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August 7, 2015

The Little Market: Ethically & Sustainably Sourced

by Julieta Lucca

Back in 2012, Lauren Conrad & Hannah Skvarla came up with a concept born from a trip to Africa; to connect artisans from developing countries and their ethically and sustainably sourced one of a kind items with the rest of the world.

But there's more to it than that...

We talk to Hannah about her journey as the co-founder and The Little Market’s wonderful cause.

Tell us a little bit about you and what sparked your interest in the causes The Little Market supports.

Hannah: Lauren and I met while studying at FIDM [Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising]. We began traveling together and visited Bali, El Salvador, Tanzania, and Uganda. On each trip we would visit local markets and meet hardworking women artisans who were struggling to support themselves. We wanted to figure out a way to give these women access to a bigger market. We asked experts in International Development about the most sustainable way to set up an online store to support artisans from around the world. We partnered with non-profit Global Goods Partners in New York, to identify and work with artisans that shared our fair trade values.

When did you realise you wanted to become an ambassador and work with the Human Rights Watch?

Social justice has always been a very important part of my life. My family has always emphasized the importance of giving back through volunteering with organizations, learning about rights issues, and directly serving those in need. After completing my BA in Public Relations at Chapman University, I interned at Human Rights Watch’s New York office. I fell in love with the commitment of HRW’s 400 journalists, researchers, and attorneys to providing a voice for those facing a host of issues – women’s rights, children’s rights, refugee rights, LGBT rights, disability rights, health rights, etc. – right here at home and all around the world.

Tell us some of your favourite places that you've discovered while traveling.

In many ways, our favorite place is the last place we had the opportunity to visit. Meeting with the artisans in their homes and workshops, all of the data and statistics about a community fall away and suddenly you discover the faces, names, and stories that give context to each object.  For example, last March at Mayan Hands in Guatemala, Lauren had a lesson in using a loom while the children looked on!   The experience of seeing first-hand the dedication of the artisans to preserving techniques that have been passed down through generations makes our travels unforgettable.

Both Lauren and yourself explained that this lovely concept came up from a trip to Africa, where you realised you wanted to embark on a project to focus on helping women and children. What's the best part of knowing that you are promoting sustainable partnerships with artisans all over the world as well as empowering women to support their families at the same time they make a decent income?

We are humbled by the women we work with and grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in their future.

What's your favourite piece from The Little Market and why?

I love the overnight bag because it is so versatile. It is made from lovely fabrics hand-woven by women artisans in the highlands of Guatemala. The bag comes in 10 colors for the season and has room for all of your goodies for a trip, weekend getaway or just a day at the beach. Each purchase supports Maya Traditions, the non-profit social enterprise that employs 180 weavers, serving 500 family members with education and health programs.

Will The Little Market remain as an online shop or will you be expanding to physical stores?

We definitely are looking into the possibly of opening a store in the future, but for now we are going to continue with our online shop.

What's one thing people should know about The Little Market's ethos?

>We started The Little Market to empower women to support themselves. Every purchase at The Little Market generates income for the artisans.

The cultural diversity that you can perceive from the products on The Little Market is truly beautiful. What I really like about it all is that you make one of a kind pieces available to everyone else in the world, no matter where they are. Where will you be traveling next?

Our next trips are in the works. I have a trip planned for Morocco later this year. We are excited in embarking on our next adventure in the near future wherever it may take us!

In a world where everyone is looking to pay less for goods, stores are full of SALES and handmade and unique products all around the world are on the rise; it’s important to stop and think once every now and then about what exactly you are supporting every time you shop at your favourite high-street retailers and what you are enabling with each item your purchase. Think about the value of the products you buy every day and how your purchase will impact the economy or for instance, someone else’s life. Next time, think about the ways you can support causes like the ones The Little Market does. And remember that it’s not always about finding a great bargain but a great, durable and quality product.

For beautiful and full of character hand-made baskets, candles and homewares, visit www.thelittlemarket.com

Follow the little market

Instagram: @thelittlemarket
Twitter: @thelittlemarket
Facebook: facebook.com/thelittlemarket

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