Archive for the ‘artisans’ Category

Fair Trade—the best business model ever

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

As you may (or may not) be aware, October is Fair Trade Month. What a great time to celebrate and share fair trade with our Malia Designs fans and supporters.

We thought we might answer a few common questions about fair trade, along with our favorite aspects of being a fair trade fashion brand.

fair trade month

Fair trade is most definitely our jam!

Q1: What exactly is fair trade?

Fair trade is essentially a business model—one that focuses on much more than profits and losses. Fair trade businesses aim to combat poverty in the developing world by bridging the gap between isolated producers, artisans and farmers and the western market and supply chains. Not only is fair trade a business model, but it is also

– a social justice movement
– a system of global commerce
– a tool for international and community development

Fair trade is a sustainable way to provide economic opportunity and hope for marginalized people in some of the poorest communities worldwide.

Q2: Who regulates or verifies your fair trade business practices?

fair trade month

Malia Designs is fully committed to our fair trade business model

Malia Designs is proud to be a member of the Fair Trade Federation. The Fair Trade Federation is a community of businesses committed to 360° fair trade. We undergo rigorous screening and strive to create positive change through all of our work: socially, economically, and environmentally. We work with small artisan groups in holistic partnerships built on trust. These relationships go beyond ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions — they empower producers to strengthen their communities and grow their businesses sustainably.

Q3: How do your fair trade practices help to fight Human Trafficking in Cambodia?


Meaningful employment helps to create security for these Cambodian women

Our #1 priority is to empower disadvantaged women in Cambodia by providing economic opportunities through fair trade. In a country where sexual exploitation is commonplace, having access to sustainable income decreases their vulnerability to prostitution and Human Trafficking.
Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty and abuse by providing this income to women and protection and support to children who are vulnerable to traffickers.

Q4: So what is the best part about being a fair trade fashion brand?


Getting to experience firsthand our positive impact is a huge reward

Wow! That’s a toughie. There are so many great aspects of designing and selling a product line that helps both people and the planet through fair trade. I definitely think that one of the most rewarding aspects is getting to experience first-hand how the purchase of something as seemingly insignificant as a hand bag can affect positive change in a woman’s life halfway across the globe.

We started this journey 10 years ago and have been working with some of our producers for almost the entire decade. To see the women grow professionally and personally as a result of the work we provide is so fulfilling. We’ve gotten to meet their families and their children and listen to their stories. To witness their support and nurturing of one another’s dreams, and to know that we had a part in their journey is something we are truly grateful for.

Meet our artisan partner – Thanan

Posted on: July 6th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

Malia Designs was created to provide economic opportunities for vulnerable populations in South East Asia. We accomplish this through partnerships. We link arms with our partners and we believe in them; that they are capable of creating significant changes in the communities where they live and work.

Thanan is a beautiful example of how these partnerships can work. Thanan leads the artisan group that produces our popular cotton canvas screen printed line. She received her educational training at the National Centre of Disabled Persons in Cambodia, and it was there that she discovered that she had true talent, both as a seamstress and as a designer.

thanan in her workshop

Thanan helps us to review and make design choices for our Fall 2015 prints

After she graduated Thanan received a micro-loan and began her own ethical fashion business. Today she employs more than fifty home-based artisans who are also disabled. It is Thanan’s mission and passion to provide secure, consistent employment for these disabled individuals. In Cambodia it’s an unfortunate fact that the disabled are often treated like third class citizens, and their chances for finding gainful employment are very slim. As a whole the disabled population is also more vulnerable to exploitation and to traffickers.

partial rolls of printed fabrics line the walls of a market stall

Reviewing fabric swatches and colors with Thanan’s guidance

Thanan is one of the most compassionate and giving women that we know. Her compassion and dedication to improving the lives of others combined with her design talents truly make her not only a valued partner, but also one of our heroes. Her bright smile, generosity and sharp sense of humor make her one of our dear friends.

It takes a village

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

One of the most important parts of our annual trip to Cambodia is taking the time to meet with our different producer groups. Of course we have a huge “to-do” list that includes finalizing print designs and color choices, approving and ordering samples and learning about future expansion or new training programs that our co-ops are planning. All of the groups we work with are independent businesses—Malia Designs is their customer and our role is to create relevant, fashion forward designs and to serve as the bridge to the Western market.


After visiting our most remote village co-op and spending time with the artisans there (and some of their adorable children), I got to thinking about the familiar saying, “It takes a Village.” It’s usually used in relation to raising children, to emphasize the importance that many different individuals can have in their upbringing. I think it also perfectly describes our fair trade artisan partners and all of the individuals that come together to make the Malia Designs business model work.

There are many different roles and positions within our artisan groups and they are all integral in producing a Malia Designs handbag, so it’s pretty easy to draw this correlation. These cut and sew artisans, weavers, pattern makers, book keepers, production managers, sourcing experts and customer relations managers are much more than their respective job titles. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, survivors, students and community members. And the co-op provides much more than economic opportunity for them.


The best part about the time spent with our artisan partners isn’t actually checking the numerous items off of our “to-do” list, but getting to experience the special relationships and familial environment that is fostered among the artisans. They are actively involved in one another’s lives. There are several mentors within the group that offer advice and a caring ear to listen to both work and personal challenges. They work together and celebrate together—laugh together and cry together.

Some individuals entering the co-op are facing significant obstacles, often times this is in the form of an illness or disability. Their employment provides not only a secure and reliable income, but a support system. Their role within the co-op is a natural way for their self esteem and sense of pride to grow. A source of hope. . . that is made possible by your willingness to “carry a cause.”