By CRISA YOUNG
With the holiday season in full force, the biggest franchises lead the way with extravagant sales and unbeatable deals. Shoppers flock to these opportunities with the intent to finish their holiday shopping in the quickest and cheapest way possible. But are they really aware of what they are paying for?
Most companies create such amazing deals by exploiting workers overseas and by buying goods that are made from overworked employees with unfair wages in unsafe working conditions.
In 2013, a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed from neglect of safety provisions, killing over a thousand people and injuring more than two thousand. It is considered the deadliest structure failure in human history. Yet, there is a real solution to this very serious issue.
Fair trade is the practice of buying handmade items from artisans in third world countries for fair and livable wages. Vendors of fair trade are branching out into stores like Wegmans and even cultivating nonprofits such as Ten Thousand Villages. Fair trade also helps artisans come together to help build their communities.
Handmade products come with extensive stories of how the artisans made the products, what they were made from and why they were made. Most products are created from local raw or recycled materials, helping to enhance and preserve our environment. Products can range from furniture, home decorations and accents, to clothes, jewelry, purses, journals, chocolates and so much more. Even downtown Fredericksburg has its very own foothold on fair trade. Latitudes, located on 806 Caroline Street, is a fair trade store run by Lee and Terry Owsley.
They started with a store in Warrenton, Virginia, supporting fair trade by selling a variety of products and even visiting their artisans overseas to review their products and ensure the artisans are thriving. “We love being a part of the Fredericksburg community and have been impressed at how many of the people who come in already seem to know a lot about fair trade,” Lee Owsley said.
Latitudes is also promoting the holiday season by allowing customers to come in and create a wishlist of their products for loved ones to review when finishing their holiday shopping.
“We look forward to a happy and long partnership with the community and have just celebrated our one year anniversary here,” Lee Owsley said. “We are members of the Fair Trade Federation, and that is a prime way that we source our products, but also enjoy finding new groups when we do trips to visit our artisan partners. In March we are going to India for several weeks with Matr Boomie, one of our wholesale partners. We’ll be visiting about eight different artisan groups there including woodworkers, block printers, jewelers and bell makers.”
Fair trades gifts have a literal personal touch; each one is unique and made with a care to ensure each product is appreciated. Finding the perfect gift becomes easy, when every product has certain character to match whomever the shopper intends to surprise this holiday season.
Latitudes also has a lovely assortment of winter wear, jewelry sets, children’s toys, bakeware and a multitude of religious decorations. Choosing to buy fair trade this season will not only ensure a gratified loved one, but also allow patrons to support a sustainable and ethically responsible system, the greatest gift of all.