Behind the Seams: a Q&A with Justine

I joined Mata Traders as a design intern in the summer of 2011, helping Kristin with garments (my very first Mata design was the Aurora crop top circa SS ’12) and repping Mata at Chicago street fests (Lollapalooza!!). Though I had no prior experience with jewelry design, this quickly became my passion and an exciting focus for our company. In fact, we’ve expanded our collections from two per year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter) to five (Resort, Spring, Summer, Fall and Holiday). Sometimes I’m working on all five at once!

We begin the jewelry design and production cycle almost a year in advance for each collection. For example, we started designing the 2018 Resort collection, which just launched, back in February 2017! Here’s a snapshot of the “concept to production” journey every piece of Mata jewelry takes before becoming one of your treasured accessories.

The first step is less than glamorous. I do a lot of market trend research, calculating targets for each category and analyzing sales stats from previous seasons to figure out which styles work and which don’t. Once that’s out of the way, the team and I begin the fun part: sketching.

In the early days, I would prepare a few very detailed sketches for each concept. But as we’ve increased the number of collections, we’ve also upped the quantity of sampling, so I’ve found that quickly filling sketchbook pages with tiny rough sketches helps release a lot of ideas at once. Here’s how the Kira beaded bracelet, Gia Rope necklace and Kizette earrings started out.

I use Adobe Illustrator design software to produce technical flats of the best sketches. Usually, only one of each concept makes it to the sampling stage, and we cut more styles from the collection after receiving the samples. A sketch often doesn’t translate well into a physical piece.

From rough (handdrawn) to refined (Illustrator.

Once we’ve settled on designs, I work on merchandising the collection as a whole. We take everybody’s technical flats and look at them together. Our Design/Production assistant Miranda contributed a lot to this particular collection. Then I work on color combinations and making sure we use all the available materials (brass, cotton thread, upcycled bone, resin, beads, upcycled horn, wood and enamel paint). The tricky part is trying not to be too matchy-matchy while creating a cohesive collection, with pieces that compliment each other in style and color.

I then choose colors from a thread book that our artisans in India also reference. We use the same book so there is no confusion. It’s very low tech, but does the job just right. We use this thread book not just for threaded jewelry, but for all colored material like beads, upcycled bone, paint and enamel.

All of this design work is translated into technical specs where we show measurements, materials and assembly methods. Then off it goes to India! This stage of the process takes the longest time – a lot of back and forth with the artisans to troubleshoot designs and techniques. Thank goodness for technology and the internet because I can communicate not just through email, but also on Whatsapp, Facebook and even Instagram.

In this particular collection, we ended up with 75 styles, which we distributed between Resort and Spring. Only 40 made it to the end; it’s better to sample more than what we need. Sometimes the extra samples make their way to the Andersonville Galleria in Chicago or our in-house sales events. Mata fans often have an opportunity to score one of these unique pieces.

My first visit to India.

After working on the collection for six to seven months, we make our final selections and production begins in India. Our semi-annual trips to India usually coincide with bulk production so we’re able to see things being made in person. On every visit, I’ve learned something new about how the artisans assemble our jewelry. It’s safe to say that I’m nowhere near their skill level, but they are kind and patient teachers!

Bonus!! Here’s a sneak peek at a Spring ’18 earring.

The Farida earrings were just starting to go into production during our visit with the artisans last November. Made of upcycled bone, the little triangle pieces start out plain and white before Roshni (a master at coloring) mixes the dyes by eye and soaks the bone in batches.

Working directly with the artisans throughout the years has helped us improve the collections. We know which materials and techniques work best. They are always showing me their own designs and new developments that I then adapt to a more western aesthetic. It’s truly a collaborative process.

Sometimes I design something that is physically impossible to produce, and the artisans are not afraid to tell me it’s a bad design. It’s very humbling. These relationships we’ve cultivated with our producers are one of my favorite parts of working in fair trade. A lot of thought, communication, and love goes into each design. It’s amazing how many hands have touched every single Mata piece before they get to you!

My most recent trip to India, this past November.


Women Who Inspire Me

“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person…The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story…And the consequence of a single story is this:  It robs people of dignity.  It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.  It emphasizes how we are different rather then how we are similar.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“It takes work to be a citizen, and being a citizen is your first job.” – Maya Wiley

Writers like Chimamanda and activists like Maya continually inspire me to embrace my identity as a global citizen.

At the inaugural Women’s Convention in Detroit last October, where more than 4,000 (mostly) women gathered to extend the activism of the January 2017 Women’s March, I had the good fortune to meet hundreds more. They now have a spot on my “women who inspire me” list. On this first anniversary of the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, I will thank three in particular.

Alice Smith

When I first saw Alice Smith perform live, I immediately felt frustration at the establishment for not having centered this talent sooner. So kudos to the Women’s Convention organizers for being able to accomplish a “critique of the entire establishment” just by hiring singer-songwriter Alice Smith. What inspired me about Alice’s performance was her ability to let listeners share in the beauty an artist experiences while creating their art. Watching her, I felt I was a balloon being lifted to the sky, growing bigger and more powerful with every passing lyric. I knew I could take this feeling and channel it; I could use it to do my own creating. After 10 years with Mata Traders, the company I helped found, I rely on creative energies like Alice’s to fuel my momentum over the long haul. Doesn’t everyone?

*Alice Smith is a singer-songwriter and has put out two albums, For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me (2006) and She (2013).

Rita Bosworth

I met Rita Bosworth at the Women’s Convention and by the end of our short conversation we were both crying.  Just a few months before, Rita had a very different life as a successful lawyer living in the bubble of San Francisco. Now she had quit her job and was here fundraising for the Sister District Project. What inspired me about Rita was not that she had made a personal sacrifice for the greater good. It was rather that she had taken a simple belief and turned it into something concrete. Through commitment, strategic partnerships and (perhaps most mundane of all) prioritization, planning and execution, she created an organization that had become a viable, important part of a larger movement. If I’ve learned anything from helping to establish and grow a company, it’s that mighty things can be built from hundreds of tiny moments of just pushing forward. Creating anything really just starts with holding hands – reaching forward to those in a position to help and backward to those who need the assistance. And then holding on tight.

*Rita Bosworth is the founder of the Sister District Project, which helps Democrats win state elections by harnessing excess blue energy from volunteers and donors across the country and directing it toward strategic, flippable races.  

Ai-jen Poo

Unlike many of my peers, I had never heard of Ai-jen Poo before attending the Women’s Convention. Something she said on her panel stuck with me long after the Convention was over.  She told a story about meeting a social scientist who, after years of study, concluded that our nation was on the verge of its next great social transformation. “And you are that transformation,” Ai-jen told us. What inspired me about Ai-jen was her ability to shape my perspective about my place, as an individual, within a larger social context. In my favorite panel discussion at the Convention, one of the speakers asked us to examine the extent to which our perspective is the root of oppression. This idea fascinates me. In my greatest version of happiness, we would all have the curiosity and strength to constantly challenge our own convictions.

*Ai-jen Poo is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Co-Director of Caring Across Generations




Mata Love: April S.

I was raised to be thrifty. My family and I were always looking for “a good deal,” so we often shopped sales and clearance racks. A good deal was not only what I sought out, but what also chiefly guided my buying decisions. I had pride in how much money was saved. “It was 50% off!” or “It was 60 bucks off the original price!” were phrases I joyously exclaimed about my “good deal” purchases. While price was the determining factor, I never gave thought to how or where my stuff was made…or the quality of life of the people who made it.

Fast forward to when I lived and traveled in Asia. A few key events changed my outlook, values, and buying decisions.

