“A love letter can be very short or it can be long; it can be literary or non-literary; it can be bright or dark, cheerful or tragic. But above all, for a love letter to be a love letter it must be sincere!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan
When we think of love letters we conjure up images of handwritten pieces of paper that are filled with versus of love, devotion, and sincerity. They are the words that we don't readily confess and the best love letters will take an entire lifetime to write, if they are ever written at all. But, not all love letters are literary. Not all love letters are handwritten scripts carefully folded into an envelope for our love ones to discover. Some love letters are those which "move through the widest range of emotions - devotion, disappointment, grief and indignation, self-confidence, ambition, impatience, self-reproach and resignation". A true love letter stirs up in us a complicated emotional cocktail.
*This post is sponsored by Ten Thousand Villages. All opinions, styling, and feedback are my own and in no way influenced by the company. You know my policy: If I like your brand, believe you are working towards authentic sustainable practices, and actually enjoy your products then I will help to raise brand awareness. If not, we don’t work together.
It's this emotional cocktail that I have found during my discovery of sustainable companies. A garment or item made with such care, history, detail, and humanity hold all the indescribable complexities and sentiments as a love letter. Ten Thousand Villages has been able to capture the essence of what true love is in, not only with their products but business practices.
I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Ten Thousand Villages Boston store this past winter while doing some Christmas shopping. (You'll probably run into me there a lot!) It was incredibly surprising and yet relieving to find a Fair Trade store in downtown Boston that made sustainable shopping accessible. What started off as a little bit of shopping - a bag for my sister-in-law, a drum for my brother-in-law, and a pair of earrings for my friend - turned into an evening listening to some incredible ladies talk about Fair Trade, what is means, how Ten Thousand Villages operates, and how Fair Trade is more than just a buzzword. I was wholeheartedly impressed with their mission, breadth of products, and absolute command of the topic. It was clear that Ten Thousand Villages employees, not just corporate, was aware of how their business operated, where their products were made, how they were made, and even who made them. Their motto #livelifefair could not be more accurate.
As soon as I got home I dug into learning as much as I could about Ten Thousand Villages. I wanted to know how a company of that size, with that many varying products to offer, could operate sustainably and so succinctly inline with their Fair Trade ethos. Here's what I learned...
The company was founded in 1946 and has since gone on to operate in 30 developing countries and providing 20,000 jobs to artisans whose skills are prized for their time-honored traditions. Artisans work with local materials which are natural or recycled creating unique, one-of-a-kind pieces in which no two will ever be the exact same while ensuring an eye is kept on environmental sustainability. Prices are negotiated ahead of time and paid in advance in order to foster an atmosphere of trust but also provide resiliency for the artisans. By creating a company with extraordinary oversight and transparency, Ten Thousand Villages has been able to build a truly unique company that encourages and empowers artisans and consumers alike.
Their vision that "one day all artisans in developing countries will earn a fair wage, be treated with dignity and respect, and be able to live a life of quality" is enough to stir in you the same emotions that can only be found in a love letter. On its surface it's a simple message. But, to achieve this vision one must first take a hard look at the current wide-spread, mainstream practices which remind us of "devotion, disappointment, grief and indignation, self-confidence, ambition, impatience, self-reproach and resignation." Ten Thousand Villages is writing plainly for all to see; while there may be heartache in the current model, they are doing their bit, one step at a time, to ensure an enduring, sustainable, and sincere business model which needs to be replicated across the industry.
When the opportunity to work with Ten Thousand Villages came up I leapt at the chance. I couldn't image a more deserving company. The products they offer are extensive (you can check out what they offer here. Everything from clothing and accessories, to home goods, outdoor goods, for your office, kitchen, self and much much more). Their ability of offer so many options is due to their longstanding history of transparency, fair wages, environmental protection, and due diligence. For me, I chose the Flowering Vines Robe for the simple reason that I needed a new robe and fill my home and closet, one at a time, with items that are truly sustainable. The Robe is made from cotton in India using a block-printing method (read more about this ancient tradition here) which is incredibly time consuming and detailed - all of which shows when you see the robe up close and personal. Sizing is perfect and I have a feeling this robe is going to wear to sheer comfort each time it's donned.
It feels as though Ten Thousand Villages has written a love letter to both consumers and artisans. They have made a promise to be there, to uphold the strictest of love in what the do and how they conduct themselves. Their confidence is evident, shown with their breadth of products without feeling overwhelming. They know exactly what we as the consumer are looking for while reminding us that the person behind each items creation is of equal value and deserving of respect, commitment, and honesty. It's a love letter that they started writing in 1946 with the promise of leaving the world a little better than they found it. It's the type of love letter I want to read over and over again.