based on sales of their craft, basket weaving, as they receive no financial support from outside organizations.
Shwe Shwe Poppis Initiative, South Africa: The African Children’s Feeding Program’s economic empowerment and fundraising sector, feeding over 21,000 kids daily. Each doll is designed by the children of the Zola nursery, a preschool for kids with severe illnesses, like HIV/AIDS. The dolls are sewn by 29 mothers and grandmothers using brightly-patterned, cotton Shwe Shwe cloth.
Trash Bags/Trash Beads Initiative, Honduras: Using from 100% post-consumer waste, women of the TRASH BAGS cooperatives in Rio Negro and Matazano design and produce beautiful personal and home accessories. This project aims to generate income, empower women, and reverse environmental degradation.
For more information on the Manos de Madres initiatives, visit their website at manosdemadres.org.
This time of year always gets hectic with trying to make sure that you have the perfect gift for your loved ones. The past two years, we have been trying to support businesses with a social mission during the holiday season. Having been working with artisans around the globe for the past year and a half, we love supporting talented crafters in any way possible. So why not give a hand-crafted gift that is providing a job for a woman who needs to feed her family? Did you know that women make up of 70% of the world’s poorest people, and 2/3 of them are illiterate. Mothers, daughters and sisters lack jobs, education, food, and shelter for their families.
This holiday season we want to commit to supporting female artisans who need it most! Check out these social enterprises who are dedicated to supporting underprivileged entrepreneurs and artisans around the globe by providing them with an education, training, and the resources needed to create a sustainable lifestyle.
P.S. These AMAZING necklaces would make the perfect stocking stuffer:)