  • While traveling in Cambodia, I saw a fellow traveler purchase a prostitute’s time so she could just converse instead of work.
  • One book shattered my worldview: reading about modern slavery left me shocked and heartbroken. I wondered why I hit my late 20s/early 30s before hearing about this issue.
  • Another book gave me hope: “Building Social Business” by Mohamed Yunus. I got that eradicating poverty through a viable business product and business structure was possible.
  • I started hearing about fair trade and learning more about its effects.
  • I got involved with a church group working to raise awareness of human trafficking issues. I decided how to work within my sphere of influence, so I taught my students to also raise awareness and take some form of action.

After I moved back to the States, I wanted to continue taking action to help eradicate poverty and modern day slavery. When you’re ready to take action, you start discovering what’s around you. You get connected. You go to meetings. You get to enjoy discovering new products and organizations that are helping support the ones making the products.

When I think back to the brands that were coveted as a young teen, many were quite expensive to my thrifty mindset. What I’ve grown to appreciate about Mata Traders is that for less than $100, my purchase empowers the workers who hand make my item. I get to express not only what makes me feel good, but also fits with my values of social responsibility. Now, many of my purchases come with an “empowerment story” that excitedly gets told when people comment on what I’m wearing.

Our wedding cake topper even had a tiny Mata dress on it! // Image: Ed Tiodoro

The choices I now make go beyond fashion. Recently, I’ve discovered that I’m consciously cultivating a lifestyle on values that I’ve determined, rather than allowing external influences to unconsciously determine them for me. I now research companies’ missions and how they conduct business. I know that my dollars are powerful in shaping the demand that companies supply. I know my dollars have a direct impact (either positively or negatively) in the lives of those in the supply chain. While I didn’t start out shopping with social conscious values, they have grown over the years. It didn’t happen overnight. It HAS taken years, but now when I need something, I choose to research companies whose values align with mine.

It hasn’t always been easy. I sometimes feel frustrated when I can’t readily find something made ethically. Sometimes I wait to find an ethically made product. Sometimes I eventually decide to buy the non-ethically made one. But what has changed is that I am aware, and I know I have a choice of how I choose to spend my money. Maybe it means I buy less (definitely a good thing) and buy a high quality fair trade item that truly brings me joy… joy for its construction, style, usefulness, but an even deeper joy knowing that it has contributed to the well-being of the lives of those who had a hand in making it.

While this is my story, you might be thinking about your own journey. Chances are that if you’re reading this blog post, you follow Mata Traders, and you probably have some kind of knowledge of fair trade. No matter where you are on your journey, I encourage you to realize the power you do have as a consumer. Your choices matter. Your dollars matter because yours will combine with mine to be a voice for what we want companies to produce.

Maybe you’ve had a journey like mine where your buying decisions didn’t empower workers. Yet, the past is the past, and you get to decide what values you choose to live out and what your future purchases look like. Start right where you are because becoming a conscious consumer can be overwhelming. Need new laundry soap or bath towels? Some new bling or a bag of coffee? Research and find a company that aligns with your values and proudly purchase from them. Start small, or go big (as my husband says), but do start. Each and every purchase matters because it IS a vote of power, care, and concern that you are casting.

You can also start or continue raising yours and other people’s awareness by getting connected with organizations through social media. It’s a no-cost way to become a conscious consumer. Learn who’s out there working for, not fighting against, (email me for my reasoning WHY on this :D) the change you want to see.

So, after the joy of your first (or hundredth) purchase soaks in, buy your next ethically made product. Build incremental growth that sustains you and builds a new habit. When you do this, you get to BE the change you want to see in the world.

– April, Founder of New Dawn Life Coaching





Gift Guide: the Quality Craver

Our Production team is responsible for ensuring ALL Mata fashions are produced consistently, finished properly, and delivered on time. They work tirelessly to quality-check every piece that comes through the door, so they’re pretty picky when it comes to choosing items for their own wish lists. Take a look at these ethical gift ideas that meet Taylor and Miranda’s high standards.


Patagonia – Fair Trade Fleece

“Fair trade fleece! I need this for winter running in chilly Chicago. 🙂 I like the purple.”


Veja – Extra White Nautico Pekin Sneakers

“Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for sneakers. It’s not so easy to come by ethical ones, but this brand is AMAZIIING. From organic materials to fair trade sourcing, they’re doin’ great things.”



Indigenous – Studded Cable Sweater

“I want my whole family to pitch in for one of these sweaters. I like the idea that the holiday season is a time to get specialty items you’ll cherish for a long time. Organic cotton & tencel, low-impact dyes AND fair trade!”

SERRV – Black Stepped Diamond Rug

“This rug has a great texture and versatile design. I could use it in any area of my apartment.”


Gift Guide: for the Empowered Creative

The Mata wish lists keep on coming – this time from our Design team! Kristin and Justine spend their days perfecting new prints and designing fresh jewelry styles, and are all about creativity. They run a tight ship to make sure collections are given proper time to develop. Regular visits with producer artisans in India and Nepal give them firsthand appreciation for the impact a stable source of income can have on families in marginalized communities. Kristin and Justine mix a spirit of creativity with the strength of social justice on their wish lists this season.


SerrvBlue and Teal Baskets

“I’ve been eyeing these beautifully crafted baskets for YEARS. They are made by artisans in Ghana and a perfect way to spruce up Zoey’s (my pup – who’s not really a pup but is 6) toy bin or to fill with blankets to cozy up next to the couch.”


BombasHoliday Socks

“Yikes – you know you’re getting older when socks are on your wishlist. And OKAY, these must be magic for the price… but I can’t deny, I love me a good pair of socks.  This company is great because for every pair you purchase, they donate a pair to someone in need!”


Nappa DoriIkat Organizer

“Justine and I stumbled across this company on a recent India trip and we walked out with matching purses that day. Eagerly awaiting my next trip back, so I can buy the entire store. I would love this little organizer for all my travel essentials!”



Indego Africa Marrakech Basket

“This is the second time I’ve included a basket on my wish list. (Nobody got the hint the first time!) I like this one in particular because it has that Millennial Pink. I love color trends.”

Laurie Melia CeramicsLarge Woman in Prayer

2017 has been a big year for us ladies. Shout out to the Women’s March, #metoo, and Time’s Person of the Year to name just a few milestones.) So I relate to this little ceramic lady totem’s vibe – strong, confident, cosmic, feminist woman of color.”

The Pin Project The Pin

“The refugee crisis is daunting, so I like the Pin Project’s approach of providing training, employment, and income. They’re currently only on Kickstarter, and pins go for $32. But there’s also a pledge of $2500 that includes a four-day trip to a production unit… anybody?”


Holiday Gift Guide: for a Holiday Homebody

They’re always on the phone and on the road, chatting with retailers worldwide and selling at trade shows and festivals, yet Mata’s sales team somehow finds time to update their wish lists. Just in case their Secret Santas are wondering… it’s no surprise these two know how to keep it cozy when they get home from their many adventures.


Divine – Mint Dark Chocolate

“This chocolate is so decadent. I would love to use a bar of this in a batch of cookies!”


SERRVKantha Throw

Having bright bedding is something that cheers me up during dreary Chicago winters.”


Able – Tatiana Loafer

“I’m a fanatic for a good loafer, and especially if it’s handmade. I like to invest my money in three things: shoes, lipstick, and quality clothing. These loafers are super cute and are handmade by women in Peru.”

Artumie – Midwest Campfire Candle

“Candles are perfect for winter, and my collection always grows around this time of year. This Chicago-based brand makes small batch candles that are long lasting and will fill your entire room with fragrance. A musky campfire scent is on my radar for the holidays.”

Check out all of our gift guides this year (more coming!) here.



