This organization is helping Guatemalan artisans fight back against online merchants who resell their products
There’s something special about handcrafted Guatemalan goods. Whether you’re picking up a handwoven tote threaded together with rainbow brights, or a handmade leather stamped with an intricate design, there’s something about things hecho a mano that feels special. While these artisans work hard on their pieces, tourism (and the fact that 65% of Guatemala’s population lives below the poverty line) causes these goods to be sold for way less than they’re worth — think a $200 bag being sold for $35. That’s not even the worst part.
Many people who buy Guatemalan pieces will mark them up and resell them on Etsy, claiming that they’re supporting local Guatemalan artisans. Thankfully, Ethical Fashion Guatemala is here to fight on behalf of these artisans, their work, and their livelihood.
With the goal of giving the power back to the people who make these goods, James Dillon and Kara Goebel, the founders of Ethical Fashion Guatemala, are offering up a new alternative to shop these handmade wares.
The duo, who have been living in Guatemala for the past seven years, has created a platform to sell these artisans’ products while giving the artisans a majority of the profit. In an interview with Fashionista, James says,
"The artisans have limited internet access, but they follow the U.S. every day online. They have no website development skills or even the cash to have a website of their own; no Paypal, no credit cards, and the Guatemalan postal service — the only means they did have to ship products — collapsed two years ago."
The products currently sold on the site are made by 40 weaving co-operatives and more than 1,000 local artisans, and there’s more to come. According to Fashionista, the finished site will have 2,000 copyrighted and trademarked pieces from 43 weaving co-operatives, plus art, leatherwear, and ceramics made by artisans. Plus, since Ethical Fashion Guatemala is only keeping 10% of the profit (to cover shipping and running the site) and giving the rest back to the artisans, you know these Guatemalan artists are getting the rates and recognition they deserve.
That’s not all. These two are also taking legal matters into their own hands by going after over 64,000 sellers on Etsy, as well as those on sites like Shopify, who are reselling products without the artisans’ consent. Legal action was taken this month, and James seems optimistic that Etsy’s team will cooperate with their requests for infringing product removal.
We’re crossing our fingers that this happens, and that Ethical Fashion Guatemala helps to create a new, ethical niche for handcrafted Guatemalan goods.