A few months ago we received a disturbing email from, at that particular time, one of our potential dressmaking customers.
The email mentioned that “It would give me great joy to know that by purchasing fabrics from your village, I could actually contribute to the well being of your village. My main concern is that I have no way to be sure you are telling the truth. I know there is much corruption in the world and that many poor people are treated very badly, especially in the textile industry. This is a fact that makes me very sad.”
We replied in detail to this email and we have now decided that this was an important topic to share so for your interest this was our response.
“Your letter really shocked us but then we realized that there are unscrupulous people around. I guess because we are so isolated we have never considered those thoughts of yours such as exploiting textile workers with unfair trade practices.”
We then asked her to please look at 4 links that hopefully will put her mind at rest.
1. Our Blog – where you will actually see exactly what happens in our village. Our blog not only looks at why, what and how we do things at Thai Silk Magic but shows the visitors we have had including 2 highly regarded Austrian/German textile designers last month and their reactions to both our fabric quality and what we are trying to accomplish with our mission. The blog also gives you a glimpse of life in our village and a behind the scenes look at Thai Silk Magic
2. All About Us – where we talk about why we have such a passion to help our village and our children
3. Our Mission – that gives more details about why we decided to set up our Thai Silk Magic community enterprise.
4.· Our Videos - Where we have a YouTube channel with more than 40 videos devoted to our handmade silk processes, our village lifestyles and the impact Thai Silk Magic is having.
A Personal Note
We then added a personal note where we provided details that we have never shared publically before.
“As you have so kindly pointed out that people in our textile industry are often poorly treated and suffer from corruption practices etc…I want to share some specific details with you.
Our village of Ban Dong Yang has 326 people, nearly all are related either by marriage or bloodlines and we are constantly under pressure from government “officials” who want to get “involved” with our project.”
To be completely open we acknowledged that “Corruption is alive and well here in Thailand and the more visible we become the greater the interest from people claiming to be able to assist us if we just give them x% of turnover etc….this makes me VERY mad and sad. We are DETERMINED to keep the profits in our village where they belong and can do most good.”
To put things into some sort of financial perspective we added that “The average income of our village was approximately $80 per month prior to Thai Silk Magic but with our village business sharing ALL the profits, after just 18 months, we now have our weavers and their families averaging about $170 per month and we want to improve this with more sales.
We pay more than double the going rate per meter for hand-weaving our silk and we also pay the same amount again as a BONUS when their fabrics are sold. We only retain funds to help cover some of our expenses and share all the rest.”
We then pointed out that “Thai Silk Magic is a family funded business and we are so proud of what we can do with our limited budget. We built our weaving facility, supply all the looms, all the highest quality raw silk and together with 2 others I also do all the natural dyeing. It’s a real team effort with children often helping out in collecting the natural dye materials and our grandmas doing all the hand reeling.”
Our Working Environment
To give some idea of our working environment we added that “Being a small isolated village, all our weavers are also family and friends so it’s a very close community. My great grandmother was actually the first person to make a home here. All decisions regarding new members of our team, patterns, dye colours, payment schedules etc are resolved by team discussions. Our weavers and their families are well looked after – but we have a long, long way to go.”
The result of this philosophy is that apart from people being able to improve their homes and lifestyles, “one of the best and most emotional indicators of how we are helping our village can now be seen with the huge smiles on the faces of children going off to school so proudly in their new school uniforms, enjoying better school facilities and they are even putting on shows for the village. This is priceless”
“I have done a translation of your email and this morning shared it with our weavers – they were shocked just like me. But we also realized that this is an issue that may also concern other people like you. Kind regards and thanks for your interest and your wake-up call – our village appreciates it.”
The person who initially raised these important issues is now a very important and valued customer of Thai Silk Magic. She has also been very supportive in sharing what we are doing with many others.
Your Turn Now
Are you a dressmaker/designer/coutourier? What experiences have you had with “Fair Trade”? What examples of corruption have you seen in the textile industry? Please leave us your feedback. We appreciate what you think and it will help us and the other readers to better understand this important topic. Thanks for your comments
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