Holiday Gift Guide: For the Chicago Native & Those Making a New Home

Mata team wish lists will be posted on the blog for the next few weeks, and we have tons of ethical products we just can’t live without this holiday season! Next up is our Operations team.

They work their tails off and are proud of where they come from, whether it’s another country or our lovely city of Chicago. From the Mata people who work most with their hands – packing your orders, working with customers, and organizing the heck out of a very busy warehouse – comes a list heavy on handmade items.



Stela9 – Cross Cultural Denim Jacket

“I’m so in love with Huipil. The colors are so deliciously vibrant and it connects me to my country, Guatemala. I’d live in this if it were mine!”


New Leaf Home VA – Midcentury Modern Plant Stand

“This planter would be perfect for my FLF (what the cool people say within plant communities for Fiddle Leaf Fig, hehe). I’ve got a new adopted pup and things need to be up higher these days! Plus.. so much love for Mid-Century Modern <3”



Chicago Fair Trade- Halsted Street Coffee

“Hot beverages are one of my great passions in life and this can be made into a very good one while supporting a worthy organization.”

Thirty One Bits- Petrified Book Ends

“Don’t know why but looking at wood grain speaks to my soul in a way I don’t totally understand, though I think it’s a good thing. I can put books in between these too which helps me stay organized.”



Fat and The Moon – All Salve

“My skin is super sensitive, especially come winter time in Chicago, which is why I’m so eager for Fat and the Moon’s All Salve. It’s made from all natural ingredients like Calendula, St. John’s Wort, and Comfrey. They’re packed with healing and regenerative properties, so it’s great for wind chapped hands, scrapes — even as lip balm. Fat and the Moon is run by the excellent Rachel Budde (from a long line of herbalists), out of her backyard in California. All their products are stellar, really, whether you’re looking for some natural adornment or healing.”


Hey Simone – Jungle Ladies

“Simone Martin-Newberry is a designer at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and also an incredibly talented artist who produces striking prints. Martin-Newberry takes inspiration from her mother’s backyard garden, and the blue, orange, and green tones are so warm and appealing (plus they’re very affordable)! My favorites are ‘Jungle Ladies’ and ‘Sun in Her Eyes’.”


Holiday Gift Guide: the Well Traveled Woman

‘Tis the season for peppermint mochas, stockings, and…holiday wish lists! Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing the Mata team’s dream gifts and must-haves from other ethical and local companies this holiday season, so check back soon for more!

First up, our marketing team. Laura, Katie, and Alina are responsible for connecting you with Mata women around the world via our social media, website, emails and blogger outreach. They work with designers, artisans, photographers, models, buyers and superfans to show you how beautiful you can be in Mata.



Manos Zapotecas – Sierra Norte Lupita Clutch

“I own a tote and small purse from Manos Zapotecas and LOVE them. I’d love this clutch to use as a travel cosmetic bag to complete the set :).”


Xinh & Co x Casa Joshua Tree – Handwoven Baskets

“I love all of these baskets and don’t know how to pick a favorite! They’re handmade by fair trade artisans in Vietnam. I have a plant problem oasis at my apartment. I’d love to use a basket to hold a plant/planter.”



Cotopaxi – Nazca Travel Pack

“A suitcase made into a backpack or a backpack made into a suitcase? Either way, I like the flexibility of the bag and love the fact that it uses up fabric remnants from clothing items.”

Martha Mae – Brass Cylinder Rollerball Pen

“I KNOW, it is more than anyone wants to pay for a pen. But I’m channeling my inner old man and admitting the fact that this thing seriously writes smoothly. The fact that it’s sold by one of my favorite Andersonville shops, Martha Mae, makes it even better.”


JOYN – Sarita Grey Leather Handbag

“Joyn always has such nice products, and I could easily see this becoming my new favorite every day bag. I only recently discovered that their leather is from the surplus market, so they’re diverting fast fashion’s over-ordered leather from ending up in a landfill. Pretty cool!” 


May Lindstrom – The Blue Cocoon

“I got this as a gift a few years back and that year was the best skin year I have ever had. This smells amazing, goes on easy, and is such a nice addition to any #selfcaresunday routine (my favorite day of the week). May Lindstrom is an all-natural, organic skin care line and best of all it is made by hand in the town right next to where I grew up- Sausalito, CA. Tip: when you’ve used every last morsel of this balm, save it and make it into a candle holder!”


Our next wish list is from another group of Mata team members – stay tuned!



Falling for Autumn

We have a debate around here at Mata: fall – the beginning of our favorite season, or the end of it? We are of two minds: though we revel in the sunshine and warmth that summer brings, we always look forward to a season full of cozy sweaters, crunchy leaves, and crisp apples just waiting to be picked. Not to mention, each season brings a whole new batch of bright, fair-trade Mata goodies to explore.

Here are a few sets from our fall jewelry collection that satisfy each side of the aisle. Whether you are someone who sees fall as a slow sunset on summer, or as an opportunity to unbox all those coats you woefully stored away, you’ll find the perfect match in here.

Sunset on Summer

Those of us who struggle to transition to fall often dream of traveling to the landscape of the mythical wild-west; perpetually warm, adventuresome, and wild. The desert, like the changing fall leaves, seems to be trapped in a pretty palette of the sunset. If only we could be stuck in sunshine! Our Sunset on Summer set was inspired by those western hues: deep orange-y reds, bright golds, warm browns, and hints of cream.


Image sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

We love these photographs, many of which are by Stella Marie Baer, an awesome female artist stationed in Santa Fe. If you do too, this set is for you:


We may have been dreaming of cow-hands when coming up with this set but don’t worry, it can still translate from wrangler to wow with a little outfit change. Wear this with denim and a button-up top to get that western feel. Wear with a flattering dress for an event or for work!

  1. Graphic Threads earrings
  2. Basilico necklace
  3. Echo Cuff


Sabertooth Forever

Are you someone who lives for tropical heat, bright colors, cool water, palms, fronds, and pineapple? Don’t fret if fall seems to take you far away from the boho girl that wants to break free. One of the best things about this season is bringing all those bright oranges, blues, greens, and gold indoors. Many of these photos were plucked from interior designer, Justina Blakeney aka The Jungalow (aka inventor of the #plantsonpink hashtag), whose sunny disposition shines through no matter what the weather is like outside.


Image sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4

If you’re inspired by these images check out this Sabertooth Forever set:


With the Sabertooth set, let your earrings make the statement; the cuff and necklace simply back it up. It may not be sweltering outside but you don’t care. You’ve got a bright boho feeling wherever you are. Click below to learn more about each of these pieces:

  1. Jungle Jam earrings
  2. Nadira necklace
  3. Coil cuff


Get Graphic

You’re the girl who can’t wait for fall. Every summer all that your friends want to do is grill and go to the beach. Come your favorite time of year, people are more apt to agree to go on all the sophisticated indoor adventures you’ve been planning for months. Our Get Graphic set is for the woman that is itching for all the gallery openings, modern art museums, open houses, and dinner parties you missed while it was warm outside.


Image sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

Though our necklace is named after a classic modernist painter, our inspiration is a bit more contemporary. Daniel Buren is a modern minimalist that plays with light, shape and vibrant color. Color factory was all the rage over the summer but is extending into the fall, woohoo! If you like these images, our Get Graphic set will knock your socks off:

Our Get Graphic set relies on pops of color for that graphic, fun feel. We can see this pairing with warm shades to bring out the details – the orange and gold with out being too matchy-matchy. Of course, you’re the planner and the artist so you probably know exactly where to go with these pieces.

