Fair Trade: A Word with the Founder of Tonlé
At Indi and Ary, we think that fair trade is the future of production.
Fair trade means that products are sourced and created with sustainable methods, and that priority is placed on people and the environment over profit. Being a part of this movement is just one of the many values of who we are, which is why we recently attended the Fair Trade Fashion Show and Marketplace in Los Angeles. Over 20 different vendors were in attendance, such as Bead and Reel, and World Changer Co. It was inspiring to be surrounded by so much positive energy focused on sustainability and human rights.
While there, we were happy to connect with Rachel Faller, the founder of Tonlé–a fair trade fashion company– and speak with her about what it’s like to be in the business. Rachel Faller’s passion for social justice work has driven her since high school where she became interested in fair trade fashion ever since. She was further inspired by a trip to Cambodia which opened her eyes to the realities of the industry. Inspired by what she saw, Rachel founded Tonlé.
“It wasn't until traveling to Cambodia that I got to see both the positive sides of fair trade and the horrible sides of conventional fashion first hand. I moved to Cambodia in 2008 to do research on fair trade, which was a very nascent movement at the time. I saw the larger garment industry and how it was operating in Cambodia - and there was such a disconnect between smaller artisan groups and the larger consequences the industry was having on the region. I decided to launch my own brand.”
Not only did Rachel found Tonlé, she also created her own fair trade manufacturing process. “At the time when I started no one was doing it quite the way I knew it needed to be done”, she says. Since then, the fair trade manufacturing industry has grown immensely.
“There are so many great artisan companies out there looking for orders that designers are not for lack of finding ethical places to produce their products. More importantly than just finding them, designers need to be ready to invest in these relationships, as long-term partnerships are part of what contributes to making something fair”.
The fact that the fair trade industry has flourished is a positive step in the right direction. As a society, however, we can help to further the industry even more. Being an advocate for fair trade fashion for many years now, Rachel has great experience on how to this movement.
“First off, please take a step back and evaluate what you truly need before buying. We can all ask ourselves, do I really need this thing, is the suffering caused by buying this worth my "need" for it?
Additionally, we can talk about fair trade and ethical practices as much as possible with our friends and family. We need to change the culture, and that cannot be done without a lot of discussion of what we value as a society. If I have a friend who is purchasing things that clearly don't align with the values, I will speak to them in the most kind and compassionate way that I can about my experiences.
Lastly, advocate politically for causes that support fair trade in your home country and abroad.
There are many ways to promote and support fair trade in your everyday life. I do recommend picking a few achievable goals and start working towards them. It's important not to get overwhelmed, which is easy to do! You don't have to throw out your whole wardrobe overnight, but it is great to start being mindful in your daily life and see where it leads you.”
For more information on Tonlé please visit their website at: