Lisa Jaspers // Founder of FOLKDAYS.
Interviewed by Cherie Birkner
"Leave every place better than you found it."
What inspired you to found FOLKDAYS?
After studying development economics in London, I decided to work in the development aid sector, first for the non-profit Oxfam and later for a consultancy. For me personally founding FOLKDAYS was the perfect way of combining an entrepreneurial business model with offering a straightforward approach to poverty reduction in developing countries. The idea to develop products based on the skills and talents of indigenous artisans around the world which also work design-wise in our western market, was and still is the driving force for what we do at FOLKDAYS.
FOLKDAYS sells products made by artisans around the world who are experts in their craft. On your website you mention that you have travelled to more than 10 developing countries in order to find them - how do you actually go about finding them?
I do a lot of research before I travel a region. I especially look for interesting crafts and high quality materials that are indigenous to specific regions. I also use the network of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) to find artisans that are already familiar with Fair Trade Principles. And when I travel of course keep my eyes and ears open and ask around. Of course sometimes the best craftspeople do not have websites.
By sourcing your craftsmanship from developing countries you don't only keep traditions alive, but you also aim to help entire communities through the use of their skills. Can you tell us what your greatest success has been in this context?
Every single artisan we work with contributes to our impact. To put this in numbers: we calculated that last year (2016) we managed to finance about 200 artisans and their families in 16 different countries. I think that’s pretty great:)
What questions are your customers asking you about the products?
They always want to know how I find our producers. That is always the first question :)
How does the story of a piece influence customers interest in making a purchase?
Some people are very interested in the story of the products, some people just want to buy something they find beautiful. But I think both are totally fine. I am always happy if people like our products, regardless of the context or story. I take it as a compliment. But of course I like it as well if people are as nerdy as I am about the fun facts of every products and its producer.
What are your predictions for the future of sustainable fashion?
Wow, this is a big question: I am not very optimistic about changing the fashion scene through just providing better alternatives. I do think, this is important, but I also think that we don’t have 30-50 years until fair fashion becomes mainstream. Too many lives of people in developing countries depend on it. I think this is were our government has to step in and put pressure on either the government of the producing countries to take better care of labor standards or make it possible that companies can be sued in Germany if they act like they do for negligence.
Least words? Something I did not ask and you would like to share?
Leave every place better than you found it <3