These days, folks often think only of coffee and chocolate when we say fair trade. But, have you heard about the growth of ethical fashion and fair trade clothing? As consumers realize more and more that their money can make a difference in the world, we are seeing demand for socially responsible fashion increase. Dsenyo’s mission is to empower a global tribe of artisans, entrepreneurs, and customers to enrich their lives through partnerships created around fair trade clothes and ethical fashion. As a triple-bottom-line business, we are committed to social change, inspired design, fair trade principles, and responsible business practices.
I, Marissa Perry Saints, am Dsenyo’s founder and lived in Malawi, Africa in 2006. I conceived of the African Clothing business after returning to the States. I recognized the potential of the hard-working Malawian women to harness their sewing and craft skills to create unique clothing and accessories. I knew that if we could provide a distribution channel and demand for those items, we could help these women improve their lives. In essence, fair trade recognizes the need for underserved people to earn a fair wage, while respecting their environment and their cultural traditions and serving as equal partners in the production process.
Dsenyo sees its role as being a bridge to help underserved women and artisans access viable export markets. Dsenyo facilitates the production and distribution of fair trade clothing, which in turn allows these women artisans to improve their lives. By partnering with Dsenyo women earn a decent living while staying true to what’s important to them. One of the most important features of fair trade clothes is that the artisans feel empowered and a sense of self-determination. They are working their way out of poverty and in the process their business skills and ambition grow.
While living in Malawi, I was a bit disillusioned to realize that sadly some charity programs and government interventions actually stunt such growth. Aid money and donations often don’t have appropriate goals attached or accountability measures in place. The practice of hand-outs and extreme foreign aid as a percentage of GDP has created a massive problem of dependency in Malawi. Dsenyo desires to tap into that sense of self-determination and be a partner alongside women and artisans as they work their way to a building a better future.
At Dsenyo it’s important to us that we are not only benefiting artisans, but that we are also giving you, our customer, the tools and opportunities to build help build a better world. As a buyer of fair trade clothing, you receive numerous benefits from your purchase. You get access to designs that are unique and eye-catching, very different from mainstream fashion. For example, the African clothing from Dsenyo comes in vibrant colorful African prints that are always changing! You will never find these fabrics in typical stores. You can expect lots of compliments on your Dsenyo wrap skirt, sarong or pajama pants. You can also feel good being able to share the fair trade clothing concept and how your purchase is helping women artisans in Malawi build a better future for themselves and their families.
One last quick note. Sometimes people assume that fair trade clothes are more expensive because of the fair wages going to the artisans. In the case of Dsenyo, this is not true. There are no middlemen who add costs. Your final cost is quite comparable to what you would pay at a retail store.
Fair trade is a good deal for everyone. Enjoy!