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Giving Hope Through Fashion: Fair Trade Designs

Fair Trade Designs was recently featured in an article on EcoFashionWorld,  a well-known site focusing on eco-friendly, fair trade fashion:

A little girl once dubbed “Miss Vanderbilt” by her mother, for her natural and unmistakable eye for high-quality and high-priced fashion, grew up and went to work for corporate America for over 2 decades. Feeling a motivated call to change her path and make a difference, she completed a 30-week course, which comprehensively explored issues such as poverty, homelessness, and unfair trade.  Upon completion of the course, she immediately drew upon her talent for spotting attractive and stylish items, melded this with her passion for social justice issues, and launched US-based Fair Trade Designs in November 2011. That little girl was Stephanie King, now Owner and Founder of Fair Trade Designs.

Fair Trade Designs is an online shop offering carefully selected on-trend accessories, jewelry and home accents, made with sustainable materials and strict attention to the principles of Fair Trade. Most suppliers King works with are Fair Trade certified but for those who are not, King offers up a heavy dose of Q&A to investigate their work and ensure they fit her criteria.  King pays close attention to quality and style in her ‘vetting’ process but does not hesitate to admit, “the underlying inspiration has always been the impact fair trade has on the world’s most impoverished and abused women.”  She further states:

“I have traveled widely in my life, including living in Asia for 5 years, so I’ve seen some of these women first hand.  The most heart-breaking cases are the victims of human trafficking, an illegal trade second only to drugs in size.  These women are battered and bruised emotionally and physically, devoid of hope.

Many fair trade suppliers work exclusively with women rescued from trafficking, teaching them skills such as sewing, making jewelry, or designing fabric.  The fair pay and training they receive help them start on the road to sustainable self-reliance.

Fair trade efforts in this area also focus on prevention.  Women living on $1 a day or less can’t help but be drawn to the promises of big money made by traffickers trying to lure them into the slave trade.  Fair wages provide a stable income that makes these promises much less attractive.

Knowing that I could play even a small part in righting this wrong, how could I not be inspired to start a company like this?”

King has researched over 100 suppliers and works with groups all over the world, carrying products from 30 different countries – spreading the love, I would say.

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I asked Stephanie to share a personal story about a life positively touched and transformed by her work and she shared the story of Margaret in Uganda, who makes beautiful necklaces out of recycled magazines.  Margaret says before she started working with the non-profit fair trade group that supplies necklaces for King’s shop, she had nothing to eat.

Margaret is a widow and mother of three who lived in a shack made of cardboard material that she compared to living in a box.  On a good day, they were able to eat a single meal and had nothing but dirt to sit on inside their cardboard shack.

Since beginning her work with the group, Margaret has been able to purchase a small, one-room home with the income she earns.  She has even mentioned that she gets tired moving around the room at times because it is so much larger than what she was used to.  Margaret shared that she is proud of herself for what she has accomplished for herself and for her children and vows to never be poor again.

Watch this video to see and hear Margaret:

For the future, Stephanie King sees travel, design and continued efforts to support the fair treatment of workers all over the world.  She would like to visit various countries and shake the hands who collectively create the precious items sold in her shop.  King would also like to design her own line of fashion accessories and collaborate with one or two artisan groups in the production of her designs.

The goals do not end there for this ambitious soul – King plans to set up a non-profit foundation and transfer a portion of sales proceeds from her designs directly to the non-profit. The non-profit would in turn be directed to aiding the artisan communities with supplying clean water, medical supplies, educational scholarships and monies to fill other primary needs.

Fair Trade Designs offers a wide variety of items ranging from scarves and shawls to purses, bags, unique jewelry items, home fashion accents and more, to compliment your life with style while also representing a call for justice in the treatment of all human beings. Materials used in the making of Fair Trade Designs products include hemp, paper, recycled glass, recycled rice bags, tagua nuts, alpaca wool, pambil seeds, wild silk and more.  King acknowledges the consumer is becoming more and more aware of the stories behind the items they purchase and wants to be part of the continued push toward a more sustainable and socially just fashion world.

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