I am a writer and executive administrator for Trusted Clothes, which is an ethical and sustainable fashion organization. The following is a series devoted in honor of the work done in collaboration with the Schroeckers and the Trusted Clothes team. Part 1.
Tell us about yourself – family background, personal story, education, and previous professional capacities.
I grew up in NY and come from a long line of entrepreneurs. I am a bi-lingual (Spanish/English) social entrepreneur, sustainability trainer, Fair Trade business owner, Fulbright scholar, author, and academic.
I founded the sustainable luxury brand, KUSIKUY, which has been knitting together opportunities and elegance in the Bolivian Andes since 1996. I teach sustainable, social enterprise development at both Mount Holyoke College and the SIT Graduate Institute – specializing in local-global entrepreneurship. I live in Vermont and mostly grow my own food.
What is the importance of ethical fashion?
We are a single species on a single finite planet. Being mindful of how our decisions impact others and our planet is important. The garment industry is one of the most polluting and destructive industries in the world – of both the environment and people.
Thousands die in sweatshop accidents each year, millions more are affected by poor health, disease, and contamination from textile chemicals and pesticides, farmers commit suicide over low fiber prices. More info: http://truecostmovie.com/. Ethical and sustainable fashion is an alternative to this cycle of devastation and destruction.
What is the importance of sustainable fashion?
It respects the earth’s resources and people’s talents in carefully making quality clothing that lasts.
What about fair trade?
There are good resources that define the standards through principles on this, but some include:
It creates opportunity, builds capabilities, grows relationships, connections and improves wellbeing for all.
What is KUSIKUY?
It’s a Quechua word – means “make yourself happy” and started as a post-Peace Corps project for Grad School – 19 years later, still going strong!
What makes KUSIKUY unique?
I think the handmade nature of the product with knitting needles and its Bolivian source of production. It’s 100% alpaca yarn. It has been blessed with a challah – ceremony and wishes. Finally, it is home based with independent production.
KUSIKUY products are for men and women. What is your favorite design?
You took a 7-year hiatus to earn a doctorate in economics, raise two children, and write a book about the experience, and become a university professor of sustainable development. What were the main lessons from these experiences?
The importance of leadership, family, and patience – things all work out and there is time for it all. Through their export work the knitters gained tremendous leadership, time management skills and confidence in themselves.
KUSIKUY has a Kickstarter campaign as well. There’s a wonderful and informative video for those without the appropriate background on the narrative of the company and the work that it accomplishes. The campaign web page states:
Building on the heritage of Andean art and our 18 years of experience working in Bolivia, we created the world’s finest glitten, a glove/mitten, hand stitched from the king’s alpaca, that custom forms to your hand and is guaranteed for 5 years. Each glitten takes 12 hours and 2,000 stitches to make by hand with knitting needles, love and blessings.
The aim is $10,000. If you could have, say, $20,000, what would be the expanded set of initiatives for KUSIKUY?
Yes – our goal with the re-launch is to gain an audience and recognition for our next stage – the launching of our hand knit sweater for Fall 2017. Any extra earnings for the Kickstarter will be invested into the 2017 sweater development.
You’ve known the workers in Bolivia for 18 years. How does this positively impact the production cycle?
We have a long relationship with producers and are like family. This history makes it easier for us to enjoy working together and celebrate our successes together. It also makes for easy production and methods –we know how to work together.
What about providing a human sensibility to the company and its exported image to the public?
We work to build bridges between producers and users. Bother are very curious about each other and would enjoy knowing who each other were – at least to say thank you. We work on building that personal experience.
All images courtesy of www.trustedclothes.com.