India is the kind of place where a Mercedes Benz will pull up to an ox cart at a stop light, and a man in an impeccable suit will lean out to ask directions from the ox cart driver, who’s not wearing shoes. The suit will cost more than the ox cart driver makes in a year, but the two men, for one tiny moment, will chat with ease about directions before slipping back into their separate worlds.
Our journey with ‘Mother India’ began in 2003, when Michelle, Joni, and I, best friends since college, spent 4 months traveling the subcontinent on a round the world trip. After that, while Michelle went to grad school and Joni worked at a community org, I went back to India yearly for buying trips, importing everything from antique wall hangings to leather shoes. As my business blossomed, so did my awareness of the conditions of poverty that exist for much of the population. I began to see my buying power there as a chance to make a difference, and on my second trip I actively sought out producer groups that paid their workers good wages and practiced the principles of fair trade.
Soon after, Michelle joined Mata Traders as a partner, and a couple years later Joni followed. Our mission is to work with organizations that educate, employ, and empower women. Spending time with these groups has helped us realize that even the most traditional women, when given the opportunity, thrive in a sphere of meaningful work that is outside their homes and families. We have also learned that equality in the workplace IS possible in a country as socially stratified as India. Whether a beginner sewer or the marketing director, all the women that make our clothing and accessories have a voice. We are so proud to be a part of that voice by bringing you their quality handiwork in a high fashion, fairly traded product line.
Founder, Mata Traders