Fair Trade LA partnered with St. Andrew Church in Pasadena to hold a fair trade boutique at its school Sunday, attracting many people who wanted to support local economies elsewhere.
This is the second year Fair Trade LA and St. Andrew united to have a pop-up boutique with several local vendors selling all fair trade products. Fair Trade LA partners with organizations that sell fair trade products like schools, community centers and places of worship, where fair trade fits with the philosophy of helping people in need.
Martha Solorio poured fair trade coffee from Africa for attendees. As a six-year member of the church, Solorio became involved in the Peace and Justice ministry last year. To establish the ministry, a group of interested church members learned about different issues like global poverty and social teaching for 30 weeks.
“I’m a resident of Pasadena, and I feel there’s an increase of those who do not have,” Solorio said. “Giving a dollar here or two dollars there cannot solve an issue. When coming together in a group, maybe all of our little efforts together can make a difference.”
Fair trade is a network of trade where vendors buy products from artisan collectives from all over the globe at fair prices, so the artisans receive fair wages to support their families and livelihoods. Many of the artisans are women who work at home or at a center in safe conditions, and there’s no child labor. In most cases, a portion of their profits go to providing resources for their communities. With fair trade, the environment is preserved, meaning the artisans find less invasive ways to create things like clothes, jewelry and trinkets.
In Christianity, fair trade became an important aspect of giving back when Mennonite Edna Ruth Byler bought handcrafted products from artisans in Puerto Rico and sold the products at Pennsylvania churches in the 1940s, which eventually evolved into renowned fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages.
“We’re working with small communities and artist collectives left out of the trade network,” said Chris Bostwick, longtime volunteer with Art Aids Art. “They can’t depend on large vendors like Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus World Market. We wanted to supply employment. We wanted to make a small profit and dump the money back into the community.”
Art Aids Art is a nonprofit in Altadena that travels to South Africa and works with artisans there who specialize in mostly beads and textiles like aprons and bags. In the past 12 years, Art Aids Art has built a community center to provide education and create a source of income in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
Helping people in her home country drove Salome Santos to create Tribu, or “tribe” in Spanish, a fair trade store in Torrance. When she came to the United States from Ecuador 24 years ago, Santos said she wanted people to learn about her country.
“It’s such an amazing little country,” Santos said. “This has taught me a lot about my own country, my own roots.”
She works with three family artisan collectives in Ecuador that specialize in making accessories from alpaca and cotton dyed with natural plants and beads made from the tagua nut.
“We tell people to keep working with their hands,” she said. “They want more money, so they want to use the machine. They forget their cultures.”
A passion for making handcrafted items from rural communities marketable inspired Fair Trade LA director Joan Harper to start the organization with four others interested in promoting fair trade in the Los Angeles region. The goal, she said, is to have more people buy fair trade.
“I can buy something that’s fair trade, or I can buy something that’s made in China,” she said. “It’s a little more expensive, but if it is, you’re supporting people who can stay home and work.”
Also a part of the community, Laurel Averill began working with Fair Trade LA soon after opening her store, Vida Verde, in La Cañada Flintridge in 2008. She finds her inventory at large gift shows in California and New York and make orders with the collective representatives. One day, Averill said Harper walked into the store and informed her she sold fair trade products.
“Because I was green, I was buying fair trade and didn’t know it,” she said.
Because of the recession, Vida Verde now sells at a hair salon two doors away from its original home. At the event, Averill sold products like greeting cards made from the Himalayan lokta bush and other accessories from around the world. Selling a variety of international goods with helping the artisans who made them inspired Averill to get more involved in fair trade.
“Then I was hooked, and I wanted to buy more and more,” she said.
Saturday, May 10 is World Fair Trade Day with Fair Trade LA hosting another boutique event at the Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters in Pasadena. In southern California, Pasadena and Claremont are fair trade cities with Altadena and Irvine working on the recognition.