Who Are We?
Our makeup: all seven artisans are Peruvian and female. Each artisan is paid fair, living wages according to the Peruvian living wage calculator. Huaywasi employs a program manager with a stipend, often, but not always, a foreigner from the U.S. Of the three foreign program managers we have hired, three identify as white. Two have been Peruvian. The Huaywasi Program Manager works with LLI’s founder and Executive Director who was previously paid, but works now as a volunteer (due to COVID-19 financial limitations). She is white. LLI is on-boarding a new executive director who is Peruvian.
LLI’s Board of directors is currently made up of six women, all white with the exception of one BIPOC. The Board of Directors this week is completing an organizational assessment regarding anti-racist policies and thus, will spend the next year focused on individual categories (ie, decision making, budget, etc) to implement an action plan to make changes. Stay tuned to LLI’s blog for more updates.
How have we failed to be anti-racist?
POC in decision making roles. A preface: we had Peruvian women in management roles prior to the current situation, however, the Peruvian artisans themselves made the unanimous decision to hire foreign candidates. We struggled with this, however, we want to be respectful of their wishes. We’ve discussed it with the Huaywasi artisans and are understanding of their desires for a foreign candidate. We’ve found this to be an extremely complex issue and we are open to ideas and dialogue about this. However, overall, we need to be more actively seeking out POC candidates, Peruvian or foreign, for the next management role.
Advocating for the Black Community. This one is more simple: we’ve pretty much had next to no involvement speaking up for the Black community in the U.S. (and in Peru, for that matter). We've been watching from the sidelines and not using our platform in an adequate way.
Investing in Black Businesses in the U.S. Our spending habits in the U.S. have been mostly limited to costs of fairs and markets and printing services. We have not sought out any Black businesses to support in this process-- and as much as we hate to say it, have relied on the most cost effective, cheapest options… which we know often does not reflect a business that holds the same values as us. So... what does that say about us? We didn’t like the answer.
How are we committed to improvement?
- Individual self-assessments have been completed by each of our leadership volunteers: Jill (exiting manager), Deb (incoming manager), and Lara (ED of LLI).
- Honest conversations will take place based on racial oppression among Huaywasi’s artisans and team members once COVID-19 quarantine is lifted in Peru. (Note, this could be many months still).
- LLI Board of Directors are completing an organizational assessment and have committed to making concrete changes over the course of the next year(s).
Seeking out a more diverse customer base: We pride ourselves on having a very diverse group of models that are the face of our brand. 66% of models on our SS20 New Arrivals page at the time of this post, are BIPOC. Although this is something we are proud of, we still recognize this is not enough and are working to avoid token representation. We sell our products at Fair Trade fairs and markets, and whether we like it or not, we know these fairs are frequented by predominantly white shoppers.
Moving forward we will be actively seeking markets and fairs in more diverse neighborhoods so we can become more accessible to the BIPOC community. Two specific fairs are currently on the radar that we plan to apply for as soon as in-person events are able to happen in a safe and healthy manner (we are always open to suggestions from our Chicagoland community as well!).
Actively seeking diversity across all positions: We are currently seeking partnerships with organizations that have the ability to connect us with diverse individuals looking to volunteer and work abroad. We have specifically contacted Diversity Abroad, a platform and network committed to connecting global academic and professional opportunities to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. By seeking these partnerships, we will be able to post our internship and jobs to their sites, allowing us access to thousands of talented and diverse young people with global experiences.
Investing in Black Businesses: We recognize that we have not previously sought out any Black-owned businesses to support, but we are striving to change this. We are currently working with a Black-owned print shop in the Chicago area to print our new postcards and tags, but we still have a lot more work to do. Moving forward we will be actively seeking new opportunities for us to be investing in Black businesses.
Using our platform:
For the entire month of June, Huaywasi has muted all original content and promotions in order to shine the spotlight on organizations and resources important in creating change. We are focusing our platform on other informational and supplemental sources where you can learn more as an ally and/or donate to organizations leading the movement towards a United States without racism, oppression, and hate.
- Learn more about Racism in the Fashion Industry: How to be Part of the Change in our blog post where we discuss the fashion industry’s deep rooted relationship with racism. We also featured organizations that are striving to make differences, petitions you can sign, and black-owned conscious fashion brands that you can support.
- To conclude June being Pride Month, we focused our content on the Black LGBTQIA+ community that is continuing to make strides for a more free and equal society. We highlighted educators, artists, organizations, and brands that are specifically helping to empower those in the LGBTQIA+ community and are constantly fighting for the much needed change. Check out our blog post where we recognized Black Queer-Owned Conscious Fashion Brands and their continuous impact in the industry.
What happens after June?
When we move forward and begin to post original content in July, we will stand by our commitments to help and support the black community, in any, and every, way we can. These are more than just our intentions, these are our commitments, and we will stand by them. Our conversation will not end when the trends end. We will keep going.
Providing Resources: We’ve committed to integrating BIPOC voices, resources, information, petitions and more into our social media content moving forward. We will keep the conversation going by posting bi-weekly content on race and social justice issues, specifically in the fashion industry in front of our followers. These stories will then be put into a collection which can be viewed in our Instagram Highlights and we will also have more blog posts centered around racial justice.
Providing space for discussion: Our parent organization, The Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI), held Civic Reflections where participants met virtually to listen to different voices and discuss the ongoing fight against racism, police brutality, and systemic injustices. These discussions are meant to strengthen participants’ work in wider society as an advocate, educator, volunteer, student, etc., and are meant to bring light and voices to difficult conversations. These reflections can be uncomfortable because change is not easy, but change is necessary.
Additionally, as we’ve mentioned, we’ll be focused on better communication and more directed conversations regarding race and oppression within our working space with Huaywasi artisans. Our goal is to integrate their voices, opinions and experiences even more in our hiring processes, and build a management system that reflects their values, beliefs and professional goals.
Recognizing our role in Fair Trade: As an ethical fashion brand, we pride ourselves on being a fair trade organization that provides fair wages to all of our artisans. Fair trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, shoppers, advocates, and organizations putting people and the planet first. Shopping fair trade is a great way to make a conscious choice for a better world because it is based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others.
However, we know this system is far from perfect and often can limit or even marginalize POC (specifically those in the Global South) through language and visuals reflecting ideals such as the White Savior complex. We listened and learned quite a lot from Chicago Fair Trade’s online discussion “Mobilizing for an Anti-Racist Economy”, and will continue to work with our CFT community on ways to actively examine and diversify fair trade members and supporters. We are also in the process of redesigning our website, and will take into account our language, portraits, and stories of the artisans we work with.
We have a lot of work to do as a brand and organization, but we are committed to continue educating ourselves on ways we can do better. We recognize that we have many weaknesses but we are working hard to improve on them. Now is the time for reflection and in order for us to make a real difference, we must deeply reflect on ourselves and our own practices so that we can continue to move forward.
Moving forward, our content is going to be different. We are going to make it a point to use our platform to address and talk about ongoing racial issues occurring specifically in the fashion and garment industries. We are a small brand but we will use our voice to talk about these issues that are related to the very work we do and people we serve.