We spent years bumming around the world. We both dropped into the university grinder and popped out debt-free… Mateja with a masters degree in business and Chris as a journalism school drop-out.
To pay our way ‘round the globe we did a lot of odd jobs, including:
barnacle-scraper, cotton-chipper, tennis-racket sander, avant-garde puppeteer, bookseller, porn magazine photo editor, postcard publisher, pen exporter, lettuce washer, wedges frier, daily newspaper cartoonist, war journalist, sunset cruise host, boat builder, ad-campaign assistant, drug company researcher, english teacher, book designer, round-the-world yacht crew, brass polisher, scenographer, beach bar cocktail maker and dj, translator, Mother Theresa volunteer, fruit and vegetable seller, market spruiker, newspaper pamphlet inserter, gardener…
Most of these jobs were pretty badly paid and temporary, but we got the point…
Work is not always fun… But we always had options… Clothing workers in Asia usually don’t have as much choice.
In growing economies in Asia semi-skilled garment work is often done under poor conditions and is far from fair for the worker. This is part of the Death Economy as John Perkins writes about in The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
So we design and make clothes in Nepal and Thailand with small family businesses who treat their workers fairly and we return, for a few months every year, to work with tailors in their ateliers and small family-owned factories.
That way we are sure the original working conditions we inspected are still fair trade conditions. We also pay more for our tailoring, so we receive a much higher quality of clothes and both sides get a better quality of life.
Fair trade has become a social movement which holds to the original principles of fair trade certification. Due to perceived excessive financial disclosure and time and costs to gain certification… most of the small ateliers we work with are not chasing certification.
So we decided to stick with the principles of fair trade for our small family ateliers but are encouraging and helping our two biggest partners in Nepal to get a Fair Trade Certification.
Pashin’ follows the World Fair Trade Organization ten principles of fair trade.
1 Create opportunities for disadvantaged producers
We work with small independent family businesses, co-operatives and organisations with economic self-sufficiency goals including poverty reduction.
2 Transparency and accountability
There is good communication and transparency in the atelier with participation of all members of the production chain. Workers influence the way the business operates and develops.
3 Fair trading practices: No exploitation of marginalized workers
100 percent payment in advance for goods; wages paid first from this pre-payment; no cancellation of orders; no copying of other trader’s fashion designs; promotion of traditional skills as reflected in their craft designs.
4 Payment of a fair price
We pay wages that can still be sustained by the market, but well above the minimum wage payment for each country we work in. Equal pay for equal work for women and men. Better pay means better quality sewing or knitting, as the best tailors and knitters are valuable and command higher wages. As we receive a higher quality product, this helps us satisfy more customers long-term. Everyone wins. Also skilled clothing workers’ wages rise every year because of inflation and a shortage of skilled labour in Nepal and Thailand. For example, there is a massive drain of skilled workers leaving Nepal to the Middle East and South-East Asia.
We guarantee, 100 percent, that no child or forced labour is used to produce any of our products. We inspect the ateliers every year while we work there, including surprise visits. We also receive guarantees that anyone working at home is not making children work.
6 No discrimination. Gender equity. Freedom of association
No discrimination by the factory in hiring, pay, training, promotion, firing or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV status or age. Women and men have equal access to promotion and equal power to influence direction and the environment that shapes their livelihoods. Women in our small family businesses are nearly always in charge of production and running the factory. Women also benefit from sewing at home when they have children or family or simply want to reduce lost commuting time. Our ateliers not only allow but encourage trade unions and collective bargaining because it means greater worker loyalty and also provides guarantees for the owner, such as number of production days and hours of work.
7 Ensuring good working conditions
The ateliers must provide comfortable, safe and healthy working conditions. No toxic products or Azo dyes, enough toilets and work breaks, proper seating, good lighting and pleasant working environment. A typical factory we work with will have an 8 hour day with 1 hour for free cooked lunch prepared by an in-house cook, and two 20-minute tea-breaks. In busy times, if overtime is needed, it is paid better. Workers are free to work at home instead of the factory and no-interest loans are provided by the owner for any sewing machine purchases for the home. Our hand-knitters work together in a community house in the country-side near Kathmandu, chatting, singing sometimes and sitting cross-legged on cushions in a “knitting circle”, with natural light and good vibes. Pashin’ and our largest factory also donated money to rebuild many of our knitters’ houses after the devastating May 2015 earthquake.
8 Capacity building
Our innovation in design means workers are often learning new skills, such as when we design complicated embroidery or knitting patterns for our wool beanies. This empowers the workers by widening their skill-set, making them more attractive to other innovative fashion houses and/or other employers. The ateliers we work with will often support smaller supplier start-ups with advice and financial partnerships such as when a wool-spinning unit was set-up in Kathmandu after many years of the wool being spun in India. This provides employment and allows closer supervision of fair trade principles locally. In general we encourage our ateliers to build up community skills and capacity of other small suppliers instead of just importing cheap components. For example: The use of local, traditional wooden buttons instead of imported plastic ones.
9 Promote Fair Trade
We actively promote Fair Trade principles to our customers when we meet them in the markets. We inspect and work a few months a year with our small Asian ateliers, to achieve our commitment to trade fairly. We commit to honest adverting and marketing techniques.
10 Respect for the environment
We source locally from sustainably-managed renewable sources where possible; We always encourage environmentally sound production practices such as non-toxic chemicals, to minimize pollution. Our ateliers use recycled and easily biodegradable materials for packing, and goods are dispatched by sea, wherever possible.