In only few years, terms like conscious, fair-trade, ethical, and sustainability became labels/tags used by many businesses to add some value and meaning to their brands. When I started to change my approach to consumption, I quickly realised how important it is to look behind the label as a lot of brands don’t really play by the rules. As a consumer as started to wonder “Can I really trust those certifications?”, “Is it really a guarantee of transparency? Am I actually investing in a more equitable/sustainable supply chain?”.
So when I came across a business like The Wanderer London while sourcing products for my daughter, I was amazed by how transparent their business model was and loved that the makers were the face of the brand. The quality of the baskets was beyond my expectations,made from elephant grass, non-toxic dyes and cured leather, the weaving work is impeccable but still keep a handmade touch that adds up a tone of charm to the product. I know that this moses basket will stay in the family for a long time, and I like that it is not coming from a soulless factory in China.
I reached out to The Wanderer’s founder Jess to learn more about her business, and how it is to run an ethical business.
How did you start The Wanderer?
I’m Jess, founder of The Wanderer London and mother to Olive. I started The Wanderer out of a deep personal need to create value through fair-trade partnership with a collective of weavers making beautiful baskets. It was, and still is, paramount that the trade is completely ethical and that we also make an extra donation, per basket, to an outstanding charity working within those weaving communities. Afrikids does extremely important work in the Northern Territory of Ghana.
How is it to be an independent business based in London, where high street brands and chains are omnipresent? Can you tell us a bit more about your vision of ethical trade and sustainability, and why is it important to you that The Wanderer reflects those values?
I believe small independent brands, like mine, are much more committed to ethical partnerships and sustainable fashion. Consumers are becoming more conscious of where their money goes, thanks to campaigns like #whomademyclothes and #fashionrevolution and so there is a growing interest in buying from smaller brands, who are usually more environmentally aware too and thankfully, this is becoming a priority for customers. I don’t feel in direct competition with high street chains because my products are handmade. I’ve been approached by big department stores wanting wholesale but our small group of human makers would not be able to keep up with the demand! Small scale production is preferable for loads of different reasons, namely workers’ rights and environmental impact. As individuals, we already leave a footprint. It is important to me that The Wanderer doesn’t add to the waste. It is also important to me that we foster meaningful relationships with the people who make our products. The weavers we work with set their own prices for the baskets they weave and we do not try to negotiate, this is reflected in the price of our products. The term ‘fair-trade’ is used too freely amongst some brands, without being certain that in fact the makers are being paid properly and given the rights they deserve. These are all factors that I have been meticulous with as I will have no part in greedy business models.
How did you connect with the makers in Ghana and Morocco?
I travelled to Morocco with Olive when she was only 3 months old. I took her to meet our weavers in a small village in the Atlas Mountains. She was completely taken care of by the weavers and their families while I did business. It was amazing. . Ghana is a different story as the area is malarial and Olive is breastfed so would need to come with me. We have a trip planned at the end of the year when she’ll be old enough to join me. In the meantime, I send my talented photographer, Jan Vrhovnik, out there to capture the stunning images of the weavers and their children. He also made short films about them which you can find on the website, one of which was selected by the Craft Council to be shown in the most recent London film festival.
What/who inspires and influences your work? Where do you seek for inspiration?
I’m inspired by anything truly beautiful, products and brands that respect the earth and its resources and who are committed to giving back in some way.
Don’t forget to join me on Instagram (@the_bubblist) for daily updates.