Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Partners in good

Meet Rowena and Sergio, wife and husband (and business partners) living in Lima, Peru. There is no other way to say it. Without these two incredibly dedicated and incredibly generous souls, Fair Indigo would not exist today.
Rowena and Sergio, partners in good
We met them way back in 2005, when they were both (unmarried at the time) working at our dress shirt factory in the Chorrillos neighborhood of Lima. Yes, a real life dress shirt factory romance that you see on TV all the time! Shortly thereafter, they married, started their own sourcing business, and had two beautiful sons, Joaquin and Sebastian.
Rowena, Sergio, Joaquin, Sebastian, Christmas 2010
Joaquin was recently the subject of one of the funnier home movies we've seen in a long time. It provided all of us here some therapeutic laughter for an afternoon. While Joaquin was excited to jump around on the trampoline, his little play date Andrea had other ideas.

Along the way, Sergio's brother Nicolas has also helped Fair Indigo, especially in our relationship with Angeles Anonimos, our fair trade jewelry partner that trains artisans with disabilities in life and work skills. Nicolas took the Angels under his own wings and made a difference in many lives there.
Brothers, Sergio and Nicolas
And what exactly do these fine people do for us? Every fair trade facility we work with in Peru, they helped us find. Every shipment that leaves Peru, they arrange inspection. Every English/Spanish technical translation that needs to happen to create a garment, covered.  They are our eyes and ears on the ground in our most important production region outside the United States and have welcomed us into their business and into their homes.  We will soon feature more stories about some of the adventures we've shared along the way and the heartwarming producers they have connected us with. To Sergio, Rowena, Nicolas...muchas gracias!

PS: Sergio and Rowena work with small companies like ours (and a big one now and then) but say their dream is to work with "10 Fair Indigos." They are true fans of underdogs in an apparel world dominated more and more by giants. If you know someone who has some organic clothing sourcing needs in Peru and can place decent size orders, we can connect you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cotton's Perfect Storm

As commodities go, cotton has not been that different from others on the open market. The weather and worldwide government subsidy policies fluctuated within a fairly narrow range while worldwide demand slowly increased from year to year.

Today, that model has been turned on its head. Unprecedented bad weather (severe droughts and floods) has devastated crops in almost every major cotton producing region in the world including near complete and heart-breaking washouts in large parts of Australia and Pakistan. All in 2010.

Burgeoning middle classes in large developing countries like China, India, and Brazil have kept demand growing at its fastest pace in years. And the demand for organic cotton is growing even faster.

Last last year I got a call from Sergio, our partner on the ground in Peru. "We have never seen anything like this," his voice had a sound of impending doom. We produce our entire line of organic baby gifts as well as some of our women's organic tees  in Peruvian cooperatives. Sergio suggested that we buy enough cotton to supply an entire year's worth of production because of predicted further price increases, something that is extremely difficult for a company of our size.

While spending time with our other partners, Jim and Sandy of Green 3 Apparel in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, they talked of "getting killed" by cotton prices and how challenging 2011 was going to be because of it. Green 3 supplies us with almost all of our USA-made clothing.

Headlines talk of big companies being squeezed by cotton prices. If big companies are being squeezed, small companies like ours are truly being choked.

The bottom line. The price of cotton clothing is going up this year. There is no way around it. We pledge to do everything we can to create other efficiencies in our business to keep prices as reasonable as possible. Fair Indigo has always been committed to the concept of "sustainable pricing." Setting prices that are fair to workers (supporting living wage jobs) and provide just enough profit to continue to develop new products and find new customers. Long-term, this is the only sustainable economic model that will support workers and consumers here and around the world. Something we strongly believe in.