Hello, my name is Nikkie. I am a third year student at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a San Francisco native. Sustainability in all its different forms has been an interest of mine since I can remember, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about Fair Trade Los Angeles (FTLA). Soon after UCLA became a Fair Trade University(!!!), I joined FTLA’s campaign that aims to make Los Angeles the largest Fair Trade city in the United States. My primary responsibility is to build relationships with local businesses in order to spread awareness about Fair Trade and recognize those businesses selling Fair Trade Certified products. If a business sells at least two Fair Trade Certified products, we recognize them as part of the LA Fair Trade Town Campaign on the Fair Trade Campaigns website. Benefits from that include free networking and advertising. Look for your favorite businesses and organizations to see if they are participating yet at our campaign website: www.FairTradeCamaigns.org/los-angeles-ca.
Before I started outreach, I was nervous that the information I was trying to convey would not be well-received. I wanted to do justice for FTLA, so I practiced my spiel on family and friends for days before I went out to retail locations. Despite my nerves, every person I spoke to seemed genuinely interested in Fair Trade and it felt so good to be able to spread awareness about it. I also very much enjoyed connecting with my local community about such an important message. I have been pleasantly surprised by how kind people can be. Some people are very well informed about Fair Trade and I have been able to introduce them to our organization and invite them to our meetings. Sometimes, people know nearly nothing about Fair Trade, which gives me the opportunity to educate my community about it and FTLA.
I began by visiting smaller businesses and was able to connect with owners of the stores or people very involved and knowledgeable about purchasing for the store. The larger stores seemed daunting, but I found that, even at huge chains such as Whole Foods, everyone was very friendly and approachable.
Another highlight of doing outreach has been getting to know brands that support Fair Trade. One of my favorite is Alter Eco, a brand of chocolate I found at EarthBar. The Alter Eco dark salted burnt caramel chocolate bar is something I was drawn to for several reasons. First, I love dark chocolate and I think salted caramel is probably the best flavor on the planet! But mostly, I love the brand. Alter Eco also sells chocolate, sugar, quinoa, and rice, all of which are Fair Trade certified. On their website, they describe their relationship with their farmers as well as the brand’s focus on sustainability as a whole, which is something about which I am really passionate. On the Alter Eco website, you can click on their products and meet the farmers behind the products! The brand is so sustainably aware, which I think is really inspiring.
All in all, working with FTLA has been very meaningful to me. Every time I get to explain what Fair Trade is and what FTLA does, it reminds me how important the cause is and how my time can make an impact on a city as large as Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Fair Trade Town campaign is recognizing businesses and organizations within the city of LA that support Fair Trade. If your organization serves or would like to serve a Fair Trade Certified product at meetings, in the office, or at events, let us know! If your business sells or would like to sell at least 2 Fair Trade Certified products, let us know! The campaign can recognize your commitment by listing the organization or business here. You will be connected to consumers and other businesses who support Fair Trade through this free advertising and networking opportunity. Help make Los Angeles a Fair Trade Town! Email the Los Angeles Fair Trade LA Town Campaign Coordinator Michele Rolph here. or visit our website FairTradeLA.org.
A little bit about myself:
Much of my childhood in New England was spent enjoying the outdoors and that included living on a sailboat when I was about 8 for 2 ½ years. Also, I was named after Rachel Carson (my middle name is Carson) who was an environmentalist and wrote books like the well known Silent Spring. So at an early age, I developed an appreciation and respect for nature. However, it wasn’t until much later that I was aware of other important aspects of sustainability and that includes fair trade.
How did I hear about fair trade?
Given my strong relationship to the environment, I focused my business, which started in 2007, on sustainable design. However, I didn’t realize at first that to be truly sustainable, it must include being socially responsible.
When did I first get involved with fair trade?
I think my first exposure to fair trade in terms of the Interior Design industry (where very few were discussing this topic at the time) was about 7 years ago when I discovered a GoodWeave rug for a hotel spa client. GoodWeave label on a rug certifies that no child was involved in making it. With about 250,000 children making rugs in South Asia, it’s helpful to know which rugs are not. That spa rug not only looks beautiful but my client and I were able to make a difference in the lives of others through its purchase. It just seems so simple to me that if you’re already going to buy a rug, why not buy one that you know didn’t harm the environment or the people involved in making it and that won’t harm the customer who buys it (by being non-toxic).
