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Transparently Apparent

By a show of hands, how many of you remember learning the fundamental characteristics of light and how it behaves in elementary school?

(if you raised your hand, you can put it down now, no one can see you).

For those of us who blocked that memory out, let’s refresh. All objects vary in how they transmit light. They can be transparent, translucent, or opaque. Transparent objects allow all light to travel through, translucent object allow some light to travel through, and opaque objects completely block light from traveling through. Is this ringing a bell? Great, let’s continue.

Everything we see or use has some degree of visibility or invisibility. This is also true for the businesses we choose to support and buy from. So, how visible do you want the businesses you support and purchase from to be? Should they be transparent about their practices and products? Or should they keep to themselves and remain opaque?

No hidden agendas.
“Transparency” has been a significant buzzword recently. Whether in reference to personal life, dating life, Instagram feed, business tactics, or light properties for all you fifth-graders, it’s one of the most desired characteristics in today’s society. Transparency, in modern terms, is the act of being honest, being genuine, and being true. It’s extending reality to people who interact with you and are observing your actions.

What about transparency in fashion? More specifically, the breakdown of prices in the fashion industry? It’s a topic that is often avoided because it’s a harsher reality than what we want to believe exists. Many companies still use sweatshops to craft their products and child labor is still a considerable issue. Through advocating Fair Trade practices, we desire to change what the fashion industry “normal” is. We desire for fair, living wages to be normal, for female empowerment in developing countries to be normal, for the ban of sweatshops to be normal.

As transparency makes its way front and center, more companies are becoming aware of how much customers value this quality in a business. A recent study completed by Label Insight—a company that helps brands and retailers manage their product data through research—revealed that up to 94 percent of consumers surveyed were more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency, while 73 percent said they were willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency.

With statistics like these, we are proud to say we practice true transparency in all our business.

You will find transparent practices with most, if not all, Fair Trade companies. It’s an important characteristic in defining what Fair Trade believes. We want customers to understand the materials their styles are made from and how we treat the hands that craft them. Our products are handmade using natural, recycled, and upcycled materials by artisans that are fairly compensated for their time, labor, and talent. No hidden agendas. No ulterior motives. No sweatshops or child labor.

Their business involving us.
Our artisans set their own prices for each style they produce and are always free to change them at will. We do not practice a “give-back” philosophy, but rather we pay artisans for their craft at a fair price they deserve. Through our partnerships, artisans play a role in the commerce of their own operations. They should be involved because it’s their business that’s involving us.

With every partnership, we ensure the prices each artisan set are truly enough to cover their costs and build sustainability with steady profits into their business, and that their prices fall in line with industry standards and cost of living for their respective countries. Often times a new artisan partnership may not have experience in identifying their own costs. In such cases, we happily assist them in laying the groundwork to verify their needs will be met by the prices they decide to charge. Communication and collaboration are key practices in how we operate.

A resource we use is the Fair Wage Guide. This tool gives access to pricing information for workers, buyers, and employers along the supply chain. It utilizes, “up-to-date minimum wage data for 150 countries, plus international poverty lines, to calculate benchmarks for products made on an hourly or piece rate basis.” It is yet another level of insurance we like to secure to confirm artisans are charging what is needed—and rightfully earned—for their time, talent, and labor.

Transmitting light into business practices.
You may be thinking, “Yes, this is great information and eye-opening into the fashion industry, but why are the Fair Trade products I see often times more expensive than the same product at the mall (or Amazon, since it’s 2019)?”

With Fair Trade styles, a majority of the price point is derived from the costs of labor and materials that are put into a piece. This is where transparency in pricing really shows its differences. Because we pay artisans what is deserved for their labor, their profits are not sacrificed for a lower price tag. It’s what the item should cost for every aspect that goes into making it to be satisfied and paid for correctly.

When you stop and think about how our business practices differ, and find what’s important to you as a customer, the differences in how products are priced starts to make more sense. As more businesses follow suit and transmit light into their practices, transparency will become the new “normal.” When you invest in companies that are investing in the people behind their products, you’re becoming part of the change that’s impacting something greater than yourself.