  1. Hadley Studs
  2. Mondrian necklace
  3. Tri Moon cuff


Shades of Silver

Finally, we can’t talk about transitions and fall without mentioning the season that happens after. You know the one: full of snow, eggnog, and cheer? You may have noticed we’ve been sneaking some pieces from our holiday collection into these sets. We can’t help but give you a taste of what’s ahead:

Image sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4

Imagine the hours after the first snowfall: the world is covered in white and silence. From bustling cities to small country sides, each location becomes the same. Our inspiration comes from this sameness that is created by snow. Black and white photos allow very different subjects to go nicely together. See how our shades of silver use the same technique below:

Our Shades of silver set is tone on tone, which allows us to play with a couple of other design elements – shape and texture. If that terminology seems foreign, imagine water and all the different forms it takes. Summer, rolling waves at the beach, fall, the boiling kettle, and winter, the first snow flakes. This set contains all three. Click through the links below to learn more:

  1. Moroccan Dreams earrings
  2. Venetian necklace
  3. Cohesion cuff


Our fall jewelry collection doesn’t end there. If you liked our sets, click here to see the rest of what we have to offer. Please comment below and tell us what combos of Mata Jewelry you’ve put together at home!


Slow Style is a Lifestyle

Country Estate dress here + Knit Flounce dress here


Do you ever have one of those mornings when you crawl out of bed with only 15 minutes to spare before you head out the door? Hitting snooze feels soooo good, doesn’t it? But now you’ve skipped a healthy breakfast and the gym (goodbye New Year’s resolutions), avoided eye contact with the dog and arrived at work stressed and disheveled. Sure you made it. You’re fast…and all those other “f” words like “frenzied,” “fraught,” “frantic”…

Rewind. Let’s do that again. You awake just before the alarm, feeling refreshed and ready to take on whatever the day may bring. You savor the aroma of your pour-over coffee. Give a smile to your neighbors while walking the dog. Take deep breaths on the morning commute. How great it feels to be attentive when you need to be. And renewed by the quality of your day more than the quantity of your to-do’s. On this day, you embraced the beauty of “slow.”

Rosalie Raindrop dress here

Now think about “frantic” vs. “attentive” as a dichotomy of the 21st century fashion industry. Fast fashion means more collections being mass produced at lower costs for more consumption, at lower quality, which results in more waste. In fact, some popular fast fashion retailers have shortened their design cycle – from idea to store – to as little as two weeks. In comparison, we here at Mata start our design process about a year before it reaches stores.

One of our artisan partners making the Crosswinds cuff by hand (found here)

The result isn’t pretty. Waste builds up. In 2013, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated, 12.8 million tons of which were discarded. Labor standards are either ignored or neglected. An estimated 170 million children are engaged in labor worldwide, many of them working in the fashion and textile industry. The garment industry is also tough on females – 80% of people who make our clothes are women between the ages of 18-24 and many make less than $3 a day. [Side note: if you haven’t yet, check out our other blog posts that expand on these topics: here, here, and here!]

Contrast this with the slow style movement, the inspiration for Mata’s Autumn/Winter Collection. Our design team and artisan partners understand that building something meaningful takes time and discipline. And oh how we savor the beautiful results!

Our Kimono jacket in azure is here + the Serephina dress in garnet is here

In our world, slow style is a lifestyle, a movement, and an intention to express values through a well-considered wardrobe developed over time, evolving with each carefully purchased garment. Slow style is about investing dollars deliberately – “paying attention.” It is about uniquely vibrant clothing and jewelry handcrafted by women artisans from marginalized communities in India and Nepal. It is about paying fair-trade wages that empower these artisans to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Direct your attention to ethically made goods. Support a mindful and impactful way of shopping that nods to the hours, energy and heart our artisans put into creating beautiful, spirited pieces. Do you #embracethebeautyofslow? Share your tips for building a wardrobe that matters!



What a Difference a Dress Makes

There’s no better time than Fair Trade Month to celebrate all the good that comes from a fair partnership between producers and consumers. Throughout October, Mata is inviting fair trade fans and enterprises to share an image on Instagram of what fair trade looks like for them, with this hashtag: #whatfairtradelookslike.

We’re posting our own photos to give you a glimpse of fair trade Mata style. Take a look – you’ll see why we say that women who wear Mata empower women who make Mata to create a better life.


This is what fair trade looks like

Mata artisans come from rural areas, small villages, and urban slums in India and Nepal, and they all want the same thing – the chance to lift their families and communities out of poverty. Through fair trade business practices, they earn a sustainable wage, preserve traditional skills and create opportunities for themselves. They’re able to have the resources to care for their children and support their communities.

Our company partners with several fair trade organizations that, like social service agencies, provide support in the form of health care, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions, and daycare. Social workers on staff offer literacy classes, computer training and workshops on topics like hygiene, nutrition and parenting. They help artisans address complex situations such as domestic violence and dealing with HIV/AIDS.


The power of your purchase

Every dress, skirt, top, and piece of jewelry you buy from Mata creates more opportunity for more women and their families. Literally.

With her earnings from sewing just one Mata dress, an artisan can buy a five-day supply of rice, or a 15-day supply of wheat flour or one week of school fees for her child. What’s more, providing a stable income to women at the poverty level combats the problem of child labor at its roots. The change can be seen not only in the life of the woman employed by the cooperative, but especially in the next generation, the children she can afford to educate.


Check out more details on how your purchase of a Mata dress impacts our artisans:

Your purchase of ONE dress at Mata allows an artisan to buy enough rice to last 5 days, while 5-6 dresses allows an artisan to buy enough rice to last the MONTH.


Your purchase of ONE Dress at Mata allows an artisan to buy enough wheat flour for 15 days. And a purchase of two dresses allows an artisan to buy enough wheat flour for the MONTH.


Your purchase of ONE Dress allows an artisan to pay for private school for her child for about 1 week, while a purchase of four dresses allows an artisan to pay for 1 month of private school.


Fashion to feel good about

Why do women wear Mata? Because, they tell us, Mata makes them feel adventurous, compassionate, beautiful and (we love this one) powerful. Coincidence? That’s how we describe the women who make Mata! Comment below and tell us how you feel when you wear Mata. Is this what fair trade looks like to you?



A Fair Trade Decade

Mata Traders officially began in 2007, although I started wandering the globe many years before that, buying exotic things and selling them in the U.S. at flea markets and home parties.

In the beginning, Mata was about carving out my own path. At 28, I had spent most of my adult life living on a shoestring and saving my paychecks for travel. I was supporting this lifestyle myself…so who could judge? Did I have a direction? Not necessarily. I just had a strong urge to EXPLORE, and through that I learned about myself and my connection to the world. (Try telling THAT to the parents.)

Good fortune or good karma led me to the idea of starting a business that combined this wanderlust with my love for selling things and an obsession with the colorful, intricate, handmade textiles of South Asia.

Ten years later, Mata Traders is much more than my own personal journey. It’s a thriving social enterprise whose growth was and is made possible by our dedicated employee team, artisan partners and fashionably adventurous, compassionate customers who support ethical fashion worldwide. I like to say we’re “fashioning a better world” with vibrant designs and fair trade practices that enable a better life for our artisans.


One thing that hasn’t changed since we designed the very first Mata dress is our devotion to operating a business that helps women achieve economic and social stability.

Mata empowers our producers, mostly women, all from India and Nepal, who are breaking gender stereotypes, learning new skills in a meaningful work environment, taking leadership roles, and supporting their families through their work at the cooperatives.

We empower the ethical consumer – women who use the power of their dollar to make change – through the brave retail partners that by carrying our brand are creating purchasing avenues for women to make ethical fashion choices.

And Mata empowers our employees to apply their formidable talents and wisdom to growing a company that is having ever greater impact around the globe.

Consumers, creators and crafters are all part of an interdependent web of gifted, conscientious, global-minded people following the path of ethical fashion because it’s just what we do and who we are. I am excited to see what the next 10 years will bring for Mata and for the larger movement of fair trade and conscious consumerism. The best is yet to come.