A little bit about Rachel Winokur Interiors.
Rachel Winokur Interiors is a small Interior Design firm based in LA which I started in 2007. I’ve grown it to serve clients between Boston, LA, Shanghai and Saudi Arabia. I provide my residential and hospitality clients solutions that not only look stunning but are also sustainable which includes being eco-friendly, ethical, non-toxic and durable.
What do I enjoy most about working in fair trade?
I absolutely love being part of the fair trade movement. I find it extremely empowering that I get to choose how to spend my purchasing dollars and that it could literally save a life! Plus, it is an honor to share that opportunity with my clients and teach them solutions and share sources to help them accomplish that.
What is unique about fair trade products?
Fair trade design products tend to be unique because they are handmade and many are made throughout the world which means distinctive materials with centuries old techniques as well as innovative processes. They are made with heart and soul. Also, fair trade products allow the consumer to have a direct relationship with the artisan and the result is a respect for the product as well as enhanced joy in having that product in their home.
What action items can you take when shopping for home decor?
My recommendation is to ask a lot of questions when purchasing any item, décor related or not. In addition, there are wonderful resources to help guide you to fair trade products like Sustainable Furnishings Council. Even large brands like West Elm offer fabulous fair trade options. Plus, look for labels like GoodWeave, Fair Trade Certified (from Fair Trade USA) and Fair Trade America.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Iran but my Dad made a huge sacrifice to leave a successful life and garment business behind to give me and my siblings an opportunity for a better life in the US in the mid-80s. I actually went to high school in Germany but soon joined my family back in the States once I graduated. My Dad started a small knitting business which after many, many years of hard work, turned into what we have today with Nature USA. I’ve always loved to create things and growing up on the factory floor gave me priceless hours of hands-on experience in manufacturing apparel. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone with a product I’ve helped create that is actually useful to them. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning….that and my beautiful wife and son.
How did you hear about Fair Trade?
I’ve always believed quality products can only be produced by happy, engaged workers. For years we searched for a way to reinforce and get recognition for all the good work we do for our employees, our community and our environment. I began hearing about Fair Trade products (coffee, chocolate, etc.) and was very interested to see if I could find a way for our manufacturing to be part of such a great mission. However, apparel manufacturing wasn’t even included as an option to be Fair Trade Certified (FTC) until about 5 years ago. I ended up approaching Fair Trade USA to let them know I was interested in becoming certified, and they let me know there were actually no FTC factories in the United States. So I quickly told them I would love to be considered to become the first. Because there were no Fair Trade standards in place for apparel manufacturing in the US, it took a year and a half for us to work through the process. I’m very proud of the fact that we did succeed in becoming America’s First FTC Factory in March of 2015.
What do you enjoy the most about working in Fair Trade?
I enjoy the fact that our workers have the opportunity to earn extra income and that excites and encourages them. To be able to get a few thousand extra dollars a year, as a blue-collar worker, it really can be a major difference in their quality of life. I am thrilled that my partnership with Fair Trade USA gives me the ability to actually make a difference in their day-to-day lives.
What is unique about Fair Trade products?
The Fair Trade Certified™ label on every BGREEN product signifies that rigorous social, environmental and economic standards have been met in our factory and that our workers earn financial premiums with every sale to support sustainable livelihoods for their families and communities.
What action items can our readers take when they shop for clothes?
There are SO many it would take me two hours to get them all out here. However, I think the most important thing your readers should know is that they have a LOT of power over what products they buy and how these products are made. You can greatly influence what happens in the marketplace by choosing to spend your dollars in an intentional and socially/environmentally conscious way.
Photos by: Isabel Szkiba
Post by: Kristeen Singh
The second annual Fair Trade Fashion Show held on July 16, in downtown Los Angeles was a hit. Hosted by Fair Trade LA members Sica Schmitz (Founder of online ethical boutique Bead & Reel) and Katie Bond (Founder of sustainable Fair Trade nonprofit The Peace Exchange), this year’s fundraiser benefited the women of The Peace Exchange’s non-profit sewing centers in the Congo.
