Archive for the ‘Human Trafficking’ Category

Fighting Human Trafficking with Damnok Toek

Posted on: January 23rd, 2017 by Leilani Angel No Comments

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month which is an excellent time to not only reflect on our brand journey in the fight against Human Trafficking but it is also the perfect time of the year to share a little insight as to what specifically inspires us to carry a cause every day all year long.

fair trade club meeting

Children of Damnok Toek, PC: Amy Fellows

Our fight on Human Trafficking has been going strong for the last 12 years largely due to the endless support from our customers and brand partners that share a similar social mission. We would like to start off the year by highlighting an organization that is very near and dear to our hearts, Damnok Toek. This organization works with vulnerable children and families in Cambodia. Their main objectives are to advocate for prevention, rehabilitation, integration and reintegration into the community. They serve individuals who have survived human trafficking, street working, homelessness, exploitation, abuse and those living with various disabilities.

Damnok Toek is a non-profit organization that has been instrumental in providing rehabilitation for marginalized children and youth by aiding in the development of a brighter future through a variety of nurturing services. This includes access to short-term to mid-term shelter facilities, family tracing and counseling services. They also offer life skills workshops and education that covers basic literacy and numeracy. Art therapy is also utilized as a method for creative expression and healing through dance, theater performances, painting and woodcarving.

fair trade club meeting

Classroom at Damnok Toek, PC: Damnok Toek website

More than 1,500 children per day are given support and care by the 100 employees throughout the three Damnok Toek facilities located in Cambodia. They are able to offer refuge and reformation for these children in need by the continuous support of global partners who have made it their mission to one day put an end to Human Trafficking. Malia Designs is one of many organizations that proudly supports Damnok Toek in their fight against Human Trafficking and other devastating challenges that these children endure. Each purchase with our company directly supports Damnok Toek. The amazing work they do  is precisely why we carry a cause and this is what fuels our desire to connect with individuals and communities all over the world in order to come together and bring awareness to this international crisis.

Human Trafficking is defined as, “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.” According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the most common form of Human Trafficking is for sexual exploitation followed by forced labor and victims are predominantly women and children.  

fair trade club meeting

Literacy Training at Damnok Toek, PC: Amy Fellows

We are dedicated to  fighting this epidemic, but we can’t do it alone. It is a devastating topic but it is a conversation that we need to continually have in order to create serious and immediate change.  We think Michelle Obama said it best in one of our all-time favorite quotes, “I hope that you will all reject the false comfort that others suffering is not your concern. That if you can’t solve all the world’s problems you shouldn’t even try.”  You can join us in our fight on Human Trafficking just by simply sharing this blog post and continuing this conversation within your communities. We are always stronger together and together we can make a difference.

The Night We Carried A Cause Together

Posted on: December 15th, 2016 by Leilani Angel No Comments

There is something magical that happens when you surround yourself with people that share a similar passion as yourself. We had the privilege of collaborating with the San Diego Style Bloggers for a private trunk show event at Bar Basic in Downtown San Diego and by the end of the night we bonded with our new fellow fair trade fashionistas and sustainable sisters.

fair trade club meeting Blogger babes Laura Neuzeth, Alessandra Gonzalez and Paulina Mo

Trunk show attendees included local taste makers within the fashion industry including bloggers, journalists, stylists, and designers. The coming together of prominent influencers such as Paulina Mo of Lil’ Bits of Chic and bilingual blogger sensation, Alessandra Gonzalez made for a spectacular evening filled with much needed conversation about the importance of ethical fashion and how we can collectively come together to carry a cause.

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Local designer, Jessica Cornejo, from Ziur Designs

The guests were able to shop from all of our eco-friendly collections including our hand crafted recycled feed bags and recycled cement bags. Brand Director, Lucia Ruth, was thrilled to conduct a brief presentation about our brand mission and how we can combat Human Trafficking through ethical fashion and business practices.

