Thursday, February 19, 2015
I hit the road running this year as many of you might have done too. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a holiday. All of January was taken up with rearranging the store, stock take and then travelling to source new materials in Asia.
It was on this trip that I became aware of a very important thing that we sometimes forget about; the people behind the products we sell, and that our clients use. I was face to face with people who get paid very little money for their weaving skills, which in turn create materials factories sell for a large profit. It was very confronting to me to see this, and became increasingly more so as I spent more time in the factories observing the weavers and seeing how they do things. I went to bed every day with a very heavy heart.
Upon leaving, I had found amazing new leather products which will benefit our millinery market greatly. I had made connections with many women who work in the very hot conditions in the factories, and I had also figured out a way to positively influence the factory workers’ lives.
It is very hard to come as a foreigner, wanting to pay more than is the custom, as this potentially upsets the whole structure of a country and undermines potential profits for the factories. So I have come to an agreement with the owner of one of those factories. We have agreed to put money towards a fund which will aid the workers to improve their lives by financing gifts, books for their children and products which they would otherwise consider luxury items.
I feel I have made new friends and every time I touch one of the new amazing leather weavings I see the workers’ faces and their smiles and I know that I am not holding a product which only speaks one language, the language of “how cheap can I get it?!”
I would therefore like to invite you to spare a moment next time you finish a hat and proudly post it on social media. Think for a minute about the person who made it all possible in the first place by actually creating the material you have used. It is a chain of links which start at the beginning… with the workers, the amazingly skilled people who through generations, have passed these techniques down in their culture, so we have access to these beautiful materials. Remember, each time we pay very little for anything, anywhere, we can be SURE the factory worker gets even less.