Sica indicated that “over 80 percent of global garment workers are women, so when we talk about workers being exploited, what we’re really saying is that women are being exploited. When I say that this collection is Fair Trade, what it really means is that women are paid fair wages.”
The event started with some delicious Fair Trade food and beverages. Items offered included local craft beer from Angel City Brewery, organic wine from Stellar Winery, and food from Golden Mean Café and Sol Natural Goods Macaccino. Fair Trade LA had an informational table at the event and we spoke with many enthusiastic people about Fair Trade LA’s work as well as the campaign to make Los Angeles a Fair Trade Town.
The awardee was introduced by UnReal actress Breeda Wool who is soon to be featured in HBO’s Vice Principals. This year’s recipient was Andrew Morgan, Director of the groundbreaking documentary The True Cost. The film pulls back the curtain on the untold story of how clothing is made and the people who make it. Andrew enthusiastically accepted his award over Skype and asked guests to consider the human and environmental costs of our clothing.
Next began the panel discussion which included Sam Bills, Executive Manager of Ten Thousand Villages, Elisabeth B. Kadesi, CEO for We are the Voice, Dr. Hope Ferdowsi, Doctor, Writer, and advocate in preventive medicine and public health, Paul Freedman Director of Merci Congo, Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed, and Nina Francisco, Global Ambassador for EBW2020. Lisette lead the inspiring discussion on the importance of Fair Trade and its empowerment of women and their families, as well as for those who wear Fair Trade fashion.
Sica said “tonight’s show features over 15 fair trade brands that span the globe from India to Peru to Malawi, showing a side of fashion that empowers women in 3 different ways.” Check out some of favorites from the fashion show below! Visit the Bead & Reel website to purchase or learn more!
First things first, I just want to say how blessed I am to be writing this blog. My name is Michaela and I’m originally from the Bay Area. I hear you all cheering for me because I heard that some of you are from there too! As for why I’m part of Fair Trade LA (FTLA). I am an intern who has one more semester at Chico State (“Go Wildcats!!”) and who has a blog of my own! In fact, I blog at www.instantgratitude.club and you can follow me on Instagram @instant3655 & Facebook. I love learning about Fair Trade and after doing a presentation in the Stop Trafficking of Persons (S.T.O.P.) Club at my school, I knew I needed to get involved, so, if you aren’t already motivated by my story, I hope the blog of the Garment Worker Center’s Fashion Show will inspire you!
At first, I thought this was a strike to raise awareness of sweatshops. I was going to bring a sign, but I’m glad I didn’t. I went in and it was a medium sized white room. It was originally a house, and I liked that because it brought me comfort and showed how this event got so much local coverage, but is making history in the books! There was art all around and it was great seeing local artists presented through their amazing painting talents. It brought color to the white house. While I was there, I got a chance to meet Michele, Coordinator of our LA Fair Trade Town Campaign, Katie Bond, member and Founder of The Peace Exchange and who’s in charge of the FTLA Instagram (do check out those pics and follow us @fairtradela and like the pics from this event), and Pam Michell, member of FTLA and survivor of domestic trafficking. I also met Kristeen Singh, FTLA member and Founder of Fair Trade Project rHope, as well as Laurel Averill, FTLA’s merchandise and pop-up shop gal! She also has her own Fair Trade company called Vida Verde.
This event was held at the historical Tropico de Nopal Gallery and just so you all know, there are only three paid staff at the Garment Worker Center and the rest are awesome volunteers! I was able to help find a place inside the gallery for the beautiful gift baskets donated by FTLA members for the silent auction. We helped raise over $300 for the Garment Worker Center!
We heard from Blanca, the guest speaker. She was in the TV show East Los High! I watched that growing up, and it is very old school. It was an amazing show of culture and how much passion and work people behind the scenes put in to make this event happen. Slavery still exists behind the doors of sweatshops and in this fashion show a number of the models wore clothes protesting sweatshop conditions. There were many people who made their clothes and had fabrics brought in from all around the world, which was nice to show appreciation to the many types of cultures and styles of clothing.
