This video is the result of a six-month passion project that unites Aerende's commitment to social justice in manufacturing and our belief in the uplifting power of collaboration. We'd love to tell you more about, so if it's piqued your interest do read on.
Way back in March 2018, I (that's Emily, the founder of Aerende) was talking with blogger, events organiser, coach and charity founder Mel Wiggins about the issue of disconnect between the things we buy and what we know about the people who make them. At the time, she was thinking about creating a product to raise funds and awareness for her charity, Freedom Acts, a small organisation looking at modern slavery in Northern Ireland. We know how hard it is for charities to tell their stories and knew we had connections in an ethical supply chain that could be useful, so we offered to help.
Each year it's estimated that 25 million people are exploited through forced labour. This can take many forms and might not look the way you think – it can happen in offices or businesses in the UK as well as in the factories of Bangladesh or the cotton field of Turkmenistan. Our aim was to create a product that would encourage people to #lookcloser and think more deeply about the products they buy. We wanted to create an item that could be in daily use, that would be simple, elegant and multifunctional. And so our linen pouch was born.
When it came to manufacturing, we knew straight away we wanted to work with FabricWorks, a social enterprise based in East London that provides support for women, often living in deprived areas, and distanced from the employment market. They already make a number of items for Aerende, including our bed linen and macrame plant hangers. The pictures here show these women at work on the pouches; each one has written her name on the pouch she made in an important gesture that puts the maker at the heart of each item, not just the seller or beneficiary.
Going beyond lip service was very important to us. Integrity in manufacturing is not just how people who make the item are treated, but every element in that process – where the materials are grown, how they are woven or dyed, where they have to be shipped from and to, and the amount of waste and/or packaging created a result. It was also important to create a genuinely functional item that could be used in multiple ways again and again. We are proud to have considered every item in the pouch against these criteria and hope you will love the end product.
For full transparency, here are some important notes and sourcing information:
Freedom Acts have helped fund this project because Aerende is not a point where it can sustain these types of collaborations financially. When we say proceeds, we mean proceeds after everything has been paid for and the time of everyone involved in the project has been funded.
Our linen is sourced from a supplier in Lithuania who sells on Etsy. Aerende does not yet have the purchasing power to go direct to factories (though we hope to achieve this in 2019) so we take the financial hit of making small orders to ensure we have a personal and trusting relationship. Our linen is not certified organic but chosen because, as an alternative to cotton, it uses much less water, fewer pesticides and is grown closer to home.
Zips for this pouch were kindly donated by Slikzips. They were the only zip company we looked at that had a stated ethical policy and were so helpful in creating the size and colour of zip we wanted.
Liners were created from a mix of donated fabric and left-over ends from a previous product. They are mostly organic cotton, but some elements were untracaeble.
Labels are made from linen and were printed in the Peak District a small business that specialised in printing on natural materials called Calton Berry.
Film and all photography by our friends Emma and Kiri.