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Guests striking a pose with their new bags

Event attendees learned about our Fair Trade artisan partnerships in Cambodia and how Fair Trade employment opportunities provide a strong quality of life for our artisans and their families. By purchasing a Malia Designs handbag, you are indeed, carrying a cause, that supports proper treatment of artisan workers and lowering our collective carbon footprint on the environment.

fair trade club meeting

Guests learning about the brand mission from Lucia Ruth & Leilani Angel

This inspirational evening included fun photo booth action, cocktails, and tasty brick oven pizza. As the evening came to a close, it was clear that this event was much more than a fashionable night out, it was a call to action designed to spark curiosity about how fashion can be a force for good for both people and the planet.

fair trade club meeting

Cy Chen, Lilia, Tiffany Williams, Reca A’Shauntae, Leilani Angel, Alessandra Gonzalez, Laura Neuzeth & Paulina Mo

*All photos courtesy of Melisa Soriano

Three brands we love that are helping to fight human trafficking

Posted on: January 27th, 2016 by Lucia 1 Comment

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month! All month long we have been posting on social media about various organizations working both here in the US and around the globe in the effort to combat human trafficking. In this post we want to share a few of our favorite socially responsible brands that share our social mission to help fight human trafficking.

The Brave Collection

The Brave Collection was founded by Jessica Hendricks to “celebrate bravery and empower women across the globe.” Their beautiful jewelry is handmade by talented Cambodian artisans, primarily mothers who come from underprivileged backgrounds as well as disabled artisans. All artists work in a fair and dignified work environment where they are paid above average wages and receive benefits such as health insurance and stipends for their children’s education.

the brave collection

Our new travel wallet beautifully styled with bracelets from The Brave Collection

We recently teamed up with The Brave Collection for our Spring Look Book shoot and are absolutely in love with the results. Their unique fashion forward designs are carved and woven by hand in Cambodia using traditional metalwork techniques As well as creating empowerment through economic opportunities, 10% of profits are donated to fight human trafficking in Cambodia.

Thistle Farms

Thistle Farms is a multi-faceted organization that includes a powerful community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Based in Nashville, TN they employ more than 50 survivors through social enterprises which include a natural body care company, Thistle Stop Cafe, artisan studio, and global marketplace called Shared Trade.

thistle farms

Thistle Farms Manufacturing

Their yummy natural body care products are primarily vegan (a few do contain beeswax) and none of the products are ever tested on animals. Along with the body care line, Thistle Farms also operates a global market place—Shared Trade. They offer handmade quality products that represent healing and empowerment. Thistle Farms currently works with 18 partner social enterprises provide dignifying employment and safe workplaces for women artisans in 10 countries.

What’s the best thing about Thistle Farms? Clearly their heart, “Thistle Farms stands for the truth that, in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world.” The Thistle Farms motto is love heals and both their successful business model and the women’s lives they have transformed are clearly testaments that indeed it does.

Purpose Jewelry

Purpose Jewelry is a fashion jewelry brand that empowers survivors through employment and financial stability. All of their jewelry is handcrafted in India by survivors of modern-day slavery. All of the proceeds benefit International Sanctuary, a non profit that provides holistic care for young women rescued from sex trafficking. A unique part of Purpose Jewelry’s business model is that they work with human trafficking survivors in both India and in Orange County where their US headquarters is based.

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Shimmering Purpose Jewelry necklaces

The International Sanctuary survivor rehabilitation program has been so successful that they have been approached by numerous organizations to expand their program around the globe. They now have a goal to launch 10 sanctuaries around the world where girls and women rescued from slavery are empowered in the restoration of their mind, body, and soul. We have had the chance to attend various events with the Purpose Jewelry team, and it’s been a total pleasure to meet these driven women who are passionate about both their beautiful jewelry designs and the social mission behind them!

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.

New Damnok Toek Scholarship Program

Posted on: September 29th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

Malia Designs social mission supports the fight against Human Trafficking in Cambodia. For the past 9 years we have partnered with Damnok Toek an NGO that operates three child centers that help rescue and rehabilitate victims of child trafficking in Cambodia. The objective of Damnok Toek is to prevent child trafficking, rehabilitate its victims, and to reintegrate them into Khmer society.

Damnok Toek was established as a Non Governmental Organization in 1997 to assist vulnerable children and their families throughout Cambodia. In 1999, they implemented a program aimed at rescuing and rehabilitating child trafficking victims. More than 1,500 children per day are cared for with the support of 100 employees and three technical advisers.

damnok toek

Visiting Damnok Toek’s Director, Dr. Rith at the Phnom Penh Center

Damnok Toek’s Objectives:

– Prevention of child-abuse, substance abuse and child trafficking (internal and cross-border trafficking)

– Rehabilitation of under-age substance abusers and traumatized children

– Integration of neglected children and street-children into Khmer society through informal education (day-care center and vocational training) and formal (public school) education

– Reintegration of trafficked and runaway children into their culture, their villages, and, if possible, their families of origin

Damnok Toek Party

Local children gather in celebration at a Damnok Toek center

Damnok Toek’s holistic approach includes a wide array of services. These services include drop-in centers, a rehabilitation center, clinics, counseling, art therapy, outreach in the streets and communities, non-formal and formal education, and vocational training.