Blanca spoke on the second shift syndrome and how important it is to recognize self-care and focus on you and then others. Women work hard enough, and need more people to just give them the time, attention, and care, to lighten their burden. We need to discuss realistic ways people can try to create better relationships in their world today. Fashion is a perfect example of this burden on workers, especially women. People care about what’s the best and most trendy, or “in” fashion. The media just makes this worse and this can be seen with how popular this or that top is based on the latest Kardashian wearing the most recent of all the Top Shop dresses, yuck. It’s hard to be a woman and a worker and raise families, and this goes for men too. Gender has been talked about a lot too these days and it’s very interesting to see where this goes from here. Blanca shared a Bulgarian poem about an immigrant and she translated this into Spanish. At the end of the poem, she shared how she couldn’t even teach her kids how to make tortillas. She never went to school, but always put others first. Unfortunately, Spanish for tasks that they needed her for like laundry, food, chores, etc. It was sad, but made me realize that in this world if we don’t fight, how are we going to make changes? I remember Kimi was a woman on the Garment Worker Center team and her Mom made $100 dresses but was paid $1 for the work she did. This is why she got into the work. It was great celebrating someone who has done so much for the Garment Worker Center and it was cool seeing all the work she had done in addition to seeing her casual Fair Trade clothing style! In addition to her and many of the other attendees, there were many Mata Traders dresses and clothing so unique and beautiful from all over the world. The women wore outfits that fit each of their unique style.
I felt like I was a red carpet interviewee when I talked to the models. Most of them were family members and they made their clothes or FTLA or other companies donated them. I will point out my favorites in the pictures that I post below. Check out the signs that these amazing people made for this historical event: #activism everyday fight on the streets to make this happen (not sure what this means). My goal with my involvement in the Fair Trade Movement is that people are educated about this. I hope that people that make clothes get paid fairly like the Garment Worker Center fights for. I also wanted to pay respect to Orlando and let you all have a time for silence for those family and friends mourning for lives that should never have been lost. Whether you are or are not religious, God bless them. Also for the deaths in the black community and the movement of Black Lives Matter, Jesse Williams says, “We know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day.” I just wanted to pray for them during this time, because all lives matter and that’s why we are trying to bring awareness through the work the Garment Worker Center does to bring awareness that there are still slaves in the world doing sweatshop labor!
Without a doubt the food, band, and event were so authentic and historical. I wish I stayed longer not only because there were cute band members, but it would have been fun to dance!
We as FTLA all sat together and it was a nice table in a beautiful venue. I was shocked with how they fit as many people as they did there, but they did an amazing job! The little ones were so happy too and shy, but it was cute seeing them getting their makeup done and all.
This event was completely translated in and out from Spanish to English and some Spanglish in-between! The gallery had items in it from local artists about fair trade (not sure what this means) and it was so beautiful to see. I wish I could’ve bid on some items. They also had a timeline, a must see! The gallery takes no more than 15-20 mins to go through, everyone should go!
They spoke about those receiving awards, and please see the pics for these awards at the end. There was a woman, Nora Phillips, who came for the part of the show called Call of Action! She was a woman who was an immigrant fighter, survivor of domestic violence fighter, refugee fighter and attorney and has her own Tijuana Nonprofit too. She was awesome and made her own cape that said, “Show me the money!” She’s a human rights activist and helps with the LGTBI movement. You have got to see this pic. For a great laugh, she handed out spiced oil and pickles since she was originally from Wisconsin, it was a great time with her!
“They are doing this for fairness and for the people and for their people to feel alive!” And that’s why I want to continue writing and bringing art to this type of work!
With all the peace, love, and happiness,
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am single-handedly trying to expand the market for fair trade coffee by enjoying copious amounts of it. Usually while holding a mug I am discussing big ideas and talking about the latest news with the many wonderful people I get to work with and customers I get to be around at Ten Thousand Villages (stores in Pasadena and Redondo Beach).
My favorite person to drink coffee with is my wife, Rosie, and we need all the caffeine we can get to keep up with our four young kids who love a good adventure into the mountains or to the ocean which is still pretty spectacular to my native Midwesterner sensibilities.
How did you hear about fair trade?
