About a month after graduating from college, I moved to Uganda to work for The African Hospitality Institute. This season of life stands to be one of the most healing, life giving, and memorable thus far. Tucked away in the bush of Africa, I was sheltered from the busy, technology drenched culture that had consumed me. Mornings were spent savoring coffee and devotionals with God. Midday I would work with AHI students, helping to formulate their hospitality training into a manual that would be used to replicate this program in other countries. Evenings were filled with song writing, card games, and pitch black skies freckled with stars.
As I befriended students and staff, I also had the opportunity to learn the art of paper bead making. The intricacy of rolling these beads tightly rounded still amazes me. Artisan skills are easily lost in the rapid turnover of fast fashion. With 52 seasons a year, trends are constantly changing. What about the art? What about the passion? What about the detail and effort put into handcrafted jewelry? It’s often lost in the blur to keep up.
What are we to do? Slow down. By supporting brands that rub against the grain and uphold traditional craftsmanship, you are telling the fashion industry you care about the details. Furthermore, you’re helping to pave a route for artisans to thrive in the global marketplace. Job security is a powerful thrust against poverty!
And can we just talk about this gorgeous pink paper bead chunky goodness that’s adorning my neck? Hello! Artisan made! Incredible detail! Impeccable quality! 31 Bits has been a brand crush of mine for (clap) evvv (clap) ver (clap). Their mission is to use fashion and design to empower people to rise above poverty. I hate poverty, you hate poverty. I like fashion, you like fashion. Brilliant. Let’s do this.
Our model is to create dignified work opportunities for artisans worldwide while providing customers with a place to purchase fairly made products. We pay fair and sustainable wages to our artisans, but that’s just the beginning. We believe in providing safe and joyful working conditions, a family-like atmosphere, and an environment where every artisan feels known. We believe quality work is a result of artisans who are being cared for as individuals. We provide our artisans with access to counseling, health care, and education. We provide ways to improve their local communities and support their families. And guess what? Everything we do is funded through product sales. That means every time our customers make a purchase, they are having a direct impact on the lives of our artisans and their families.
I know I constantly throw around terms like “shopping ethically” or “sustainable style.” In reality, it’s more like “empowering artisans to showcase their giftings and expertise in the global marketplace” and “shopping to provide living wages and safe working conditions, which are helping to alleviate poverty worldwide.” Ethical products are not the new trend. They are right, they are good, they are the way things should have always been.
If you’re new to the world of ethical style, don’t stress. I’m glad you’re here! Feeling overwhelmed? I’m still learning, too! In the blurry world of fashion, your purchases are indeed powerful. Once you actually believe this, action will follow and change will take root!