Back to the Books (& Backpacks)

If you fell behind on your summer reading list, don’t fret!
Didn’t spend enough time on your creative pursuits this season? No worries!

Fall is the perfect time to get back to the books, whether you’re headed to class or not. Grab one of our recommended reads, your ethical backpack and a notebook and hit up a cozy spot to give your mind some me-time.

If you weren’t already excited for this time of year, supporting local, sustainable, and fair trade companies will have you itching to start your season off with a bang.

The Aurora V-neck dress in plum has a classic vintage silhouette with an arrow design and hand stitched details– perfect for a crisp fall day. The Matt & Nat Munich bag in Jam brings out the maroon in the dress (plus, the lining is made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles – how cool is that?). Perfect for your writing needs, these Mr. Ellie Pooh one-of-a-kind hardcover notebooks are organic, eco-friendly and feature 100% recycled paper. Pick up a copy of Naked Fashion: The Sustainable Fashion Revolution, which  provides an overview of the most crucial challenges facing the fashion industry and includes solutions to create sustainable change in the industry.


A look meant to be looked at, the Belmore dress in goldenrod is a vibrant fall staple. The pop of yellow in this oversized plaid goes great with the Autumn foliage. Pair with Serrv’s Black City Backpack for chic urban style and break open Overdressed: Shockingly High Cheap Fashion. The fair trade organization that makes this backpack is dedicated to lifting disadvantaged artisans, farmers, and their families out of poverty. Overdressed assesses the true costs of low priced clothing while tracing the author’s own metamorphosis into a thorough and thoughtful shopper. Feel free to jot down notes or doodle in a CAUSEGEAR leather journal, designed in our hometown of Chicago and produced in India. The crafter’s name and photo is even displayed on the first page!


It’s almost time to transition to longer sleeves and this jersey dress is just the thing! With a flattering fit and a flounce for days, the indigo Knit Flounce dress is comfy to the MAX. Just add your roomy but compact ethical backpack like this Baggu drawstring backpack (in indigo to pull out the print in this dress)! After class, cozy up with some extracurricular reading like MAGNIFECO, a guide that examines non-toxic beauty and ethical fashion. Take notes about author Kate Black’s recommendations in this refillable journal from Fair Trade Winds. It comes with 72 pages of 100% tree-free paper made from recycled cotton rags.


Much Ado About Ikat

Ladies with a yen for compassionate fashion make a statement with both their wardrobes and their dollars. They set high standards for style (unique), quality (impeccable) and fit (flattering). And they celebrate the talents and traditions of artisans like those who handcraft Mata apparel and accessories in India and Nepal.

We partner with women’s cooperatives and artisan groups to preserve textile art forms that date back centuries, featuring block or screen printed fabric, hand embroidery, or ikat weaving in almost all of our designs.

While hand embroidery, and block and screen printing are common, you might be less familiar with a technique called “ikat” (pronounced “ee-kaht”). You’ll find this weave throughout Mata’s Autumn/Winter ’17 collection, including the Kimono Jacket in azure and our popular Serenade dress in multi.


Kimono Jacket in Azure


Serenade Dress in Multi

To give you Mata lovers a taste of how much love goes into each and every one of these beautiful pieces, here’s a bit about the history of the ikat weave.

Although ikat is popular all over the world, it is most popular in India, Indonesia, Japan and other Southeast Asian countries. It is said that the Nalgonda district of Andra Pradesh, India is where the ikat weave originated during the 10th century. At that time, a strip of ikat fabric was considered an extremely prized possession due to how long it took to make the fabric.

Each ikat weave has its own distinct style. The finished fabric is meant to look imperfect, almost fuzzy, which is accomplished by dyeing the yarns before they become yardage.

First the design, usually a hand-drawn zigzag or geometric pattern, is drawn on the fabric in pen. This requires the designer to measure along each strand to make sure the design will be placed in the correct spot when the yarn is woven into yardage. Then the yarn is tied tightly around the areas that were marked in pen. This will act as a resist when the fabric goes into the dye pot, keeping the covered areas undyed. In some cases, the resist is made from wax or clay.


The yarn is then stretched out and prepared to be dipped into the dye. Ikat’s process of dyeing is very similar to tie dye, but is a bit more complicated.


The designer will submerge the yarn for approximately an hour, allowing the fibers to soak up as much dye as possible. In order to ensure that the color is being absorbed evenly, the designer needs to constantly agitate the pot. If the pot is not agitated, there will be darker/lighter spots in the fiber, called “hot spots.”


Once the yarn is saturated and allowed to dry, the designer will cut off the resist. As you can see in the picture above, the yarn beneath the resist has maintained its original white color.


This process was used to create the ikat weave for our Santorini Sundress from the Spring/Summer ’17 collection. Didn’t it turn out great?


We are always impressed by the talents of our partner artisan groups, but learning about the craft behind the ikat process brings to light the dedication and skill the artisans bring to their work each day. Another example of how, together, we can fashion a better world!






Starting Out at a Fair Trade Cooperative

The morning sun streaks across a bustling street in Mumbai.

Shakuntula has walked this path many times. After her husband’s death nearly two decades ago, she was in critical need of a steady job to support their young daughter. She came to the cooperative at the suggestion of a friend, 19 years ago.


At first, despite training, she felt timid around her co-workers, uncertain of her stitching skills, and worried about her ability to contribute. That changed when the struggling center needed a member to step up and take charge. Without a clear frontrunner, the co-op looked to Shakuntula to lead. She accepted, and quickly mastered the processes of quality control and delegating work to the team.

She says, “After I became in charge, I am very confident. I know that I have control of my life.”

Her perseverance has helped make the center profitable and provide good salaries to the artisans.


Shakuntula makes a point of looking out for newcomers, remembering her own reservation and self-doubt in those early days at the cooperative. Her quality assurance expertise has allowed the co-op members to take on increasingly sophisticated projects.

Thinking about her goals for the future, Shakuntula says, “I will educate my daughter well and make sure that she is having a happy life.” She adds, “I can educate myself, too.”


Dog Days of Mata

It’s getting hot out there! The dog days of summer are upon us, but if you work in our office, the dog days have already been here for a while.

In the last year or so, our canine workforce has exploded! While our furry friends were originally brought to the office out of convenience and companionship, we soon discovered their talents were underutilized and put them to work.

You might be wondering how any work gets done with such a rag tag group of dogs in the office. Our secret? We have a schedule.

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Meet the office dogs:


With a slim 10-month old figure, Denna is the perfect canvas to test out select Mata items. Her non-human proportions, while a bit challenging for dresses, serve as an ideal backdrop for our scarves! Although the air in our office is quite clean, Denna’s tongue does a final check, every three seconds from 9am to 5pm. With a keen eye for home decor, Denna spends her weekends hanging artwork and tending to her vast succulent collection.


Gene is the office veteran, coming to Mata with 10.5 years of experience warming chairs. Throughout the summer, with a workplace containing sufficiently heated seats, Gene spends his time making sales calls. The language barrier was difficult at first, but Gene’s previous experience selling snow to Eskimos was hard to ignore, and he has been a valuable addition to the team.


Whether it’s a ball or a human, 2-year-old Reggie makes sure whoever/whatever comes through the door is properly investigated. Indoors, he carries around bones, balls, and food in an effort to assert his authority, but at the core he’s a big softie who just wants to be loved. His future aspirations include taste testing at a local sandwich shop.


Sam is the calm, cool, and collected canine in our workspace, making his fur available for petting to any outstretched hand. Most often found sleeping on the floor or at his owner’s feet, his stare invokes feelings of peacefulness and gratitude. In his free time, Sam has been improving his macrame skills and working on his yoga instructor certification.