In 2006 a friend told me about a plan that was being concocted to open a fair trade store in Pasadena. The concept of business that was developed for the purpose and measured by its effectiveness at creating a more just and equitable world seems so apparent and obvious to me now, but at the time it was a light bulb moment and I knew that I wanted to find a way to be as deeply involved as I could be.
When did you first get involved with fair trade?
Ten years ago I started working at first in a part-time role for that new start-up fair trade store and within a year I was working full time with Ten Thousand Villages. Also I began getting involved with the still relatively new Fair Trade LA group as we planned the first fair trade festival in Los Angeles. I met other friends that year who were starting a fair trade soap company called Anti-Body. I met a group of women coffee growers from Nicaragua whose coffee we were just starting to sell in our store. Objectively it seemed like an unexpected turn for me as I finished grad school that year at Fuller Seminary. To me it felt like the culmination of so many of the things I am deeply passionate about and like the most natural and exciting way to fall into something that I wanted to invest significant energy into.
What is TTV?
Ten Thousand Villages is the oldest and largest retailer of fair trade crafts in the world. We build relationships with social enterprises, co-ops, and entrepreneurs of all types in more than 30 countries and we create a sustainable and long term channel for them to bring their products and stories into our markets. We are organized as local nonprofits that foster ownership and involvement at all levels in our stores with a vision for a fair trade business that is transformational for everyone involved at all points along the way from maker to customer.
What do you enjoy the most about working in fair trade?
The people I work with and the sense that in my day to day bustle I am connecting to a broader movement and a deeper purpose than the limited scope of my own work. I love being with people who care deeply and to sense that we are getting somewhere together.
What is unique about fair trade products?
The products themselves are unique in their handmade idiosyncrasies, and in their quality. For me the product itself is most unique in light of its context. In a mainstream context the market dictates what we buy and when and for how much through the commodification of all products whether they are household goods or agricultural goods. The market plays an important role in fair trade but it seems to me be a different role in that it more facilitates rather than dictates and it is some deeper more human force that brings the product to our market and it is embodied in the sense of connection someone experiences when they purchase an item that has a story and suddenly the product is no longer a commodity but something imbued with meaning and significance.
Do you have any upcoming events or ways for people to get involved or learn more?
We are celebrating our tenth anniversary in Pasadena in July. We will be holding a massive tent sale in the parking lot behind our store July 21-24 (and in Redondo Beach July 28-31) as part of our month of celebration. We are also looking forward to being a part of the Fair Trade Fashion show with The Peace Exchange and Bead & Reel on July 16. And of course our two local Ten Thousand Villages stores are open seven days a week and it is always a fair trade party in our stores.
Written by: Kishani De Silva and Tony Fadale
Ten Thousand Villages (TTV) is one of the ‘oldest and largest fair trade organizations’ in the world. TTV arrived in Pasadena in 2006, and celebrates it’s 10 year Anniversary this July—Congratulations TTV Pasadena!
The story started when Eric and Sara Clarke, along with another couple, decided to start a TTV store locally—the first here in California. “Ten to twelve others came to support them,” recalls Christine Yap, founding member and President of the Board. Yap also recalls how amazed she was at how willing they were “to volunteer their time and give their money away, all in the cause and support of fair trade.” She remembers they were strangers, ranging from ages 8-78, from different backgrounds, yet interestingly with a shared faith. The store continues to thrive and has become a much loved entity along the urban fabric of the Lake Avenue shopping district.
In these ten years, Ten Thousand Villages’ influence on the fair trade world has been felt in the larger Los Angeles area. In fact, four years ago, using his experience and retail savvy, Sam Bills, Executive Director, made sure a fledgling group of fair trade advocates in Redondo Beach received encouragement to pursue their dream of opening the second TTV store in California. The effort to raise money, and work through many other start up challenges, was closely supported by Sam and the Pasadena store’s Board of Directors. Thanks to them the Redondo Beach store is about to celebrate its second year in existence. So much of their success is owed to the Pasadena store’s growing influence and Sam Bills’ leadership. Fair Trade LA wishes TTV all the best!
