“We need to find a way between consumerism and sustainability.”
Lisa, you are the founder of Folkdays. What inspired you to found a fairtrade accessories label?
I have always been interested in how the world is connected and how one decision we make may have major influences somewhere else in this world. So when I recognized how the current trends towards fast fashion have an impact on the working condition of the garment workers in Asian and anywhere else in this world, I knew that we finally had to make a change. We need to find a way between consumerism and sustainability. There were already a few brands that specialized in fair trade and fair working conditions but unfortunately they often are not able to compete with the big companies because the design of their products just didn’t meet the taste of the potential customers especially younger target groups. I realized that there was a lack of good design in this sector and decided to go for it and to found FOLKDAYS.
I am convinced that there is a different, maybe a better way than charity in order to help people in the developing countries to improve their financial situation. I believe that we need to acknowledge and cherish the skills and culture of the people we work with in the developing countries. This is why I think that doing business with our partners in developing countries enables them to take matters into their own hands. And this empowerment ultimately leads to growth and development in these countries that wasn’t initiated by someone from the outside but rather by the people who know their country and culture best.
With FOLKDAYS we are able to create beautiful products that last and at the same time we are able to support the producers in their way in improving their living situation.
“FOLKDAYS is a fair fashion brand that combines high quality materials, craftsmanship with fair working conditions in developing countries.”
What makes FOLKDAYS unique?
FOLKDAYS is a fair fashion brand that combines high quality materials, craftsmanship with fair working conditions in developing countries. We travel around the world to find our artisans and buy our products directly from them at a fair price. Many of our products are hand crafted and are therefore unique and of high quality. We only use natural materials such as silk, cashmere or baby alpaca of the highest quality for our products.
In contrast to current trend of the fast fashion industry and industrialization we took a step back and listened to the needs and most of all to the expertise of our partners. Every country has different traditions and materials they use in their country so they are the ones who tell us what is possible. We want to cherish their tradition, culture and crafts and therefore all of our products carry cultural significance of the country it was produced in. We want to be an alternative to anonymous consumption of products so we chose to rather create timeless designs that last for more than one season.
Transparency is important for us. For every product we sell on our website there is a link to the introduction to the people who made this specific product. This visibility of our partners is important for us as we want to be as transparent as possible in our production process and at the same time let the producers feel appreciated for their work and skills. We create products that have a story and carry the tradition and culture of the artisan who made that product; we wouldn’t want to sell anything without soul to our customers.
“If something is handmade, it is just natural that we do not have unlimited quantities.”
The factories are quite smaller ones. What will happen when you need a higher quantity of one product? Would you change the factory?
We are still producing relatively low quantities so our partners would probably be quite happy if we would order bigger quantities☺ This means that there is still room for growth. At the same time we are constantly extending our network of artisans, so our strategy also lies in diversification and adding new products and artisans to our production base.
And we also believe that there is something very charming and natural about not having a huge stock of everything: if something is handmade, it is just natural that we do not have unlimited quantities. But there is always an option to sign up for a waiting list and so sometimes people have to wait a little for the product. But in the end we believe, that our products are worth a little wait and that our customers might appreciate them even more because of this.
“The business relationship FOLKDAYS has with its artisans is based on mutual respect and understanding.”
Can you compare Folkdays with Everlane?
If you look closely there are many differences between FOLKDAYS and Everlane. FOLKDAYS works primarily with small businesses in developing countries or cooperatives that employ people in rural areas. The workers are often given the possibility to work from home so that they don’t have to leave their family and go to a big city to find work there.
We work with social projects such as the Kilim Works foundation in Turkey. This foundation is based on the idea to find a new approach to combine the traditionalist local society and the globalized world. Usually in Turkey fathers promise their daughters to adult men who would pay good money to marry these young girls. In order to prevent this from happening Kilim Work was founded so that fathers send their daughters to the workshop so they can learn the traditional way of producing carpets and generate an income. They are additionally offered education which is important so that the girls can support themselves without having to rely on the income of their future husband.
But what is also important for FOLKDAYS is to understand that we develop our products together with our artisans. Our products are hand crafted so we have to rely on their expertise in order to be able to produce something together. We respect the traditions and the way of living of the different countries we produce in. In Cambodia for example some of our artisans can’t produce during harvest season and we have to adapt our production goals to their habits and living conditions. The business relationship FOLKDAYS has with its artisans is based on mutual respect and understanding.
What´s your goal for the future?
We already have a strong customer base in Germany and also in other European countries such as the UK, France or Italy. But we want to expand our international customer base so we are going to focus on that.
We are also constantly looking for new producers in developing countries and we would like to find artisans in countries we haven’t worked in before. This is going to be an exciting process we are really looking forward to this.
Additionally we also continue to organize sustainable concept pop up shops we call “FOLKDAYS & Friends” in different German cities.
And last but not least we will open a FOLKDAYS shop in Berlin! We are super excited about this as well☺
So there are many things happening at FOLKDAYS this year.
Photos: Antonia Leoni
Antonia is the founder and creative director of MOCHNI. Her goal is to create an ethical future of consumerism by introducing authentic people, brands, and products and by sharing inspiring content with more than 250.000 women yearly. She loves a slow lifestyle and the Californian summer breeze.