With a passion for fashion, Susie never hesitates to strut her stuff in a new raincoat or sweater. She’s working on her measurement skills, but a lack of thumbs is proving to slow down progress. At 9-months old, she’s the baby of the office, but with a full name like Susan B. (Bark) Anthony, you know this pup is going places.


Toby knows the importance of composting and recycling. After checking that our composting and recycling bins are appropriately filled, he takes some time for rest and relaxation. Toby’s personality helps him easily befriend the entire dog crew, but he spends much of the day working on his second novel, a comedic mystery.


Fall Versions of Your Summer Favorites

Fall is fast approaching, but don’t fret! That means the season of pumpkin spiced lattes and cute winter booties is also upon us, and that’s something to celebrate. Here at Mata we just launched our new fall collection, and it’s just in time to get you dreaming of those fall adventures you’re about to have.

In order to help you amp up your wardrobe for the upcoming season, we’ve picked out some Fall looks similar to our Spring best sellers that you’ll love – and don’t worry if you don’t see something on our website yet. The fall collection will be in our online shop next month!


If you adored our Ikat Polo Dress, you’re going to swoon over our new Museo Shift Dress. Pair it with a cardigan and pumps and take a stroll through the park and take in the crisp autumn air. We guarantee with it’s shift silhouette and unique pattern you’re sure to stand out.


The Serenade dress will steal your heart just like our Pop of Floral dress did. Our Serenade dress comes in a beautiful hand-woven ikat design, as well as a pretty watercolor floral print. Both styles are perfect for those rainy days when you just want to stay inside or peruse art at your local museum.


Separates lovers rejoice! We have a new skirt that is sure to be a new staple in your wardrobe.

Our First in Class skirt is a longer version of our Amelia skirt, in a classic new red and navy plaid. Pair it with your favorite cable knit sweater and a pair of red tights and you’ve got a comfy yet chic outfit to wear to Thanksgiving with your family.


If you’re looking for the perfect laid back outfit for apple picking, the Sabina shirtdress is a great choice. This new design is similar to it’s Summer sister, the Natalia shirtdress, with a cinched waist and side seam pockets. The Sabina comes in a gorgeous subdued plaid that gives off some serious autumn vibes.


The Elena knit dress is perfect if you are a fan of our Eva wrap dress. It comes in a geometric black and white design and is made from our fair trade organic cotton jersey, sure to keep you comfy and warm. Pair it with a black hat and some oxfords and you have the perfect look for strolling through your local farmer’s market.

Check back soon to shop our new collection – it launches next month! We hope you find some new favorites!


23 Spring/Summer Mata Styles for Petites!

It can be hard shopping as a petite! While everyone has challenges when searching for new clothes, petites have to be on the lookout for items that are the right proportions – the proportions of the bodice and skirt must be short enough, and the length of a dress is often too long.

Luckily for our petite Mata fans, our very own Director of Sales (and challenger of office height competitions) Jonit tried on the entire Spring/Summer 2017 collection and made a list of the best items for petites. Here’s what she found:



1. Tulum Tassel top
2. Trapeze tank cobalt
3. Trapeze tank maroon
4. Sunshine and Sea top seafoam


5. High Line skirt stripes
6. Bailee Button skirt
7. Ikat Mini skirt peach
8. Florence Midi skirt red
9. Marlowe Tube skirt maroon
10. Carmella Swing skirt red
11. Carmella Swing skirt indigo



1. First Impressions dress red
2. Anika Scoop dress navy
3. Bellini dress teal
4. Artsy Traveler dress red
5. Artsy Traveler dress black
6. Summer Sonnet dress cobalt
7. Anika Scoop dress white/blue
8. Eva Wrap dress navy
9. Pop of Floral dress
10. Eva Wrap dress red
11. Summer Sonnet dress teal
12. Shibori Maxi dress

Happy shopping!


Red, White, & Blue Giveaway 2017 [Giveaway Closed]

–Giveaway is closed and the winner has been notified! Thanks to all who participated! —

As temperatures rise here in Chicago, so does our excitement: Summer is finally here! That means donning some flirty sandals, floppy sunhats, and your favorite sundress while you soak up the warm sunshine. Here at Mata we are rejoicing the return of our own favorite time of the year: dress season!

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know we do a red, white, and blue giveaway every summer. Well, friends, that time has rolled around again, and this year’s prize is better than ever!

ethical giveaway

We decided to switch things up a bit this summer and give you the option between four different dresses: The Madrona dress in Red, the Fine Print dress in blue, the Natalia dress in blue, or the Anika dress in navy and red. So many options, so little time! These dresses will make you stand out in the crowd during your 4th of July festivities, whether it’s grilling out with the family, or watching the fireworks display downtown.

There are three ways to enter this year and you have between June 21st and June 25th to do so:

1. Comment below with your favorite piece from the Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
2. Share this post on Facebook and comment on our post saying you did so.
3. Repost this post on Instagram. Include the hashtag #RWBgiveaway (if your account is private, comment on our post saying you shared it)

The giveaway will be open through the end of the day (in Chicago) Sunday, June 25th. We’ll announce one randomly-drawn winner the next morning, Monday 6/26!

Sorry Canadian and international customers, this is open to U.S.-dwellers only.


Mata’s Guide to Summer Fun

Summer is finally upon us! And lucky for us, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Chicago during these next few hot weather months. If you ever find yourself at a loss for what to do, check out one (or all) of the things below! And, of course, we’ve provided you with some cute styling suggestions. Whatever you decide to do this summer, do it in style.

Watch a movie in the park


Get excited for summer Tuesdays, and pull your picnic basket and blanket out of winter storage! The list of movies being screened at Millennium Park this summer include classics such as The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, and The Princess Bride, as well as a more recent smash hit La La Land. Be sure to get there early to snag a prime seat! Or visit the Chicago Parks District’s website to see if any of the other hundreds of movie screenings are happening at your local park.

Spend a weekend at the Indiana Dunes


Such a fun weekend getaway! Splurge on a recycled polyester backpack and some ethical cargo shorts and you’re conquering the sand in style. Pitch a tent, start a fire, and spend the weekend roasting marshmallows and climbing Indiana’s famous sand dunes.

Take a “Make & Take” jewelry class with your girls!

chicago jewelry-making

You love jewelry– why not try your hand at making a custom piece of your very own? MASHALLA is located in Pilsen, sells unique handmade jewelry on their website, and they offer a variety of jewelry making workshops (like the Morse Code Necklace workshop on June 22nd!). Or, schedule a private jewelry making class for you and your friends– the perfect girls night out!

Hit the zoo


Not only does the Lincoln Park Zoo have a wide variety of animals to visit and learn more about, but did you know it’s free? For an inexpensive day out, spend your time exploring the zoo, walking their boardwalk and enjoying a view of the skyline before grabbing lunch at one of their restaurants.

Find a patio


There’s nothing like eating a delicious meal while simultaneously enjoying a warm summer breeze. Round up your friends or coworkers and dine alfresco! For a list of some of the best patio and rooftop restaurants in the city, check out Eater Chicago’s list.

Take a hike


Spend some time enjoying the great outdoors! Did you know you don’t have to travel that far from the city to do it? Throw on some stretchy PACT leggings and organic cotton sneakers and check out this list from Chicagoist of the best hiking paths that are totally do-able as a day trip.

Tea time at the Drake


Pinkies up! For Chicagoans, tea time at the Drake Hotel is one of those things you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. Grab a friend, throw on a dress (how perfect would our Tea Time dress be?), and allow yourself to feel like royalty as you sip tea and munch on hors d’oeuvres.

