Provides life-changing opportunities for disabled artisans in Peru
MIDDLETON, Wis., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ — As a child, Karina dreamed of living without fear of ridicule: from strangers, school mates, even her own brothers. She longed for a university education and the opportunities it might provide, but her father refused to help her pursue that education because, he said, “No one would hire her anyway.”
At less than three feet tall, Karina’s dwarfism has challenged her achievements, but never her dreams. Today Karina, 27, is standing a little taller and reveling in the education, opportunity and sense of belonging that purposeful work can provide.
Karina is one of the Anonymous Angels, a San Luis, Peru-based cooperative of disabled or otherwise unemployable artisans that is crafting jewelry for Fair Indigo’s Fall 2007 Collection. (To see Karina’s story, please visit: http://storybridge.tv/episode/021).
Karina’s new found sense of pride and belonging is representative of the people whose lives are directly impacted by Fair Indigo’s socially responsible business approach. It is a result of the explosion in fair trade retailing that has expanded from coffee into apparel and accessories, said Rob Behnke, a Fair Indigo co-founder and vice president of merchandising.
“Putting on a beautiful piece of jewelry becomes even more special when you know it is literally taking someone off the streets. Each exquisitely handcrafted piece we sell makes a difference in the lives of these people. It means food on the table not just for one day, but every day. It means educational opportunities for them and for their children. It means a better life all the way around,” he said.
The Anonymous Angels cooperative is the primary source for Fair Indigo’s expanding jewelry and accessories line that debuts this season with handcrafted bracelets, rings and earrings of sterling silver, natural stone and an assortment of other metals. Even the sterling silver chains are hand- crafted, Behnke said, using silver ingots that are painstakingly pushed through progressively smaller openings in a manual press, eventually forming fine strands of silver that become chains for necklaces and wires for earrings.
Jewelry orders placed for Fair Indigo’s Fall Collection mean the Anonymous Angels artisans will earn a fair wage in clean, safe working conditions, with the added benefit of continuous training and work, Behnke said. (To see more about the Angels, please visit: http://storybridge.tv/episode/020).
“This is the first time that so many of these folks have known any sense of security. They can go beyond surviving day-do-day to a place where living a purposeful and rewarding life is not just possible, but real,” he said.
Who are the Anonymous Angels?
Fair trade helps all sorts of workers, but in the developing world disabled citizens get especially poor treatment and are often considered unemployable. Recognizing the raw jewelry-making talents possessed by a number of disabled street vendors, three Peruvian retail industry veterans pooled their resources to fund the cooperative that has become the Anonymous Angels.
Supplying work space, proper tools, equipment and training, the three recruited those street vendors, helped hone their skills, then worked to create a larger market for their pieces. Today the cooperative employs 25 and is actively recruiting and training others to meet demand. It is fortuitously located near a shelter that is home to some 470 disabled people.
Work with the Anonymous Angels is just one example of the kind of alliances Fair Indigo is forming with artisans, cooperatives and factories to promote its socially conscious fair trade mission worldwide, Behnke said.
“Our goal is to be able to employ these highly skilled craftsmen and women not just for this year,” he said, “but for years to come. As our business grows, we want to help them scale up to meet demand. They have the tools, the know-how, the materials and the commitment. We just want to open the door of opportunity far enough to help them see the future, and we believe that with the help of our customers, we can.”
About Fair Indigo
Fair Indigo is the nation’s first mainstream fair trade apparel brand, providing stylish, high-quality clothing, jewelry and accessories while paying a fair wage to the producing vendors and the people they employ. Started by a small group of industry insiders with the goal of changing the way the apparel industry works, Fair Indigo provides “Style with a Conscience” by paying a fair wage to the people who weave every fiber, sew every seam and craft every jewelry item in its collection. The concept is known as fair trade and it means putting people first. The privately held retailer markets via catalog (800-520-1806), at http://www.fairindigo.com/ and through its flagship brick and mortar retail store in Madison, Wis.