Part of our mission at AMERICAN NOMAD is to advocate for the value of the handmade item. But what exactly does that mean? Whether it is a piece of jewelry, a purse, a bowl or a blanket, handmade is simply that, an item made by hand rather than by a machine. They take skill to create and are typically deeply rooted in cultural traditions. Each one is unique with its own characteristics and represents the creativity of the artist that made it. Sounds expensive, right? Not necessarily.
Since our opening last month, one of the most common comments I’ve heard is “Your prices are so affordable! Why?” I always pick up a tad of skepticism that seems to wonder if the items aren’t expensive, they must not be high-quality. I decided to reach out to a couple of the co-ops we partner with to help us understand how they maintain affordable prices while maintaining quality.
An important thing to know is that in most situations of Fair Trade, there is no middleman. Organizations/companies work directly with their artisans, allowing them to still pay a fair wage, higher than those of factory workers, but also keep the expense of a middleman out in their final price to the consumer. This is the case with GREENOLA STYLE. One thing we work hard to do, is to utilize and innovate with materials indigenous to the countries we work in. This tactic is to celebrate skills/techniques/materials that have history with our artisans and their country, but to also help with our pricing and sourcing. Another important thing to note is that most Fair Trade relationships exist in marginalized regions of the world, without much infrastructure, opportunity, or high costs of living. Paying higher than the country's average in some cases is quite easy. This is why it is important to understand that Fair Trade is often more than just a wage. Organizations provide a larger, more holistic approach to their payment structures. For example, as an organization GREENOLA STYLE provides all our artisans with access to quality healthcare, we provide business training, work with our artisans to set up entrepreneurial businesses in their home towns outside of our relationship with them, provide design training, and work with artisan's families to ensure next generations are being provided with a similar opportunity of personal growth and opportunity. It is important that we set our artisans up for sustainable success, a success that wouldn't stop if something were to happen to GREENOLA STYLE.
Creative Director & Founder, GREENOLA STYLE
JOYN keeps our cost down by doing almost 100% of our work in-house. We train up our local staff to handle our marketing, design, production, accounting, quality control, and distribution. We do not maintain any facilities in the US or pay western salaries. We keep our focus on our people here and taking care of them, growing them into all that they can be. We live very simple lives. This is the main way that we can keep our products affordable and allow everyone to be a part of supporting our cause for justice here in the Himalayas.
Founder, JOYN, LLC
Basha pays a living wage, as well as pays the going rate for the materials so the livelihoods of our suppliers are enhanced. But beyond that, the cost of Basha products also pay for all artisans to have an hour of class per day where they learn literacy, English, life skills, parenting, health and hygiene... All artisans children are in day care on site where they can safely play, learn, have tutoring and support if they are in school, and eat nutritious snacks through the day. We also invest in our quality and our branding so you know when you buy a Basha product, you're getting a unique item that is top quality. This will allow us to continue to create more jobs which means more women can escape exploitation. So, there actually are cheaper kantha's out there, but when you buy a Basha kantha, you really are investing in so much more. Many retailers are selling the kantha for more than AMERICAN NOMAD, but because you take a lower mark-up and want Basha products to be accessible it keeps the price affordable.
Managing Director, Basha Enterprises Ltd.
Whether you are a consumer, a co-op, or a shop owner we all play a role in establishing the monetary value of products. But, something I’ve learned from working with co-ops around the world is that value isn’t always about a dollar amount and it definitely does not dictate quality. Handmade items represent hope, dignity and the creativity of each artisan, the value does not reside in the price, but in the belief that we can create positive change simply by understanding how the items we purchase are produced.