This week, we are continuing our International Women’s Day celebration with Amanda Judge, founder of Faire Collection. Amanda and her team travel to remote corners of the globe to develop the skills of marginalized artisans, and they are proud to share their undiscovered talents with you! Faire Collection is deeply committed to elevating the lives of their artisan partners in Ecuador and Vietnam, by providing dignified wages and holistic social programs that provide a path out of poverty. The jewelry is high quality with a story of adventure; it reflects the soul of the artisan and celebrates their cultural heritage. Amanda says, “This is the new luxury.”
1. What inspired you to start Faire Collection and work with women artisans?
I was interviewing women artisans as part of a project for a Microfinance company. I was so impressed with the spirit of the women I met that I was drawn to find a permanent way to improve their livelihoods. They had incredibly difficult lives, but always had a smile on their faces and took such pride in their craft. For the women I was interviewing, creating something beautiful was more than just a way to earn some money—it was a way to honor their heritage: to honor their parents and grandparents, their country, and most importantly their Quichua culture. Over the decade since I began working in Ecuador, our staff has always been primarily women, although we have no policy against men and do occasionally have a man or two on our team. Currently we are all women though! These women hold their families together. They care for children, organize the household, and work every spare minute. We have a very dedicated artisan staff.
2. How many artisans/artisan groups do you work with in Ecuador & Vietnam?
10 women in Ecuador and 10 women in Vietnam who are all artisan staff. We also have local women in positions of leadership in both Ecuador and Vietnam, and of course in the US.
3. What is your personal favorite product and why?
I love the Carmelita Necklace in Turquoise! I can’t be bothered to get too creative with my outfits—I rely on good boots, comfortable jeans and flattering t-shirts. So I love that I can throw on this necklace and all of a sudden I look incredibly put together, and feel like a cooler version of myself. Not a day goes by that I don’t get lots of comments on this great necklace.
4. When women work, the impact of the investment is greatly multiplied. What benefits or positive changes have you seen in the communities where the women work/live?
Many of the women that work for Faire Collection are now the main breadwinners of their family. In the beginning we had some instances where the husbands didn’t love that fact, and there was some pushback in the family environments. But after an adjustment phase, women have told us that they feel more respected by their husbands and that the husband/wife relationship has become more equal and respectful with the woman earning more than the husbands. The role shift has been really incredible to see, and I think this will have a huge impact on the next generation.
5. We love your commitment to empowering other women! What advice would you give to girls who are interested in getting involved in causes they are passionate about?
I’d say, go out and travel and get to know the people whom your cause may benefit. Live amongst them and learn from them by forming honest relationships. Don’t just volunteer and work with agencies at headquarters, but get out and talk to and live amongst those whom you want to empower. There’s often such a difference between policy and reality. I feel it’s crucial to know the beneficiaries of your cause personally so that you can understand the difficulties they face, in order to customize solutions to their particular reality.
6. Which women have the biggest impact on your life?
Nancy (pictured above) and Olga are two Quichua woman that I began to work with when I first started Faire Collection. They are about my age, but when I met them I was 27 and single, while they had families and multiple children. Olga didn’t have a bathroom and neither had a real kitchen. They took me in and taught me about their culture, their craft and country, and the difficulties of living on a couple dollars a day. They grew into the middle class, but that’s not to say all the difficulties of living and breaking out of generational poverty eased away. Their strength in the face of hardship, and their warmth to all those around them is a daily inspiration.