A Conversation With Folkdays
I discovered the fair-trade brand Folkdays during one of my many hours spent foraging the realms of the world wide web (here is the In Seven Days Around The Web feature with them). What straight away struck me as special was their approach to good design and style - it’s not often you come across fair-trade brands that do more than just offer fair-trade products. But it wasn’t just their clean design and beautiful items that made me look twice; on their website Folkdays introduce the artisan of each of their products, giving the brand a much more personal touch. Furthermore they give 10% of their sales profits back to the artisans, in order to enable them to improve their production facilities.
I met up with Lisa, the brand’s founder, and talked to her about Folkdays’ history, its future plans and why she thinks fair-trade fashion is an untapped market.
Situated in a beautiful old industrial building right in the centre of Kreuzberg, Berlin, the Folkdays office is a small but bright and beautiful space. Lisa tells me of the brand’s beginnings and her own background.
After studying political science and development economics at university, she worked for Oxfam and in management consultancy. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, she had always toyed with the idea of starting her own business and was aware that the fair-trade fashion sector was in serious need of a makeover.
Fast-forward to 2014 - Folkdays celebrated their first birthday just a month ago. Lisa tells me of the brand’s artisans and what they have achieved so far. With over 20 artisans from places like Laos, Turkey and Ecuador, Folkdays have managed to set up a network of craftsmen and -women from all over the world.
"The biggest challenge with starting a clothing line will be the sizing, so we're trying to focus on pieces that are simple."
Lisa has big plans: Next year she is hoping to present the brand’s first fashion line. At the moment, they only offer accessories and small interior items, like kilims from a small factory in Turkey and silk scarves from Cambodia. However, fashion has always been where Lisa was heading.
"I still don't buy much fair fashion, because I don't like most of the clothes on offer - the easiest way to avoid the issue is to buy vintage."
Trying to buy fair-trade clothing proves to be a difficult task. Being a pro in the field, she knows just about every cool fair-trade brand there is - and there aren't many. Lisa believes people don't buy fair-trade fashion unless it is also of good quality and design - something Folkdays certainly manages. Their well-designed website was recently featured by It’s Nice That, an online platform I greatly admire.
Lisa shows me some of the Folkdays products - especially their kilims take my fancy, the bright irregular patterns fascinate me. Produced by women from the town of Van, Turkey, they are a way for the women to translate their feelings into physical objects. Usually these "Tribal Conflict Carpets" would be given to friends, but Lisa liked them so much, that she chose to sell them on the Folkdays website. Every item is a one-off; a contrast between two colours and sharp edged shapes may indicate conflicts, while soft transitions and rounded shapes translate as the opposite.
"We all tend to think that people living in the developing countries are behind the times. But when I visit my artisans, I find myself astounded at their knowledge, their craftsmanship. I'm in awe of all these cultures."
It's these stories that make Folkdays unique. Every single product tells a story, and while said stories often get lost in transit between the maker and the item's new owner, Lisa and her team make sure they don't.
"I couldn't have done anything else."
Lisa and I talk for what feels like hours. Working for such a rewarding project and seeing your work impacting the lives of artisans must be incredible - it's certainly something that I would love to achieve one day. When I bring this up she smiles, there's never really been another option for her.
I was wowed by Lisa and her project and will certainly be keeping up with Folkdays in the future. If you haven't already, please do take a look at their lovely website.