Stylish fair trade - what, why and how?
We often describe the products we sell at Eighteen Rabbit as "fair trade with style," or "stylish fair trade designs" - but what do we mean and why is it important?
It's about combating a stereotype. While many households are used to buying fair trade tea, coffee or sugar, they may have preconception about what fair trade clothes, jewellery and home wares will look like. To be blunt, customers may think that they will be paying more for an inferior product, or that they'll be guilt-tripped into a purchase as some kind of charitable gesture.
That's where we are trying to do something different. We hope that our customers buy our products first and foremost because they love them, and see their fair trade credentials as an extra bonus. This isn't about a donation, or a sympathy purchase. The artists and creators we represent don't see themselves as victims. Rather, they are entrepreneurs, who have taken a conscious decision to try to better their own position and provide security for their families by investing in their business. We support them by ensuring they are paid a fair price.
How we do this is equally important. For some lines we source the products directly from the artists themselves - even bringing them back in our luggage on some occasions! Where we use wholesalers we cherry-pick products which fit not just our ethics, but also our sense of style and design. We're looking for items which reflect a design-led approach to contemporary ethical living.
And why is that important? Why not just take a more traditional route with more items which might fit the stereotypes of a "fair trade shop?" The answer is that our aim is to make that definition redundant. Our goal is to create an economic environment where "fair trade" isn't a nice additional extra, but is the norm for how we do business around the world. It may sound a like a grand ambition, but the way we want to start is by showing that fair trade shouldn't be second best, or a compromise - it should represent the very best products that are available. We hope you'll agree!