Have you ever wondered what it means to be a Fairtrade company? WorldFinds is certified through the non-profit Fair Trade Federation and identifies as a company fully commited to the principals of fair trade and support member in order to grow the global movement of trade that values the health of the planet, and the labor, dignity, and equality of all people.
Amongst many FairTrade business owners is Kelly Weinberger, the founder of WorldFinds! WorldFinds carries accessories such as bracelets, purses, scarves and more that are all handmade and FairTrade by women artisans in India using repurposed Sari textiles. While backpacking around the world for 14 months, she came across a FairTrade organization and realized she wanted to be part of their mission.
This week on The Good Blog, we had the opportunity to interview Kelly Weinberger to learn more about her the design process of her unique, handmade products and how she’s helped many female artisans through each FairTrade product.
Tell us about your journey and how WorldFinds began.
So, it all began in the middle of a 14-month, round-the-world backpack trip. I was partway through the trip and spending time in India and Nepal when a fellow traveler invited me to go with her to visit a fair trade women’s cooperative in Kathmandu. I had not heard the term fair trade before (it was 1999!) and as soon as I learned what it was I had my lightbulb moment and knew I needed to do something in that field. To me, it seemed to offer just so many solutions. I got started right away, and spent the remainder of the trip learning all I could about what would be most helpful, and most needed in partnership with the artisans I was meeting along the way. Once I returned home I tested out some of the products I’d sourced in trunk shows, and then immediately began moving into wholesale. Then there were many trips back to work with artisans to solidify the look and feel of our product line, and it’s sort of just grown from there! We began with small orders and having our designs in just a few boutiques, and over the years we’ve grown to having an amazing team of 8 here, seeing our products stocked in over 1500 shops and partnering with over 700 artisans.
2. As a fellow FairTrade company, why and how is FairTrade important to you?
Fair Trade is such an integral part of all we do it’s impossible to imagine our existence without it! It’s truly woven into our DNA and all that we are. Initially it was the impetus of starting the business, and even now the principles and practices of fair trade form the basis that guide our business decisions. With our artisan partners at the heart of all we do, we try to discern and consider the impact on them and the environment in our day to day work. We’re always trying to come up with more ways to integrate repurposed materials into our designs, find more earth-friendly packaging, and of course continue to get as much work as possible to our artisan partners in order to help ensure their communities flourish and thrive well into the future. The fair trade communities are also really important to us, we’re active members of the Fair Trade Federation and Chicago Fair Trade. The collaborative nature of the organizations is amazing, really supportive and helpful. We’re all very different but working toward a common goal of equitable trade, and promoting and education about fair trade as much as possible.
3. Where do you get inspiration for your products from? Could you please explain the design process for each piece?
The inspiration for our products come from nature, time spent in India, art, and vintage clothing/accessory designs. We go into each season with a conversation about what has previously worked for our customer, what types of silhouettes or styles we’d like to have added to our line, and go from there! We strive to create a range of styles from more minimalist, layerable looks to more avant garde statement pieces. We start with sketches and work closely with our artisan partners to develop the initial samples. Sometimes they come in just perfect, other times a few back and forth modifications are needed before finalizing and putting in an order for the next season. It’s incredibly satisfying to see this process all the way through! We also never truly know which styles will turn into best sellers, and which become more ‘cult favorites’ - we always try and predict but are often wrong! This is also really fun and it keeps things interesting. We love introducing new collections in person at industry trade shows as we get immediate feedback on the new designs.
4. Your company has impacted many lives in India. Have you met any of the makers? Can you share any meaningful encounters during your journey?
In the “before times” we would visit our artisan partners in India once or twice a year. We’re SO hoping that we can finally return later this year as we never imagined it would be this long between visits! There are just so many facets to a fair trade business - there’s the normal business part, the design / artisan partner part, and the education/activism part - and then of course there’s the purpose behind all we do which we see in the impact on artisan communities. The artisan visits provide such a great opportunity to get to see this first hand. Depending on the year, it might be something structural that’s changed - roads being paved, or a new community center that opens. One of our groups had grown so much that they opened a second building to help manage production and extra workshops. The most rewarding thing for me is just getting to spend time with our partners, as fair trade is really about relationships. We get to know our partners, see their children grow and see how the partnerships and work is helping to provide stability and a brighter future for their families. It’s incredibly inspiring and we always try to find new ways to share this with the people who wear our designs.
5. Your store has many amazing handmade pieces! Which one is your favorite?
It’s really impossible to pick a favorite of all time, but I absolutely have my go-to styles from each new collection. Our colorful, repurposed Kantha textile jewelry is really fun, so I often mix a multi-strand or statement necklace with some type of linear earrings. Right now I’ve been wearing the Kantha Karita Necklace a lot with the Aliya Earrings.
Or I’ll go big on statement earrings like the Kyla Earrings, and pair them with a necklace like the Kantha Waterfall. Our metallic styles often come in gold and silvertone, so I’ll go back and forth depending on my mood or what else I’m layering in. For accessories, I love our Kutch Tote which is the perfect size for my laptop and great for travel. I have all of our Kantha pouches to keep things organized! I already have my eye on a few things from our new collection launching this fall.
6. How does each handmade accessory help an artisan in India?
Each item that we design creates dignified work for an artisan in India. And it goes way beyond a piece of jewelry or a bag. Fair trade partnerships mean long term work and economic independence. And with this regular work comes stability and confidence for a better future for the artisans and their families and communities. We work together to design, create, and craft our collections that bring joy to our customers and provide essential jobs to our artisan partners. We honor and value our partnerships at all levels, and do all we can to ensure we thrive into the future! When you touch or wear one of our products, there’s a whole history behind it, and know that it does so much good on so many levels.
7. What are you working on for 2022 and beyond that you want us to know about?
We have lots of things in development for the year! We’re growing our jewelry and accessories collections, and I’m also super excited that we’re introducing a capsule Home Goods collection as well! We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, so it’s great to see it come to fruition. The styles will be an extension of what people come to us for, and allow us to expand that aesthetic to other areas of the home. We can’t wait to get this launched! Next, we hope to continue growing our artisan partnerships and product offerings - we have a lot of ideas and are looking forward to making them happen!
As a FairTrade company ourselves, we are so proud to see that there is a growing number of FairTrade companies available for consumers! Recognizing that there are labour issues within farmers and workers is the first step to humanize the fashion industry. For example, our Unisex Tee is made of FairTrade Organic Cotton. The Good Tee is currently a pending fair trade certified company. We are excited to join WorldFinds as well as many other amazing FairTrade Certified Companies in supporting fair trade!
Support WorldFinds today by checking out their FairTrade accessories!