Ethical Fashion, slow fashion and sustainable fashion are trends that are increasingly visible in shows like NYNOW. And overseas artisan enterprises are gaining visibility. And there were more options for sourcing fair trade products than ever. Options for buying fair trade products include: from US-based Fair Trade Federation members, from non-US-based designers and exporters (such as the Mayan Store), and from artisan enterprises such as Sidai Designs sponsored under the Artisan Resource section.
There was a strong showing of Fair Trade Federation members in the Global Handmade section and for the first time there was a fair trade product display on the ground floor to drive traffic to Fair Trade Federation companies. In addition to FTF members and other traditional fair trade importers from the US, there were numerous exporter / designers from the developing world scattered throughout the show. This August 2015 show saw a much larger contingent of artisan enterprises exhibiting from abroad under the Artisan Resource section. This array of options reflects the increasing accessibility of products from the developing world and the growing ability of artisan enterprises to represent themselves at international trade shows.
Does the increase of fair trade exhibitors reflect a growth in demand for globally sourced handmade products? I assume the answer is yes. Overall trends in the gift and fashion markets make for a welcoming environment for fair trade handicrafts from the developing world. For example, 'Boho chic' is a popular style that can be seen not only in clothing, jewelry, bags, but also in home decor and tabletop. That's great news for artisans in South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East who fit into this genre. Also, the trend towards handmade / small batch products by US makers is giving global producers of artisan handmade products a terrific opportunity to be included in the mix.
Generally speaking, professional gift industry buyers rarely ask outright if a product is 'Fair Trade'. (Unfortunately we're not quite there yet). But the origin and authenticity of a product is paramount. Everyone is on the look out for truly hot products that are on-trend and have a great back story. If the holy grail is a product that is handmade, using traditional techniques, is ethically sourced and comes in at the right price point, then fair trade products can deliver something that is unique and a great value to retailers.