Friday, September 29, 2006

Mark Your Calendars

The St. Paul Art Crawl is right around the corner. Please join us:

Friday, October 13 at 5-10pm
Saturday, October 14 at 12-7pm
Sunday, October 15 at 12-5pm

Northwestern Bldg (#3 on map)
275 E 4th St, St Paul
Room 600

This is a new piece that Rabi is working on for the show:

We will again be sharing the room with Fair Trade Federation member Alsadu, Inc. Invite your friends.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Meet Sidonie

Once upon a SIAO, I bought my first Sidonie bag. It was a sturdy yellow over-the-shoulder bag with purple embroidery and a bead closure. I loved it and thought the seller, Sidonie, was a genius designer in her early 20's. Although she sold her bags at stores in Ouaga, I thought all Peace Corps volunteers needed a Sidonie bag. So, she would come to the Peace Corps hostel, and girls would buy. We talked how she could change the styles and she did custom orders. Eventually, she started putting zippers in most of the bags, instead of clasps. All of the bags are lined with a pocket inside. Some have leather handles, other cloth.

Many bags later, we have become friends and business associates. The fabric is woven in her family's courtyard, Sidonie designs the bags, and she has the final sewing done outside. She also dabbled in making scarves and beaded belts, but I'm not sure if she's still doing this. I have samples of both, of course. She originally started working with a French woman but I'm not sure why they didn't continue working together. So you can find similar bags in Ouaga, since the French woman still makes them.

When I moved back to the US in 2004, I bought some Sidonie bags to sell at a Locks of Love benefit in a suburb of Minneapolis. All the women at this event (about 150) preferred to buy the designer knock-offs and I only sold 1 Sidonie bag that night. Made me really wonder about suburban women and what they value. I eventually sold all of the bags to friends and family. Then in October 2005, we had a small sample booth at the St. Paul Art Crawl. People were begging to buy my used Sidonie bags! I have quite the collection. So we brought a bunch in for the St. Paul Art Crawl in April 2006, but this time had little interest.

I'm not sure what this means exactly. Maybe the colors are generally too bright for Midwesterners? I had one specially made for my 93 year old grandma a few years back and she loves it. It's purple and green, her favorite colors.

In the meantime, we're just trying to find a good market for her bags. Someone suggested NYC or Chicago. I think we should be able to find our niche here. A friend in Accra, Ghana said she saw 2 girls walking down the street with what looked like to be Sidonie bags. So there is seemingly interest...

Here are a few samples of her bags; no two bags are alike, though the color schemes can be similar and the sizes the same.

Friday, September 08, 2006

"It's a fair trade product!"

"Oh really?" I ask, "Are you a member of the Fair Trade Federation?" People of the world, be on the lookout! I'm sure you've all heard of fair trade coffee or fair trade chocolate. And some retailers claiming they are selling fair trade products. Well, they may follow fair trade principals, but until they are members of the FTF, they really aren't fair trade in my mind.

According to the FTF, fair trade means. "
Producers receive a fair wage when they are paid fairly for their products. This means that workers are paid at least that country's minimum wage. Since the minimum wage is often not enough for basic survival, whenever feasible, workers are paid a living wage, which enables them to cover basic needs, including food, shelter, education and health care for their families. Paying fair wages does not necessarily mean that products cost the consumer more. Since fair trade organizations bypass exploitative middlepeople and work directly with producers, they are able to cut costs and return a greater percentage of the retail price to the producers."

And what are the membership criteria?
  • Paying a fair wage in the local context.
  • Offering employees opportunities for advancement.
  • Providing equal employment opportunities for all people, particularly the most disadvantaged.
  • Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Being open to public accountability.
  • Building long-term trade relationships.
  • Providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context.
  • Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible.
Yarbi Design is not yet a member, I must admit. On our way to filling out an extensive application with questions such as "What is the role of craft production (or farming if agricultural products) in the communities’ activities? Is it a primary source of income?" and "Do you commit to not carrying any products from a source that you discover does not meet fair trade standards?" At shows and with clients, I'm honest and say we're applying. I don't just say that we have fair trade products.

So be sure to look for the logo!