Shop a farmer’s market


In the Midwest, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by tons of small farms outside any major city. We don’t even need to leave the city to appreciate their fresh produce and flowers, thanks to farmer’s markets! Green City Market is dedicated to local produce and sustainability (not to mention it’s one of the 7 best farmer’s markets in the country). Keep it casual in some Birks and your new favorite tote bag. If you can’t make it out to Green City or just prefer to stay closer to home, do not fret! Go here for a full list of farmers markets in the city.




Hit the Beach with Mata

It’s that time of year again: beach season! But just because your mind might be on summer vacation, doesn’t mean your ethical shopping habits have to be! Support local, sustainable, and fair trade companies when you hit the beach this year.

Don’t know where to look? We put together a few ensembles to help you get started. If you weren’t already excited for some fun in the sun, these sets will make you want to head out and soak up some rays ASAP. Learn more about the companies mentioned here at the end of the post.

Mata Beach 1

A look made for lounging poolside. Show off this adorable one-piece by Underprotection with a Kayu statement tote while burying your nose in a copy of The Responsible Company, a page-turner about the first 40 years of Patagonia. If you do get the urge to dip your toes in the water, dry off with a handwoven cotton towel by Kara Weaves. Add a splash of color to the otherwise muted outfit with our Madrona dress in red!

Mata Beach 2

A little bit of indigo goes a long way. This handmade cotton towel by Woven Promises, floral bikini by Underprotection (here & here), and tote by Kayu compliment our Tisbury dress perfectly!  When you’re done splashing in the waves, flip through The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black, your guide to learn more about the environmental and social impact of the fast fashion industry.

Mata Beach 3

Made of 95% fair trade organic cotton jersey and 5% spandex, our Summer Sonnet dress in cobalt will be a beach cover-up that won’t restrict you in the slightest. Pair with this bikini by Underprotection (here & here) and bag by Mar Y Sol for a look that will be perfect for beach volleyball, strolls on the boardwalk, and everything in between. When you’re ready to relax, lie back on this Woven Promises whimsical rainbow beach towel and flip open Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan, a book that will help you take back your purchasing power as a consumer.

Mata Beach 4

Let out your inner mermaid out in this Underprotection one-piece. Add to the feminine flair with our Oxford Pocket Dress in pink, this Mexican serape blanket by Camaxtl, and a striped tassel tote by Mar Y Sol. To Die For, an expose on the fashion industry written by Lucy Siegle, ethical living columnist for The Observer, adds the finishing touch to an afternoon in the sand.

About the Brands

Underprotection is a Danish company whose mission it is to show the world that being sustainable doesn’t mean you have to be any less fashionable. Their production is certified with Fair Wear Foundation, an independent and non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the fair treatment of garment workers, and all of their swimwear is made using recycled polyester.

Woven Promises is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and is dedicated to improving the lives of economically struggling artisans in Ethiopia through the fair purchase and resale of their products. The artisans they work with honor age-old techniques, weaving, spinning, and dying all of their products by hand.

Kara Weaves works with weaving co-operatives in Kerala, India to design and produce contemporary textiles using ancient fabrics and traditional wooden looms. In 2013, Kara Weaves became a member of the Fair Trade Forum of India.

Camaxtl is made up of 13 artisans working in San Bernardino Contla in Tlaxcala, Mexico. All of the designs come out of community of Saltillo and the serapes are woven using traditional methods, allowing the artisans to make a living while preserving their cultural heritage.

Mar Y Sol artisans use organically tanned leathers and ethically sourced raw materials that not only honor tradition but protect the environment. Mar Y Sol products are handmade in Madagascar and feature creative designs and exquisite craftsmanship.

Kayu is passionate about providing every woman with the ability to make a living for herself through the production of time-honored crafts. Kayu uses locally-sourced and eco-friendly materials to ensure that their production method has a positive impact on the environment, as well as their artisans.






Ethical Wedding Showers and Flowers – Oh My!

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Weddings can take a lot of energy to plan, so it’s a huge relief that somebody else handles the bridal shower. When my mom and aunt brought up mine, one of my first thoughts was, “What am I going to wear?”

My biggest love affair, other than my soon-to-be husband, was fair trade fashion. Naturally I had to wear a dress that was not only fun and pretty, but made with integrity. And since Mata Traders always hits the mark, I went with a beautiful pastel floral print from the SS’15 collection (Afternoon Allure dress in blue – sold out but similar here).

afternoon allure dress


Looking to Mata’s current spring/summer season, floral prints are abound and featured on flirty silhouettes.

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For the bride who loves her accessories and enjoys a pop of color, the black and white Mod Motion dress is perfect. Pair it with accessories that match your wedding colors, or let your shower guests adorn you with all those ribbons.


Feel like wearing your something blue at the shower? The Sydney dress’ indigo floral print will have your guests gushing over you. Go bold with gold and white accessories, like the Archer necklace in ivory and the Layered Spike earrings in cream.


And for brides who love a touch of sophistication (maybe to impress the in-laws), the navy Eva Wrap dress is cut just right. Pair it with daintier jewelry like the Tiered Tube necklace or gold Chime In earrings and a pair of wedges.

dress_evawrap_navy_m (1)

The week of my shower, I was very excited about receiving gifts, but not just so I could have more stuff. I was more enthusiastic about the great stories behind these beautiful products. I wanted our apartment to be filled with conversation pieces that could spark discussions with friends and family on the importance of fair trade and other ethical practices, and of course, make the place feel more like home!

If you’re also craving a change of pace from the standard registry, and want unique, fairly-made pieces, I found two great fair trade websites to register on for my shower. Serrv and Ten Thousand Villages both have a wide array of home goods to browse through. From kitchen utensils (how cool are these?) to furniture, to serving bowls (like these nesting bowls made in Cameroon), and garden pieces, there’s something for everyone. Or, register with a site like Thankful and add your favorite ethical products from whatever shops you like (I love these towels from Giraffe).

Beautiful acacia wood serving pieces, hand carved to highlight the wood’s natural grain.

A post shared by Serrv International (@serrvintl) on

It seems like 99% of brides register at Target, and understandably so (what don’t they sell?). You probably want electronics and other items that may not have easily found ethical alternatives. So if you’re already planning to register at Target, I have exciting news for you! One of my favorite online shops, Accompany now has product featured on Add linens, decorative bowls, mugs, jewelry boxes, and more to your registry. Accompany has a beautifully curated collection of fair trade and artisan made goods, so it will be hard to choose!

Of course, there are always the type of guests who won’t shop online (think: grandma and her sisters). In that case, encourage them to shop local, or even pass down something special from their own marriage (if you’re like me, you love the story, right?).

When it comes to shower day-of details, it’s surprisingly easy to add an ethical twist!

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Serve fair trade chocolate (Divine Chocolate has a ton of fun flavors) and fair trade coffee from Equal Exchange. And to sweeten up that lemonade? Try some fair trade sugar.

DIY-ing the decor and using local vendors for food and flowers is a great way to support your local community, fuel your creativity, and minimize your environmental impact.

Now knowing your shower is good for the world, it’s time to sit back, relax, and try to soak in all of the love being poured over you from dear friends and relatives.




From Paper to Print : Behind the Design of the Spring ’17 Collection

Hello! I’m Katelyn, one of the textile designers here at Mata Traders. With our Spring/Summer ‘17 collection off to such a great start, I thought it might be fun to give you all a glimpse behind the creation process of two of our most popular prints this season! Taking a sketch from the initial concept and developing it into one of a dozen finalized prints in a collection can be a labor of love, but it is always worth it in the long run. I love seeing my work on so many beautiful Mata customers!

