So we’re in the middle of a big change as we seek to create purses and accessories that are made in the most sustainable, fair trade way possible. Other than the fair trade group we partner with in a mountainous province (read about the Embroidery That’s a Lifeline project), we’ve become very concerned about sourcing product from China. Why? Human rights abuse reports just keep piling up:
- * Uighurs – a minority Turkic group – being put in concentration camps and subject to organ harvesting
* Women being trafficked from surrounding minority groups to be raped and carry the babies of Chinese men, all because of population decline.
- * The Chinese government’s continuing persecution of North Koreans trying to escape that repressive dictatorship. If caught, these NK defectors are sent back to their likely deaths.
*Factories – particularly serving the fashion industry – using labor camp prisoners to make products as cheap as possible
We just can’t stomach the thought of buying cheap goods through China. There’s some items that are a struggle to source elsewhere, such as zippers, D-rings, swivel hooks, etc. They’re hard to find NOT made in China. We’re working on that problem. But right up front, we can stop buying handles and fabric from Chinese factories. No more leather, or even vegan leather, that comes from China. We’ve come up with three new ways of making purse handles. Plus we’re looking for new sustainable fabric sources that aren’t made in China. That’s why we love donations!!
Now here’s a bit more about the handles: first, we’re using fabric! Fabric handles with our carpet bags are long lasting, easy to sew and ultimately bring down the cost of making our bags. Next, we’re using cork from Portugal. This leather replacement is AMAZING. Cork fabric is simply bark from trees that is given a fabric backing to make it sewable. Cork is tough, water-proof, stain-resistant and even scratch resistant! It’s definitely more expensive than cheap vegan leather alternatives from China, but we feel like the cost-difference is negligible compared to the human rights cost of using Chinese goods. (You can shop our Cork Clutch Wristlets and get them personalized for Christmas!) Last but not least, we’ve stopped sourcing our tassels from non-fairtrade sources, and are now creating our own using leather remnants that are reclaimed by Modern Fabrics here in Charlotte. We’ll be exploring how to make handles from that leather too.
We feel like the cost-difference of sourcing elsewhere is negligible compared to the human rights cost of using Chinese factory goods.
So what are your thoughts? It’s really hard to find regular consumer goods and fashion products that aren’t made in China. There’s always a tension between affordability and human rights. We’re seeking to move that needle through our brand, finding the most affordable sources we can for fabrics, tassels, etc, while also making products that truly do no harm to people or the planet. As the holiday season shopping rush begins, what fashion brands are you going to be shopping to boycott China?