By Karina Newman
UCLA has become a Fair Trade University. The Fair Trade campaign at UCLA was initiated and continues to be spearheaded by E3: Ecology, Economy, and Equity, the largest sustainability student group at UCLA. The campaign has been officially working toward achieving designation as a Fair Trade University since 2013. The Fair Trade initiative at UCLA is a partnership between stakeholders on the UCLA campus including ASUCLA, UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services, and E3: Ecology, Economy, and Equity.
Being designated as a Fair Trade University by Fair Trade Colleges and Universities is a national achievement – UCLA is the 37th Fair Trade University in the country and follows in the footsteps of other large public institutions making commitments to Fair Trade and sustainability.
UCLA is the largest public university in the U.S. to achieve the Fair Trade designation. With over 20 outlets serving at least two Fair Trade products (in some cases more), UCLA has one of the widest-reaching impacts on Fair Trade farmers, generating additional income and community development premiums for coffee, tea, sugar and cocoa farmers throughout the Global South. This is one of the largest commitments to Fair Trade in terms of purchasing (two or more products at all twenty outlets) as well as education.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m your pretty typical story of small town girl moves to the big city with big dreams, finds out the ugly truth of the industry she loves, and decides to change it. After careers in Fashion Design and then Costume Design for film and television, I started Bead & Reel, an online boutique focused on ethical materials, manufacturing, and processes, combining my passion for fashion and style with my beliefs in environmentalism, humanitarianism, veganism, and feminism.
How did you hear about fair trade? When I was a teenager one of my first jobs was working in a local coffee shop. The owner required all new employees to watch a documentary about the coffee trade – I don’t remember its name but I remember it absolutely appalled me when I learned about the exploitation behind a seemingly innocent cup of coffee. She wanted us to understand the reality of what we were serving, and it worked. I became very interested in finding alternatives in coffee and ultimately in food, fashion, and all parts of my life.
When did you first get involved with fair trade? I started first as a consumer – which is an easily accessible place for most people to start. Since launchingBead & Reel two years ago and building relationships with the fair trade brands we carry, joining Fair Trade LA, and now co-hosting our annual Fair Trade Fashion Show with The Peace Exchange, fair trade has become an every day part of my life – and I couldn’t be more happy about that.
What is Bead & Reel? Bead & Reel a one-stop shop for ethical fashion, where each piece and brand has been carefully hand picked for their thoughtfulness to people, animals, and the environment. Fair wages, vegan materials, and eco-friendly processes can be expected in our collection of women’s clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and accessories – along with a small selection for babies and homes. I started Bead & Reel in 2014 after leaving my career in Costume Design in Hollywood to create the store that I wanted to shop in, somewhere that fit with both my own values and my love of fashion.
We carry over 40 ethical brands and label every item in our store with the qualities it has so that shoppers can understand what they are supporting with each purchase – qualities like Female Founded, Fair Trade, Organic, etc. – because when we spend our money we are casting a vote either for or against the values a product holds, and I wanted to offer a better option for those who want to vote for a better world.
What do you enjoy the most about working in fair trade? I love the direct impact and the personal connections fair trade allows. It’s not just faceless products, it’s something that has a person, a story behind it. I love getting to work with so many different fair trade brands that are doing amazing and inspiring things all over the world, allowing me in my very small way to participate in the lives of artisans and families that I would otherwise never have had the chance to connect with.
What is unique about fair trade fashion? The fashion industry is extremely exploitative of people – especially women. Of the 40 million garment factory workers in the world, over 70% of them are women (and as high as 90% in some countries) and many are living below the poverty line. Shopping fair trade fashion is an extremely important tool in changing.
A lot of people have misconceptions about what fair trade fashion looks like – it’s not all colorful prints and alternative styles. We carry everything from fair trade basics like black leggings and t-shirts to elegant pencil skirts and cocktail dresses. There’s something available within fair trade for every aesthetic and price point!
Do you have any upcoming events or ways for people to get involved or learn more? Yes! Our annual Fair Trade Fashion Show with our partner The Peace Exchange will be July 16, 2016 in DTLA. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available, you can visit www.fairtradefashionshow.com for additional information.
We are always trying to offer ways for our community to get involved in various aspects of ethical fashion whether through clothing drives, movie screenings, potlucks, and other regular events. Sign up for our newsletter to receive invites and join us!