Buying goods made in developing countries can help the artisans there, stimulate local economies and be a creative way to fill out your holiday shopping list too.
Their products meet Western standards of taste and quality too, which hasn't always been the case with artisanal goods from the Third World. These companies were all founded by women who locate artisans, help them understand what consumers in the industrialized world want to buy, and pay them fairly.
The hip-luxe U.K. jewelry designer Pippa Small had a master's degree in anthropology before she ventured into fashion. Having lived with San Bushmen, Rwandan pygmies and Panama's Kuna Indians, Small's goal was to revive indigenous craftsmanship and lift artisans out of poverty while catering to the exacting taste of high-end Westerners. Today, she has collaborated with Gucci, Chloe and Nicole Farhi and sells jewelry sourced and made in Afghanistan, India, Bolivia, Panama and Kenya. She gets her gold from the world's only fair-trade gold mine and hunkers down in places like Kabul and the slums of Nairobi to train artisans to create exquisite, collectible pieces. She ended up in Kabul after seeing a film on post-Taliban Afghanistan and vowing to lend a hand. Turquoise Mountain, a nonprofit that trains Afghan artisans (partly funded by Britain's Prince Charles), invited Small to Kabul to create a line now for sale in her new L.A. store.
http://www.pippasmall.com or e-mail shopLA@pippasmall.com
Pippa Small Shop Los Angeles, Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St. Santa Monica. (310) 260-9222.
Afghan Love Poem Necklace, $1,205.
Glass necklace for the Made Collection, $330.
Global Goods Partners
Formerly fieldworkers for development agencies, Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin, friends from college, saw firsthand women struggling in poor countries. Observing women creating beautiful, organic handicrafts, they recognized the artisans had no market. The two quit their jobs and founded Global Goods Partners, working with women in Africa, Asia and the Americas to provide the fair-trade market that these women needed. They harnessed volunteer designers to refine the jewelry, accessories and home products, and they were off.
Hand embroidered Peruvian purse, $88
Embroidered Peruvian belt, $42
While at Yale, Ruth DeGolia spent a summer volunteering in the highlands of Guatemala and fell in love with the indigenous women's handiwork. She returned with suitcases full of traditional Mayan designs to sell on campus. Selling out instantly, she did it again. And again, until she graduated and decided to make it official, founding a nonprofit to bring the designs up to Western standards and sell them, employing 400 indigenous women in the process. By 2006, two years after she started the company, DeGolia was on the cover of Newsweek with Brad Pitt, both of them Giving Back award winners.
Lidia hammered vermeil earrings, $44.