Our past donations have provided beds for the dormitories, where previously children slept on the floor, contributed to the purchase of a new van so that reliable transportation was always available, supplies for vocational training and education, contributions to clean drinking water sources and much much more.

It has been a tremendously rewarding experience to work closely with Damnok Toek—to get to see the children grow and thrive—and most importantly receive the care and resources they need to enable future independence.

Damnok Toek Party

We are proud to be a long time support of Damnok Toek!

On our most recent trip to Cambodia we learned of an exciting opportunity to create a scholarship program for girls—filling in a much needed gap in the vocational training that Damnok Toek is currently able to provide. In Cambodia (and much of the developing world), girls lack access to financial capital and have limited opportunities to gain education, knowledge, and skills that can lead to economic advancement. Inadequate policy frameworks and inequitable gender norms also often create barriers to girls’ economic advancement.

Damnok Toek Party

Our new scholarship program for girls will provide vocational training

This new program will cover the costs for 37 girls to attend both tailoring and beauty classes. It will also provide meals and basic services and both job placement assistance and small business start up guidance. There is such great synergy with this new program and our overall mission that we can hardly contain our excitement! We look forward to its start and will be sure to share more as the program becomes a reality!

3 Ways We Carry a Cause!

Posted on: February 16th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments


The mission of Malia Designs is the same today as it was when we started out 10 years ago. Our aim is to provide economic opportunities for Cambodian women and to support organizations fighting human trafficking in Southeast Asia. There are three ways we work to accomplish this mission.


1. Our products are made by Fair Trade producer groups that employ disadvantaged people in Cambodia, primarily at-risk women and the disabled. Our producers are paid a living wage in safe and fair conditions, and complete their work at home as well as in small workshops. Services like on-site day-care, medical check-ups, and over-time pay are offered.


2.  We have high quality, fashion forward products that are geared toward the Western market. The Western market = YOU! Our design philosophy combines function and fashion. We want you to choose our products based on their design in addition to the fact that they do great things for people and the planet as a bonus (a BIG one)!


3.  We raise awareness about and donate to organizations fighting Human Trafficking. Together with Stop Traffick, our philanthropic arm, we have donated over $100,000 to organizations in Cambodia and Chicago that fight Human Trafficking.


Each piece of our three pronged approach is a critical part of who we are and what we do!

Opening the Vault!

Posted on: February 12th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

It’s been 10 years!

In celebrating this awesome achievement, we opened the vault and found this video from our very first Southeast Asia adventure in 2005. Malia Designs was obviously birthed in the back of a “tuk tuk” roaring through traffic!



So much has changed since this video was taken and Malia Designs has come so far! Our lines have expanded, our impact on anti-human trafficking has grown, and our products are now being sold internationally! However, some things stay the same. We still focus on fair trade as a pillar of the company,  the recycled and upcycled materials used for our collections are still making an environmental impact, and the bags themselves are still awesome!

Thank you for supporting Malia Designs throughout the years and here’s to another 10 years of growth, bags and impact!

Blogging like it’s our birthday

Posted on: February 8th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments


2015 is a milestone year for Malia Designs, we turn 10!

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been “carrying a cause” by fighting Human Trafficking through fair trade for 10 whole years. It really is a cause for celebration indeed. One of the ways that we have chosen to celebrate is creating this blog.

What will be included in this blog you ask? We’ll be sharing artisan stories on how working with Malia Designs has impacted their lives, behind the scenes looks at the design process and new products, profiles of the amazing anti-trafficking organizations that we have partnered with, information about Fair Trade, exclusive discounts and much, much more!


And we’ve got another birthday surprise up our sleeves for you too! We’ve created a limited edition 10th anniversary tote. We’ll be giving these beauties away throughout the year, as a way to say thanks to you, our loyal customers, for “carrying a cause” alongside us. Check back for ways to win and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (wow, our social media game is looking pretty good) so you don’t miss out.