Mata Traders is working to make fair trade fashion readily available to consumers through vintage inspired designs and affordable prices. As part of the Fair Trade Federation, the brand ensures fair wages, a safe space, and the tools needed for individuals to rise above poverty.
The Mata Traders mission is to ‘fashion a better world’ by creating designs that celebrate a woman’s originality and empower her to use her dollar for change. Its collections merge uncommonly vibrant style with fair trade practices to make an impact on global poverty – bringing fair wages to artisans in India and Nepal.
Mata Traders partners with several fair trade organizations in India and Nepal that train and employ hundreds of artisans in marginalized communities, with a focus on gender equality and empowering women. At the cooperatives, the garments are individually stitched in small workshops, with one seamstress creating an entire garment rather than being part of a production line. Many Mata styles are then carefully finished with hand embroidery in the women’s own homes. Their training starts with hand sewing, moving on to simple machine patterns, like bags, and eventually mastering the sewing machine. Showing leadership skills offers the women a chance to become head of their sewing group or get promoted to positions like trainer, quality checker, materials buyer, or assistant production manager. In a country as socially stratified as India, this type of social mobility in the workplace is a rarity.
The artisan cooperatives are similar to social service agencies in the support they provide to end the cycle of poverty for the members and their families. Health care, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions, and daycare: all part of the membership package. Social workers on staff assist the artisans in addressing their personal needs, from opening a bank account to situations of domestic violence and dealing with HIV/AIDS. There are literacy classes, computer training, and regular workshops on topics like hygiene, nutrition, and parenting.
“We’ve seen this education really make a difference: co-op member Sidhama told us that before coming to the co-op, she never rode buses because she could not read the bus numbers. Now she travels around Mumbai by bus without problem. The women are empowered to navigate their own lives, quite literally!”