Our Fair Trade Mission

Malia Designs was formed to increase economic opportunity for women in Cambodia and to support organizations that fight human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Our products are made by fair trade cooperatives that employ disadvantaged people in Cambodia. Through these partnerships we connect artisans to Western markets, expanding their access to sustainable income and safe and dignified working conditions

Malia Designs also strives to assist victims of human trafficking by donating to organizations working to fight trafficking in Cambodia and the US. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar illegal industry affecting millions of people every year. We believe that one way to counteract this global issue is to increase access to economic opportunity in the most affected areas.

Our Story

While traveling through Southeast Asia after serving in the Peace Corps, founder Lia Valerio fell in love with Cambodia. The Cambodian people are kind and generous, and the nation has a rich and beautiful culture. Despite terrible tragedy that overwhelmed the country in the 1970s and 1980s, their warmth and openness was, and always has been a source of inspiration.

During her initial trip to the region in 2000, Lia purchased many textiles and was introduced to several fair trade organizations working with marginalized populations. She also witnessed human trafficking for the first time.

Upon returning to the States, Lia and her best friend Maria discussed importing artisan-made products from the region to support these organizations and the good work they were doing. Although, it was another 5 years before the idea became a reality, the seed had been sewn and in 2005, Malia Designs was born.

We’ve come a long way from hosting trunk shows, vending at street festivals, and selling handbags in Lia’s living room to her family and friends: Malia Designs now produces two originally designed collections each year and is available at more than 250 retailers nationwide.

Our Story

While traveling through Southeast Asia after serving in the Peace Corps, founder Lia Valerio fell in love with Cambodia. The Cambodian people are kind and generous, and the nation has a rich and beautiful culture. Despite terrible tragedy that overwhelmed the country in the 1970s and 1980s, their warmth and openness was, and always has been a source of inspiration.

During her initial trip to the region in 2000, Lia purchased many textiles and was introduced to several fair trade organizations working with marginalized populations. She also witnessed human trafficking for the first time.

Upon returning to the States, Lia and her best friend Maria discussed importing artisan-made products from the region to support these organizations and the good work they were doing. Although, it was another 5 years before the idea became a reality, the seed had been sewn and in 2005, Malia Designs was born.

We’ve come a long way from hosting trunk shows, vending at street festivals, and selling handbags at home parties to families and friends: Malia Designs now produces two originally designed collections each year and is available at more than 250 retailers nationwide.

Our Business Model

Since the very beginning, our primary mission has been to provide a sustainable source of income to our artisan partners—lessening their vulnerability to traffickers and empowering them to break the cycle of poverty.

Malia Designs accomplishes this using a three-pronged business model.

01. Malia Designs’ products are made by fair trade producer groups that employ disadvantaged people in Cambodia – primarily at-risk women and the disabled.

02. We offer high-quality, fashion-forward accessories that pair lively designs with contemporary styling using materials sourced locally in Cambodia. Our fair trade production and frequent use of recycled materials are also good for the planet.

03. Malia Designs extends its mission even further by donating to nonprofit organizations fighting human trafficking in Cambodia and in the US.

Our Impact

Since partnering with Malia Designs, our producer groups have increased both the size of their work force and their artisans’ salaries. Over the past 13 years, we have provided grants and loans that have enabled our artisan groups to purchase new equipment, implement new training programs, and expand and open two new workshops. As our business has grown, so has theirs!

Malia Designs’ philanthropic efforts take the fight against human trafficking a step further by donating to organizations that fight child trafficking. Together with Stop Traffick, our non-profit philanthropic arm, we have donated over $160,000 to organizations in Cambodia and the US that fight human trafficking.

Our Impact

Since partnering with Malia Designs, our producer groups have increased both their work force and salaries. Over the past 13 years we have provided grants and loans that have enabled our artisan groups to purchase new equipment, implement new training programs and expand and open two new workshops. As our business has grown, so has theirs!

Malia Designs’ philanthropic efforts take the fight against human trafficking a step further by donating to organizations that fight Child Trafficking. Together with Stop Traffick, our philanthropic arm, we have donated over $160,000 for organizations in Cambodia and the US that fight human trafficking.

Our Team

We are proud to have a small, but mighty US-based team that leads our design process and handles all daily operations and sales and marketing duties. Lia Valerio (pictured on the left), our founder and President, oversees financials, inventory, and leads our collaborative product development process. Lucia Ruth (on the right), our Brand Director, heads up our sales and marketing efforts.

We have been extremely fortunate to have worked with many talented women over the years. They have done amazing textile design work, worked their magic in front of and behind the camera, and staffed many a trade show booth with a smile. We would not be where we are today without their efforts and contributions. And of course, none of what we do would be possible without our customers. We hope that you will join us to empower artisans, fight trafficking, and #CARRYACAUSE!  Want to learn more?  Check out our Fair Trade FAQs s for more information on our world-changing business model.