More than ever before you can find small brands that are working with artisans all over the world claiming to be “ethical”... but what does that really mean? Ethical Fashion is a term used by brands that aren’t Fair Trade certified, but there is no regulation of the term. We've talked to our local customers personally about our business practices at markets, but for the first time we want to lay it all out for all of our supporters, local and online.
Here’s what Ethical Fashion means to us:
No Bargaining & Encouraging Price Increases: We never assume authority on knowing what the best prices are, the artisans know best how much time and effort goes into each piece and the cost of materials. We always communicate that we want each group to be earning a dignified wage and if prices seem low, we ask how material prices have risen, living costs, other factors, encouraging the artisans to take a closer look at their prices, showing that we are open to price increases and making sure they are taken care of. This process looks different with every group!
Consistent Orders & Prompt Payments: We pay for material costs up to 50% of the order upfront and 100% payment of orders when they’ve been shipped.
We do this so the lead artisans aren’t pressed for funds when they are ordering materials and also sometimes so they are able to pay artisans up front when they start the work. When an order has been shipped, we pay the whole amount as soon as a bill is sent. Sometimes that’s right away, sometimes we have to remind lead artisans to send us the bill!
Again, this looks a bit different every time but the point is that we are conscious of making sure they get paid promptly. The artisans groups that we list on our website are receiving orders from us at least every three months, if not more often.
When a certain product doesn’t go over well we adjust and look for other ideas with the artisans to consistently support them financially, giving honest and positive feedback to help them grow as a group.
Building Trust: It’s more than just business. Whenever we are chatting with lead artisans over WhatsApp, a phone call, or a video call, we’re asking about family, sharing about successes, and in general just getting to know each other better! We’ve had artisans ask us for loans to help their business grow and we are happy to help. We are asking questions and learning more about their cultures and symbolism. When we are visiting artisans we only take photos when given permission (that’s also why we have pictures of some artisan groups and not others).
No Gatekeeping: We want you to know who the artisans are and welcome you to follow them on social media as well! We’ve recently heard from one of our artisan leaders that she’s received new wholesale orders from people who’ve seen their tag on our Instagram posts. They are not OUR artisans, they are independent groups of artisans that we are grateful to have as our artisans PARTNERS. When they are more successful that benefits everyone!
Honoring Traditions: We always look first to the traditional designs of each community before modern designs. This is difficult when we see other brands working purely with modern designs but the artisans behind it all are indigenous. Trends come and go and have little symbolism behind them. Traditional designs tell stories and connect artisans to their ancestors and ways of life. With that said, we do add in a touch of the modern designs that the artisans already offer. Modern or trendy isn’t inherently bad. I actually love how trends introduce new colors that we wouldn’t think to wear and keeps things fresh. In the end, vibrant symbolism will always be the focus with Wild You Handmade.
Giving Back: In 2021 instead of doing a Black Friday sale we donated 20% of sales for one week to three artisan groups. They each chose different ways to use the money, from Christmas presents for children to new clothes. Wild You Handmade is going to level up this year and we will be soon announcing a regular percentage that will be given back to the artisans (on top of normal orders) for specific needs in each community. For the first year of business the goal was to purchase consistently and increase order value. We’ve been doing that and now are looking towards this next big step!
For anyone who’s asked me about our business model at markets, can you see why I struggle to talk about it quickly? There are so many layers! Thank you for supporting Women Artisans of Colombia. We’d love to hear from you in the comments and know what other questions, suggestions, or comments you have to share!