One quote that has inspired me throughout life is: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
I am the designer and founder of Passion Lilie, a women’s fair trade clothing line based in New Orleans that uses sustainable materials. Many of our fabrics feature the centuries-old art form of hand block printing, which utilizes a hand carved teak wood block that is dipped in dye and stamped by hand onto cotton. The printing process begins by pre-washing the fabrics in the river in order to reduce water consumption. The fabrics are then hand dyed in small vats, laid flat on a table and hand stamped with the wood block to create a unique pattern. Finally, the fabric is rinsed in the river and hung to dry in the sun, minimizing energy consumption.
About three years ago, I discovered these Indian fabrics while working with other fair trade cooperatives and fell in love with the labor-intensive art form. The possibilities of prints, colors and designs quench the creative and design side of my brain.
The journey from concept to creation is challenging, especially when coordinating with artisans from a different country. For example, during monsoon season and during cold damp days, we are forced to put our production process on hold, because our fabrics rely heavily on good weather. After many sleepless nights and feeling like I am literally putting my sweat and tears into my work, I have learned some valuable lessons.
- Tell your story: Share the ethical processes of your company with your customers. After sharing how our fabrics are made, our customers truly appreciate the unique process, are more inclined to pay a price premium and they understand why we have such long lead times.
- Create positive relationships: I found that words of encouragement and truly involving the artisans in the production process can significantly increase their desire to uphold our ethical practices.
- Be flexible: When putting the needs of the environment and humans first, it is important to be flexible in your designs and business processes. Never forget the reason why you are in business.
- Be honest and authentic: Your business and products may not be perfect on the first attempt, but don’t be afraid to share your successes and failures. Show your customers that you will turn your failures into opportunities to make improvements.
- Believe in your product: If you don’t fully believe in ethical fashion and your products then you will never convince your customers to buy your products. You have to love what you do with all your heart.
Despite the challenges I have faced on the road to ethical entrepreneurship, it is very rewarding to know I am making a difference in the world. By creating ethically made garments, I am fulfilling what I believe to be my mission in life… to change the world through fashion with Passion Lilie.
Katie Schimdt is a global traveler, philanthropists by heart and a designer. With a BA in Drama from the University of California, Irvine, Katie began her career as a costume designer. While obtaining a MS in Luxury and Fashion Management from SKEMA Business School in France, she learned about ethical fashion and was inspired to combine her love for fashion with her desire to improve the world. In 2012, as the Director of a fair trade organization, Katie visited a small workshop in India. After seeing first hand the many benefits of fair trade, she decided to create Passion Lilie.