The fair trade movement in North America began in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer with the Mennonite Central Committee, began importing crafts from Puerto Rico and selling them out of her car. In 2008, $1.1 billion of Fair Trade products were sold in the United States. That compares to considerably less than $100 million in 1996.
What brings so many to this movement? They share a passionate belief in fair trade, a fast-spreading phenomenon that aims to give businesses, cooperatives or solo artists in poor or marginalized parts of the world a higher price for what they create and a more direct route into lucrative markets in America, Europe and Asia.
The fair trade movement seems to be a step in the right direction, considering there are 2 billion people on this planet who live on less than $2 a day. It is clear that something must be done in order to provide a better future for these people.
For those of you interested in joining the movement, there are several routes you can take. There are many websites that provide all the necessary information on membership and what is required to receive a fair trade certification.
I personally, have always felt that crafts play an important role in keeping cultures and traditions alive. Since I was very young, my father shared his love for crafts with me, by taking me to many craft fairs in Colombia. I was simply amazed at all the beautiful things these artisans could do with their hands! From leather products, to home goods made of wood, coconut and palm. Every year I looked forward to attending these fairs with my father. In fact, even after I moved to the U.S I still made it a point to coordinate my trips to Colombia with the arrival of a craft fair.
The concept behind my business, Global Fashionista, is precisely to showcase these beautiful and artful pieces which are handcrafted by the very artisans I have admired so long. I feel a tremendous privilege, to get to work with them and learn their craft and the wonderful stories behind each piece. Buyers are drawn to products that apply traditional production techniques and materials to current trends, and so I try to infuse these traditional pieces with current fashion trends.
Overall, there are many ways you can support fair trade. The important legacy behind this movement is the help it brings to so many people around the globe. Schools are built, wells constructed, children attend school, and other signs clearly indicate that the income generated by fair trade sales positively resonate in a community. In intangible ways, one can note the impact of fair trade, as well. Cultural techniques are revived; women become valued members of their societies; alternative production methods preserve biodiversity; small and medium sized enterprises in the developing world increase their capacity. Through this and other evidence we know that lives have been positively changed, because of fair trade.