I recently discovered Eighteen Rabbit, a stylish fair trade retailer based in Hay-on-Wye. It allows us to shop with the peace of mind that all of their suppliers receive a fair wage and are hand-picked from all corners of the globe on the strength of their designs.
It's not just a great way to support these talented local suppliers as a way of social change, but it's also a fantastic place to shop from jewellery to clothing, home furnishing to ceramics.
I spoke with co-founder Louise to find out a little bit more...
Where does the name Eighteen Rabbit come from?
We get asked this a lot! Eighteen Rabbit was a King who ruled the Mayan city of Copan. When we visited Copan on our travels, we learnt that he was also a great patron of the arts and creativity.
Tell us a little about Eighteen Rabbit and your Fair Trade policy?
We're aiming to challenge perceptions of fairly traded products with a range of stylish, contemporary apparel and gifts. All producers are required to complete detailed information about their working conditions, staff well-being and wages. In line with the World Fair Trade Organisation’s principles, producers are often paid up front with an additional premium offered to allow for investment in training or tools.
Which areas of the world do you work with?
At the moment we have items from Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Nepal, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Kenya and Ethiopia - and the list is growing rapidly!
Do you have a personal relationship with these areas?
In many cases we do. Our beautiful rugs, mirrors and hand-crafted figures were sourced in person on a recent visit to Mexico. We're dealing directly with the producers in Cambodia and Nepal who produce our exclusive range of jewellery made from bullets and bomb casings (above), bags and wallets from recycled sacks, and stunning copper vases. We try to deal as closely as possible with the end producers, but in some cases we work with UK, European or American wholesalers to source a range of products which is unique in the UK.
How do you source your artisans/projects?
We're always researching new possible product lines, and in an ideal world would spend several months a year directly sourcing from around the world (we can dream!). For now, we conduct a lot of online research and it's surprising how many small producer groups have a web presence. We've also had some great producers who have found us via unusual routes: a local couple were living in Argentina and put us in touch with a lovely family company who produce our soft toys, and another past customer is currently in Ethiopia and has sent us samples of some really unusual jewellery which we hope to be selling soon.
You're based in Hay-on-Wye, do you have any projects based in your twin town, Timbuktu?
Links with Timbuktu are quite difficult at present following the recent occupation of Mali by Islamist rebels. However, we are hoping to develop a project with a group there who create wonderful patterns with natural dyes. A Welsh designer is going to help with designs - possibly accessories and homeware - and we'll stock the items here. (You can find out more about Hay's link with Timbuktu here, of which I'm a trustee of in my spare time!).
You've got some really unique and inspiring products in-store, what's your personal favourite?
It changes on a daily basis! I'm loving this simple vase, designed by Piet Hein Eek (Dutch eco-designer) and made in Vietnam. It reminds me of a traditional milk jug but with a modern shape.
What's next for Eighteen Rabbit?
Well, believe it or not, we're looking forward to Christmas! Our winter range includes some gorgeous knitwear designed in Dalston and made in Nepal and some lovely kitchenware made from bamboo. Beyond that, we would love to expand our shop to other sites in the UK... who knows what 2014 might bring!!
If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning the flower earrings made from bomb casings found in Cambodia then check out the T-Shirt and Tails Twitter.