You don’t have to trade in your ethics for great stuff in Chicago

TRADECHICA­GOBOUTIQUE­SAREA FAIR

Chicago Sun-Times - - Showcase Shopping -

For many peo­ple, the term “fair trade” is of­ten syn­ony­mous with cof­fee. Or Chris Martin of Cold­play. But Chicago is show­ing us that fash­ion is a huge part of fair trade as well.

Small, fe­male-run busi­nesses in Chicago have part­nered with ar­ti­sans in eco­nom­i­cally chal­lenged coun­tries such as Cam­bo­dia, In­dia and Gu­atemala to make sure they work in safe and fair con­di­tions and get a liv­able wage. The re­sult is beau­ti­ful, fash­ion-for­ward and af­ford­able cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories, and our money goes straight to the hard­work­ing peo­ple who cre­ated it.

“My mis­sion is to fight hu­man traf­fick­ing,” says Chicagoan Lia Va­le­rio, founder of hand­bag com­pany Malia De­signs. Three years ago and fresh off a Peace Corps trip, Va­le­rio chose to part­ner with artists in Cam­bo­dia to cre­ate funky hand­bags us­ing un­con­ven­tional ma­te­ri­als. So when you buy one of the cre­ations, you’re sup­port­ing Va­le­rio’s ef­fort to help dis­ad­van­taged women in Cam­bo­dia, many of whom are taken off the streets and em­ployed at Malia De­signs.

While the mis­sion is im­por­tant, Megy Kary­des, owner of World Shoppe, which part­ners with ar­ti­sans in South Africa, says the most im­por- Green­heart Shop: 1911 W. Divi­sion St.; (312) 264-1625; www.green­heartshop.com The Fair Trader: 1623 E. 55th St.; (773) 966-5269; www.the­fair­trader chicago.com Global Hand­made Hope: 428 W. Touhy Ave. in Park Ridge; (847) 720-4084; www.glob­al­hand­made hope.com Mus­tard Seed: 202 West­min­ster in Lake For­est; (847) 735-0211; www.mus­tard­seed­fair­trade.com tant thing is putting out a prod­uct that is beau­ti­ful and fash­ion­able enough to stand on its own.

“Most peo­ple are drawn to the prod­uct be­cause it’s pretty, and the fact that it’s fair trade is gravy,” says Kary­des, “Peo­ple say, ‘Not only is this a cool thing, but it’s giv­ing back.’ ”

Luck­ily there are bou­tiques in Chicago to sell cloth­ing that ven­dors such as Va­le­rio and Kary­des have worked so hard to bring to Chicago.

Green­heart Shop, 1911 W. Divi­sion, sells only fair trade and en­vi­ron­men- tally friendly prod­ucts, and ev­ery­thing from chil­dren’s clothes to dresses to jew­elry and ac­ces­sories. “We are us­ing the power of money to ef­fect pos­i­tive world change,” Green­heart Shop co-man­ager Al­li­son Havens says. “Get­ting peo­ple to re­al­ize how their pur­chases af­fect peo­ple around the planet.”

While eco-fash­ion tends to be on the ex­pen­sive side, the fair trade cloth­ing at Green­heart is ex­tremely af­ford­able. Not much in the store is more than $100.

Green­heart isn’t the only place to score cute, af­ford­able cloth­ing with a mis­sion be­hind it. Since Global Hand­made Hope opened in De­cem­ber in Park Ridge, there are four bou­tiques in the Chicago area solely com­mit­ted to sell­ing fair trade prod­ucts (see story at right).

Kary­des, who started her Web site, World Shoppe, six years ago, says Chicago’s fair trade com­mu­nity has re­ally grown.

“When we started, there wasn’t even one store in Chicago that sup­ported fair trade. Now there are four that are com­pletely ded­i­cated to it. To see stores open in this econ­omy, that is so great. The term is be­com­ing more palat­able for peo­ple to un­der­stand. it’s not this crazy cult they see.”

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