stories

Why Faire, Why Now?

Sydney Sherman

The short answer to these questions is that there’s no such thing as Faire.Shop to date; there’s no world-wide, one-stop-shop for communities to bring their ethically sourced goods to international markets.

The long answer requires a little bit of backstory.

The idea for Faire was first planted in my mind during college, while doing what I love to do most:  traveling. Seeing different places and people has always been a passion of mine. But what I found in some of the far flung destinations I visited––the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and India––was what lead me to the idea of an online 100% ethically sourced marketplace.

While going from country to country I saw unique crafts, one-of-a-kind handmade items, and little works of art that I literally couldn't believe––both because of their simple beauty, and because of their relatively low cost.

 

A spice market in Marrakesh, Morocco

From furniture, bed frames, and other decor, to all sorts of clothes, bags, jewelry, and other accessories, I felt like I kept stumbling into new parts of an endless treasure trove of artisan items.

Some of these finds I’d bring back to friends and family at home, much to their excitement and wonder. Most of the time, I’d get gasps as I pulled out random things I’d picked up abroad––and their first question always seemed to be: “Oh my God, How much was this?” assuming that these items were worth a small fortune.

My general response was: “Oh...ten bucks, maybe.” My friends and family were astonished and these interactions became commonplace.

 

A view of a valley near Worcester, in South Africa

 

Another striking discovery from my travels was something that’s impossible to forget––even years later––and far less pleasant to talk about, especially for those unfamiliar with it: the indescribable, crippling poverty common in what many people call “developing” regions. No matter the place I went––South Africa, Cambodia or India––it was unmistakable. And it made me sick.

In many areas, abject poverty is not just pervasive, it’s virtually inescapable. Children are brought up in heartbreaking conditions, communities suffer rampant, debilitating illnesses, shortages of food and basic necessities are the norm, and there is little or no healthcare for anyone.

Women, I also observed, are often disproportionately affected by these conditions, and are usually resigned to daily situations virtually unimaginable in most “developed” countries: begging in streets to feed sick children, regular abuse and exploitation, and even overt starvation. The “world” I lived in back home was far from perfect, to be sure, but it was full of opportunity, however embattled or inequitably available that opportunity was.

I felt devastated and completely powerless in the face of these people's suffering.

I began to wonder how I could reach them, or help them from back home––how I could do anything for them.

 

A mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

So after months and months of agonizing, wondering, and researching, a core question finally became clear in my mind: How can I help create a scenario where no one has to be isolated, and where sustainable economies can thrive everywhere, even for the most disadvantaged?

I began to think that because of the immense connective power of the internet––a power that my generation is deeply familiar with, and often takes for granted––it might be possible for me to reach these women and their communities, to help them seize control of one aspect of their individual destinies.

It took another two years to gestate, but eventually this idea grew into the solid beginnings of a bold dream, and Faire’s long-term Mission.

The core concept wasn’t very complicated. I wanted to create a third party, an online platform or marketplace, where sellers––mostly in developing nations––could sell the things they make directly to consumers, for fair wages.

 

A wildlife conservation reserve in South Africa (Fairy Glen)

I wanted to build a single “place” that could serve as a sustainable, empowering, source of income for these communities around the world.

And, although there has been a significant increase in the awareness of Fair and Ethical Trade standards and the sale of these goods in recent decades––largely through the help of international certifying organizations and “conscious consumerism”––many ethical sellers still can’t easily gain access to international markets. 

In other words, Ethical Trade has yet to overtake or change the status quo in e-commerce.

 

Ankor Wat, the famous ruins, in Cambodia near the Siem Reap Province

It’s my belief, and my dream, that ethically produced items can gain enough traction to make the sale of items made by women and children in the darkness of dangerous factories, or by slave and exploitative labor, unthinkable.

I want to make sure that buying quality, ethically sourced products is no longer an elaborate or confusing process; I want to help make it the go-to, international standard for online shoppers everywhere.

Think about it this way: If  artisans, farmers, or garment workers can sell directly to wealthier countries with efficiency––through a secure, transparent, platform––Fair and Ethical Trade can, without a doubt, become the new global standard.

 

A series of tori gates in Japan

By exclusively selling ethically sourced items on our website, we will significantly increase the wages artisans can earn, beyond merely keeping communities reliant on ineffective (and often inefficient) foreign aid; and in a manner that reflects the inherent dignity of these individuals and their loved ones.

 

Ni Wayan Sarug of Rumah Dreamcatchers, one of our artisan sellers, in Bali 

A sustainable wage will not only have an effect on the lives of the current generation of artisans in these communities, but also on their children: sustainable incomes will help provide some of the basic resources necessary to attending schools, and improving a family’s overall quality of life.

 

Wayan Seri & Family, one of our sellers, in Bali.

There are still many gaps in the Fair and Ethical Trade space, and in our thinking about global poverty.

But I think we can change this, and the world, together.

-Sydney

Founder & CEO, Faire Inc.


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