Fairtrade Fortnight 2012 runs from 27 February–11 March, but it’s not just for kind people to buy useless stuff that makes them feel good, according to The India Shop, one of the UK’s original Fair Trade retailers, Fair Trade products are good quality and practical, as well as beautiful.
According to Anne Wyles, director of The India Shop: “A regular misconception we come across is that buying Fair Trade is like giving to charity – you pay over money but you don’t expect to get something useful in return. That’s not it at all. Fair Trade is certainly about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade in the developing world, but if we didn’t sell goods that people found useful, we wouldn’t stay in business. Everything we sell is Fair Trade with three main qualities: Handmade, fair trade and well-made.”
The India Shop will use Fair Trade Fortnight 2012 to put this misconception right, sharing the stories of the producers its supports and the goods they make. It has been importing and selling Fair Trade handicrafts, furniture and home wares from India for over 20 years to provide sustainable employment for disadvantaged producers and to keep the living legacy of Indian handicrafts alive.”
“You can sit on Fair Trade, drink out of it, write in it, wear it and store stuff in it,” says Anne. “Fair Trade is indeed about helping small and third world producers, but they must make goods that people want to buy, otherwise their businesses won’t be sustainable.”
Over the last 24 years The India Shop, which also sells on-line (www.theindiashop.co.uk) as well as from its shops in Marlborough, Salisbury, Wantage and Newbury, has built an economic lifeline for artisans in metalwork, jewellery, cotton, leather and furniture made from recycled wood.
The business started in 1987, after Anne made a much longed for visit to India with her husband. She saw the wonderful handicrafts that came from across India and she also saw the poverty. At that time there weren’t many Indian lifestyle products available in the UK market, only from Liberty’s at the high end and cheesecloth market traders at the low end.
“The quality of the crafts I saw was incredible,” she said. “I felt that they deserved a wider market. We now trade with family firms and co-operatives across Indian and it’s essential to maintain the flow of goods out of Indian and into Europe to aid continuous employment.
The trade arm of The India Shop, New Overseas Traders, supplies hundreds of independent retailers across the country.