5 MINUTE INTERVIEW | TRIBE ALIVE
We focused on Fair Trade in May, and so the next in our '5 Minute Interview' series sees us putting some questions to Tribe Alive about their supply chains and the relationships they build with their producers. Speaking with the lovely Hannah Paul, we ask about Tribe Alive's motto 'ABOUT WOMEN' and how that influences the way they design and source their garments.
What inspired the building of the Tribe Alive brand?
Tribe Alive was born to address the core issue of child relinquishment on a global scale: namely, the economic insecurity facing women in the developing world. Women are key to our mission. Our brand moto is “ABOUT WOMEN” and it’s not just because we’re an office full of women who live to love and support other women, it’s because women are the key to eradicating poverty - which is what we aim to do. Tribe Alive’s passion for quality, handmade products and responsible commerce is a platform that empowers women to raise themselves out of poverty across the world. We employ hundreds of artisans in Guatemala, Haiti, India, Honduras, and Fort Worth, Texas.
How would you describe your style? What influences your design?
Tribe Alive is intentionally designed, ethically manufactured, and artisan made. We take a minimalist approach to an everyday look. The current collection brings our mission of sustainability to a whole new level. We set out to create a capsule wardrobe of classic, timeless pieces in a neutral palette with fabrics meant to last a lifetime. Silhouettes are inspired and influenced by trends, but in subtle nods that will transcend the seasons. Chic black and white, slub cotton styles from India are playfully complimented by upcycleld denim pieces hand sewn in Guatemala. Our upcycled denim collection is made entirely of fashion waste, brought to new life in this beautiful line. This entire line was created to fit a range of beautiful body types effortlessly and appeal to many age groups and wardrobe styles. The Spring/Summer 2019 Collection is a symbol of homage to Mother Nature and her song of peace running through each element of Earth around us.
Why does trading fairly matter to you as a business?
For Tribe Alive, it is all that matters to us as a business. If we fail in trading fairly, then nothing that we are doing matters. Tribe Alive was founded on this idea and it is at the core of our mission. To put it shortly, Tribe Alive would not exist without trading fairly with our artisan parters because it is the reason behind what we do.
What process do you go through when building and developing a working relationship with a producer or supplier?
Our relationships that we build with our studios all around the world take time because they are both personal and working relationships. Like any other relationship, we must build trust with one another. We work in Guatemala, India, Honduras, and Haiti. Every partnership looks different and our approaches have looked differently, but the process looks like us traveling to these countries and spending time with our partners. Our relationships are built on friendships and then come the work relationships. We come alongside our artisan partners and they come alongside us. We work together and it truly is a worldwide artistic collaboration.
Do you have certain ‘baselines’ in terms of worker conditions that you insist on?
Fast fashion focuses on speed and low costs in order to deliver frequent new collections inspired by runway looks or celebrity styles. ... Criticisms of fast fashion include its negative, environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals, increasing levels of textile waste, and inhumane labor practice. According to UNICEF an estimated 170 million children are currently working in the clothing industry all over the world and regardless of the worker’s age, the average pay equates to roughly 50 cents per day. At Tribe Alive we take these facts and statistics very seriously and we work to do our small part to create a different reality for the future of fashion. We focus on safe and inspiring work environments, shorter work days, living wage pay, bonus incentives and social initiatives that honor and inspire wholeness in our teams. We’re committed to using upcycled and organic textiles that are non-toxic and use minimal water and energy sources. We believe in an ethical and transparent supply chain and work to ensure that our model fights against the status quo and encourages others to follow suit. We’re here to expose the lie that you need to compromise ethics for business and we’re growing a brand all while honoring the earth and the maker.
Why does empowering women matter to you?
Studies show that women reinvest up to 90% of their incomes back into their families, compared to just 30-40% by men. Mothers provide better nutrition and health care and spend more on their children. Investing in women and girls creates long- term social and economic benefits for all individuals, their communities, and the world as a whole. It’s why we are committed to 80% of our artisan network remaining female. It’s why every Tribe Alive artisan is paid the exact same living wage, and it’s why all of our production managers are women. Our mission is also rooted in educating girls... Because girls are where it all starts. 31 million girls around the world don’t have the opportunity to pursue an education. Every day, they are taken out of school and forced to work or MARRY. One out of five girls in the developing world do not even complete the sixth grade. However, we know that educated girls and women are healthier, have the skills to make choices over their own future and can lift themselves, their communities and EVEN their countries out of poverty. Even one more year in school makes a difference. A girl's income will increase by up to 25% every year she stays in school. Currently at Tribe Alive, 93% of our artisan’s children are in school, whereas 4 years ago only an estimated 35% were attending. We see education being crucial in our mission and are currently developing a sponsorship program so that we can ensure that 100% of our artisans’ children remain in school and go on to change their communities for the better. So, that’s the start of what we do. ... Educate Girls. Empower women. Fight Poverty.
Do you feel the fashion industry is moving fast enough in developing more transparency in supply chains?
My initial response is yes. When looking at the past, we have made so much progress. There is finally awareness and people are invested and passionate about fighting the fast fashion crisis. We are moving in a much more positive direction because people are beginning to care. However, fast fashion continues to grow, and ethical fashion will always be up against a five dollar t-shirt at Forever 21. So, as a society we are definitely making progress but until the fast fashion leaders of the world edit their supply chains, it will never be universal. We must keep spreading awareness, and I truly believe that the more society pauses and pays attention to their purchasing power, the more progress we will make.