The fashion industry has hit the headlines many ties recently because of its complex supply chain and lack of traceability. Not all clothing brands put morals before margins, but Mata Traders is one Fairtrade, sustainable fashion brand determined to put ethics first.
Working with member-owned women’s co-operatives and artisan groups that follow fair trade principles, Mata Traders has been a Shared Interest customer since 2010.
By bringing authentic, traditional fabrics to a global audience, they support the family businesses of artisan weavers and block printers throughout India and Nepal whose livelihoods have been threatened by the shift of textile production to the factory. Mata Traders also ensures that its suppliers provide benefits such as paid sick leave, access to health insurance, bi-annual medical check-ups, on-site childcare, paid maternity leave, overtime pay, and literacy and computer training.
How a Round the World Trip Gave Birth to Mata Traders Fairtrade Fashion House
Here, Founder of Mata Traders, Maureen Dunn Fetscher, describes how the Chicago-based company began:
“India is the kind of place where a Mercedes Benz will pull up to an ox cart at a stop light, and a man in an impeccable suit will lean out to ask directions from the ox cart driver, who’s not wearing shoes. The suit will cost more than the ox cart driver makes in a year, but the two men, for one tiny moment, will chat with ease about directions before slipping back into their separate worlds.
A Design-Driven Sustainable and Fairtrade Fashion House
“My love affair with India has evolved into Mata Traders – a design-driven, fairtrade fashion brand helping to end global poverty and inspire ethical companies and consumers to change the fashion industry. Made by artisans in India and Nepal, our chic, colourfully original, fashion forward designs are now sold in 700 shops, and provide a stable source of income for families in some of the world’s poorest communities.
“Our journey with ‘Mother India’ began in 2003 when Michelle Thomas, Jonit Bookheim, and I (friends since college) spent four months travelling the subcontinent on a round-the-world trip.
I Found My Zen Shopping the Markets of India
“Some people discover yoga in India – I found my zen shopping the artisan markets. I decided to make yearly buying trips, importing everything from antique wall hangings to leather shoes. As my business blossomed, so did my understanding of the poverty that exists for much of the population. I realised that my buying power could make a difference, and began seeking out producer groups that pay their workers fairly and practice the principles of fair trade.
“Within a couple of years, Michelle and Jonit joined Mata Traders as partners. We now work with six organisations in India and Nepal that educate, employ and empower women in marginalised communities.
Creating Equality in the Workplace in Socially Stratified India
“Spending time with these groups has helped us realise that even the most traditional women, when given the opportunity, thrive in a sphere of meaningful work. We’ve seen that equality in the workplace is possible in a country as socially stratified as India – whether a beginner sewer or production manager, all the women that make our clothing and accessories have a voice.
“We are so proud to be a part of that voice by bringing their quality handcrafted textiles to the socially conscious, stylishly adventurous woman.”
Mata Traders is also involved in advocating for fair-trade in the USA as active members of Chicago Fair Trade and the Fair Trade Federation.
How to Invest in Fair Trade Fashion Through Shared Interest
Shared Interest provides a vital link between UK social investors and fairtrade organisations like Mata Traders, needing finance to improve livelihoods. Using investment from people living in the UK, Shared Interest provide fair finance to enable people in the developing world to trade their way out of poverty. Shared Interest currently makes payments of over £60m to 397 producer groups across 60 countries.
Our members share our vision of a world where justice is at the heart of trade finance. Anyone over the age of 16 with a UK bank account can open a Share Account with us with £100. You can find out more about investing at www.shared-interest.com
This is a sponsored feature on behalf of Shared Interest for FairTrade Fortnight