I have started writing this (covid letter) several times...as you can see it is now over six months late.
Thanks to all of you who have checked in on us!! The short answer to your questions - 2020 has actually been really good for this brand and I am super grateful to you all for your support over the past year!
The weirdness of this year started for me when I woke up the beginning of March to a phone blown up with messages along the lines of, "Are you still alive?" (Sadly not the first time, but the first time this happened in my own home in the US.)
I faintly remembered strange sounds in the middle of that night, but just getting back from India a few days before, I thought all this was just a busy street and jet-lag dreams. Turns out a tornado had ripped through my neighborhood and destroyed homes 5 blocks away.
Yeah I should have been in the tub.
Scrolling through photos on the news before I got up the courage to look outside, I saw my friends businesses and restaurants down the street completely. gone.
Assuming that my car had a massive tree on it, I finally looked outside to a street that was miraculously the same, and to my slight dismay, no tree on my 20 year old car.
Two weeks later I woke up with a strange dry cough and a world that was not the same.
You know the rest.
In January, I made the kind of strange decision to cut more than half our revenue wholesaling to small boutiques, and instead decided to focus on selling directly to consumers online. Despite having close friends and incredible supporters over the years that we sold to; I have also had horrible experiences...stores going bankrupt when they owed us for orders or dropping large orders mid-production. These stresses added up and I realized despite this revenue giving valuable jobs to people around the world, it was no longer a sustainable way for me to live. It turns out this was our saving grace this year as many of these retailers understandably would have had to drop their orders for Spring when they were already made, leaving us with massive amounts of merchandise that wasn't right to sell online. (A reminder to me those quiet nudges are usually right.)
This year has been weird and hard, but for me personally it has been refreshing. (Except for maybe the elections - as someone who has lived through a coup in Honduras and election violence in Kenya I might have been freaking out a bit :))
Quarantine happened when I was about to sign a new studio lease, so instead I ended up cutting employees and doing most everything from my own home - feels a bit like when I first started ten years ago - but honestly has made my job a lot less stressful. In additional, this tragedy unlike so many government coups and hurricanes and earthquakes and floods I have had to deal with as a fair trade company - this one has been different. From the seamstress living in the middle of the bush to the businessman in NY behind his emails. Everyone gets it! They just understand and are more giving on both ends and I am not in the middle trying to get the other side to understand.
I remember several years ago trying to explain why a retailer shouldn't drop a $20k order because it was going to be delayed 2 weeks after an earthquake. It was heartbreaking to explain how that was exactly when this group needed more work and cutting the order would do even more damage after such destruction.
Instead, I have gotten emails from you all asking how you can support our seamstresses even more when hearing about the extremely strict quarantines in many countries.
Which leads me to my decision to ditch black Friday sales and use this opportunity to give back to our seamstresses and weavers who have been hit really hard this year. Although we somehow have miraculously been able to support our groups at close to the same level as last year, we are still short. Many countries we work in: Honduras, Bolivia and Nepal have had some of the strictest quarantines. Months and months of only being able to leave their house once a week to buy food and that is all. Most of their families jobs have been cut. Most of our seamstresses have been the ONLY ones of their family with a job - and able to even buy food.
This year instead of giving discounts, we wanted to give this additional money AND match it with our own donation (the cost of the garment that has already been paid for) and give back to the small NGO's we partner with and entrepreneurs working from their homes. As always, we paid for our merchandise before it even sells, so they have already been paid for their work. This means 100% of the amount you pay for a garment goes back to them to cover extra costs this year and contribute to their own entrepreneurial goals and families education.
If it was not for your support this year, we would not be able to give back in this way, so THANK YOU!
and THANK YOU for helping us give them a little extra income right now.
And to those of you who were looking forward to a sale, don't worry there will be more in the future :)
My mind has flashed back to the morning after the tornado so many times this year (as every month a new 'thing' happens). It was the scene of complete destruction as a backdrop to strangers helping dig out their neighbors houses, businesses giving away food for months. Despite being one of the worst days it felt like a party with blaring music and crowds of people laughing - it was weird! It might sound trite, but this year it has proved so true for me: when tragedy strikes look for the humanity.
This is our chance to be that for people who make our clothes. The people who rarely get a second thought from us. Thank you so much for helping them!