Deb, Kathleen, Suzanne, Melissa and Caitlin
“My mom is extremely generous. Her mantra is those who have should give and we all should be striving to make a difference. That is why fair trade is so important to me because it is a way that we can do that.”
Kathleen Kirsch-Williamson, owner and Design Director/Head Merchandiser
Being a family business allows us to operate by our personal values and explore the partnerships that are meaningful to us, not just the partnerships that will make our shareholders the most money. We, and Aventura, are influenced by the amazing people in our lives that uphold ethical standards and extreme generousity every day.
When Aventura was founded, the primary issue we saw was ecological damage caused by unsustainable fibers, but we quickly saw gender inequality, poverty, and systems of oppression in the foreign labor force. Sustainability is a system where everyone benefits from transparency and ethical decisions, and this ideal extends through eco-consciousness to fair trade labor.
By partnering with Fair Trade Certified factories, it means that we can make ethical choices about how the people who craft our clothing are treated.
Michael Kirsch meeting with Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills in India in June 2017.
How Does Fair Trade USA Help?
“All the owners of Fair Trade Certified factories that I’ve met seem to have an underlying tone that they are trying to bring up others; they are in it not just to line their pockets, but to help people get out of poverty. They want to make a difference.” - Michael Kirsch, former VP of Sourcing at Aventura
Did you know that the average wage for non-fair trade workers is rarely more than $6/hour? This leaves an estimated 98% of them in systemic poverty.
Every Garment Has a Story
Seek the Seal
In an effort to end poverty, Fair Trade USA ensures fair pay for garment workers. However, the organization changes the lives of garment workers in more ways than this: through Community Development Funds, the organization helps champion the voices of workers and helps to solve gender equality at partnering factories. The Fair Trade Certified factory seal you see on our clothes verifies these incredible improvements so that we can be assured our products are made ethically.
Community Development Funds
Community Development Funds are an additional premium we pay back directly to the workers who make our clothes. Each time a piece of Fair Trade Certified clothing is sold workers earn this additional money and get to vote on which projects the money is used for. These projects address their local needs, from daycare centers to washing machines or bikes for their children.
At a Fair Trade Certified factory we partner with there is no reliable access to clean water. Workers voted to buy water filters using the Community Development Funds. According to Fair Trade USA, the majority of workers are migrants and this program allowed them to bring water filters back to their villages.
Workers count the votes from Fair Trade Committee election day at Connoisseur Fashions, a Fair Trade Certified factory, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Community Development Funds help give a voice back to women, as well, who make up the majority of the industry yet are rarely heard or are in positions of power. Women in this industry also face discrimination - especially new mothers who can’t afford childcare. These disparities unequally displace women in society and put them in situations where they are unable to free themselves from poverty, provide for their families, gain independence, or obtain an education for their children. Female garment workers report that they feel stuck in these oppressive positions because they fear they have no other choice.
However, with Community Development Funds each woman gets a vote in which projects the money should support, allowing them fair representation. Programs like child care facilities, transportation, cultural celebrations, medical programs, savings accounts, and other improvements allow them the chance to improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Michael meets with Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills in India in December 2019.
“The reason we partnered with Fair Trade USA is that there really is nothing else like it as far as a social compliance standard.”
We can trust that the Fair Trade Certified seal means fair wages, fair representation, and better lives for the people who make our clothes. Each factory that partners with Fair Trade USA undergoes rigorous, annual audits. These audits ensure that the workplaces are harassment-free, provide safe working conditions, protect fundamental human rights, offer paid sick and maternity leave, and manage their funds fairly.
“A factory can tell you what they’re doing, but you have to verify it,” says Michael Kirsch. “And the only real way to do that is to have a certified standard, so Fair Trade USA takes all of the questions out of it.”