A Visit With Our Fair Trade Partners In India
Photos & words by co-founder Kohl Crecelius.
You may or may not know this, but we began our journey into ethical clothing manufacturing in 2007 by starting a headwear production operation in Northern Uganda. And by operation, I mean we started humbly by employing 10 women to make crocheted products. More on that story HERE.
Our work in Uganda grew to employing roughly 150 women at one time and we started a second production facility in Peru, making headwear and eventually apparel. At the time, there weren’t other producers that we knew of who were truly valuing the people who were making clothing, so we took the bold step to build everything from the ground up.
For us, our clothing has always has been an opportunity to lift people out of poverty. That is one thing that is simply non-negotiable to this day.
As we grew our brand over the years we began to witness a greater need for more volume, but we weren’t about to compromise on the mission of why we exist. Fortunately for us, Fair Trade USA had been putting more effort forth toward certifying production facilities who were making clothing (as opposed to food and coffee where they began) and we jumped at the opportunity to learn more.
KNOWN SUPPLY is built on the trust of producing ethically made goods and providing unrivaled transparency to the makers. Working alongside our partners at Fair Trade USA we have been able to continue to deliver on these promises, while at the same time innovate our product offering and continue to access more sustainable materials.
But it doesn’t end there for us…
Since we have always had such a hands-on approach with our producers, it continues to be important to us to get some face time with the people who are producing KNOWN SUPPLY clothing. We want them to know about our amazing community that is intentional about how they purchase and all the people who are appreciative of what they make. So myself (Kohl) and my co-founder Travis went to India to visit all of the fair trade producers we are currently working with.
We had an incredible time touring production facilities, eating lunches with the staff, photographing makers, and even hosting a ceremony to deliver the thank you notes that you all write after your purchases. (Video coming soon)
We also got to hear first hand about how workers benefit directly from Fair Trade Certified products like all the ones in our shop. A quick breakdown for how it works… every brand that wants to sell Fair Trade Certified product pays an additional percentage (typically 1% – 2%) on everything they purchase that goes directly to the Fair Trade Fund. This fund is run by a democratically elected group of makers, and they decide how to disburse the funds twice a year. And of course, this is on top of being compensated fairly, often times with additional benefits, and having safe working conditions.
The fair trade committees we spoke to shared about different ways they had utilized these additional funds. Some had disbursed money for all the makers to improve their living conditions, while others had decided to create a scholarship program to benefit the students of the makers. This is the beautiful impact made possible by your purchases.
October has been dubbed Fair Trade Month, and we thought we’d take this time to share a little more about our experience with our fair trade partners in India. We plan to share a lot more including introducing you to a brand new factory partner of ours, and sharing more media about the impact of your purchases and the notes you write to the KNOWN SUPPLY makers.