The first popular print of the season began with the idea of using lines to form an interconnected patchwork pattern – we called it Patchwork Lines. I took inspiration from African and Moroccan textiles but for a more organic look, added my own hand-drawn slant to it.

I sat down and started doodling and the framework for the print emerged.


Then I digitized it and created the tessellation.


One of the best ways to get more mileage out of one print design is to play around with how it looks. Varying the amount of colors used in the print, using different printing methods, scale, or types of fabric are all great methods we can use to try out new variations of a print. With so many different silhouettes in each collection, sometimes certain variations work better on one style or fabric than another.


Three color, industrial printing process, on fair trade organic jersey cotton



Two color, traditional screen printing process



Two color, traditional screen printing process


The second print that’s been flying off the shelves this spring is the Pop of Floral, and we used it in two different variations in the collection. The influence for this print came from Suzani inspired designs.

suzani1suzani2suzani 1

I’m not gonna lie, this print was a real doozy to get right. Unlike the patchwork lines print, which was successful on the first iteration, the pop of floral was ridiculously tricky, taking several rounds of revisions. We almost ended up cutting it a few times but persevered! The hardest part to get right was the vines. Below are a couple of examples that were just not quite right.

Ouch. Too many vines here!



This one is slightly better, but still kind of claustrophobic and viney.



Ah, finally! We’ve got a winner!





Three color, industrial printing process, on fair trade organic jersey cotton



Three color, hand screen printing process

By changing the colors and doing one in woven cotton and one in a knit cotton, it almost looks like a completely different print!

Whether you’re looking for a fun floral or a funky geometric this spring, Mata has plenty of original prints for you to choose from. We invest a lot of time creating one-of-a-kind textile designs for our unique customers, and this Spring/Summer ‘17 Collection is fair trade fashion you can get excited about!








Mata Loves Moms

In honor of today being Take Your Daughter (or Child) to Work Day here in the U.S., and in anticipation of Mother’s Day, we figured some of you might be wondering what it’s like to be a working mom at one of our partner cooperatives. You’re curious, right?

According to Indian laws, women are guaranteed 3 months of paid maternity leave and job protection – this would be great (and is still better than the maternity leave policy in the U.S.), except many employers overlook these laws. There were over 900 lawsuits filed regarding maternity law violations in the past several years, with likely many, many more unreported cases involving women who were unable to take legal action.

Few employers offer flexible working hours or daycare, and many won’t offer extended maternity leave, even if there are ongoing medical issues, forcing most women to quit their jobs after having a child.

With around only a quarter of Indian women returning to work after having children, it’s no wonder a fair trade artisan cooperative is a great place to work! At Mata, we value the importance of working with producer groups who provide support and services to their members, especially mothers.

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Our partner cooperative in Nepal has a daycare right next to the production unit where the stitchers work. If their kids aren’t old enough to attend school, moms can bring their kids to the daycare. This is super helpful for the co-op members – they don’t have to go through the stress of scheduling or paying someone else to watch their children (moms out there know what a hassle this can be!). Plus, they can see their kids whenever they want while at work!

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Some of the kids at our Nepal cooperative’s daycare center.


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You can see, frequent visits with mom make for some happy kiddos!

Our jewelry artisans have organized an after school program for neighborhood kids, many of them with parents who work at the cooperative. The children come to the center after school until their parents are done at work. There are two teachers, one for younger children around kindergarten age and one for older children.

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The younger kids spend some time with the ABCs, and the older children are tutored on subjects like Math, Science, Hindi, and English. A few of the kids said they love Math and Hindi, and on the day of this photo they were learning subtraction and days of the week in English.

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Naseem, the head of our jewelry workshop, with his son.
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Many women who work at our partner cooperatives have explained that homemaking and childcare tends to be the woman’s responsibility in Indian/Nepali households, so working isn’t always feasible for much of the female population. Being able to provide a second income while fulfilling their motherly responsibilities is a great opportunity, and their children happen to love it, too.

Happy Mother’s Day!








Fashion Revolution Week


April 24th-30th is Fashion Revolution Week! And since we know you’re just as excited for it as we are, we put together a handy resource guide to answer your questions, highlight events taking place near our Chicago headquarters, and let you know how you can get involved wherever you are!

What is Fashion Revolution?

Fashion Revolution is a not-for-profit organization based in the U.K. that is dedicated to creating a more ethical fashion industry, one that values its workers and the environment and treats them both with respect.

How did it come to be?

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring more than 2,500. The factories inside the building produced garments for numerous popular apparel brands, including United Colors of Benetton and Zara. The day prior to the structural failure, cracks were discovered in the building, and architects warned that the conditions were dangerous. The space, originally designed for banking and retail use, wasn’t built to bear the weight of manufacturing plants with heavy machinery and thousands of employees. Under pressure to meet the short production deadlines of his fast fashion clientele, the building’s owner ordered factory staff to return to work the next day anyway. The catastrophe was the deadliest garment factory accident in history. More than half of the victims were women, along with many children who were in the factory’s daycare facility.

Fashion Revolution Week

Photo credit: Fashion Revolution

To commemorate the tragedy, Fashion Revolution asks members of the fashion industry and people all over the world to unite annually on April 24th to make fashion a force for good. Believing that transparency is at the heart of ethical production, Fashion Revolution encourages everyone to ask one simple question: Who made my clothes?

What can I do?

There are numerous ways to get involved! If you live in the Chicago area, below is a list of events you can attend:

Friday, 4/21 – Fashion Show at DePaul

6pm – 9pm, Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont St.

The DePaul Fair Trade Committee will be hosting its fourth annual Fashion Revolution event in commemoration of the Rana Plaza Disaster. From a Runway to a free Raffle, they will be providing food and entertainment with a special performance by local artist Ridgio and much more! And did we mention its entirely FREE?

Mata Traders will be at this event so come say hi!

Tuesday, 4/25 – Make Do and Mend

5pm – 9pm, 623 S. Wabash St.

Photo Credit: Fashion Revolution

Join a group of Columbia College fashion students to fix, tailor, and upcycle your clothing! While your garments are being altered, watch a screening of “The True Cost” in the same building. There will also be a screen printing demo, with t-shirts available for immediate purchase.

Want to make a night of it? Head to Epic Burger for dinner, and mention Chicago Fair Trade at checkout: 20% of your meal’s cost will be donated to CFT! RSVP here before April 22nd.

Wednesday, 4/26 – Fashion Show and Panel

5:45pm – 9pm, 618 S. Michigan Ave., 2nd floor

Photo credit: Chicago Fair Trade

Chicago Fair Trade and Columbia College are co-sponsoring an epic ethical fashion event! The night will begin with a social, where guests can treat themselves to fair trade wine and hors d’oeuvre while perusing a curated selection of pop-up shops. Afterwards, there will be a fashion show featuring clothing from fair trade vendors, resale shops, and sustainable student pieces. Lastly, there will also be a panel discussion with keynote speaker Kelsey Timmerman, author of “Where am I Wearing?”

Mata Traders will be at this event so come say hi!

Thursday, 4/27 – Film Screening and Q&A

1pm, Evanston Public Library

Photo credit: Eco Fashion Talk

Watch “Clothes to Die For,” a documentary about the Rana Plaza Tragedy. Stay for a Q&A with Kelsey Timmerman after the screening.

Friday, 4/28 – March to Nike

10am, 618 S. Michigan Ave.

Photo credit: Huffington Post

Join a group of delegates marching to the Nike store on Michigan Avenue in protest of Nike’s refusal to let the Worker Rights Consortium access their factories. Thank you notes will also be delivered to Eileen Fisher and Patagonia for their commitment and leadership in ethical fashion.

Not in Chicago? Not a problem!

Head to for a list of events taking place worldwide, or get involved any of the ways below:

Monday, 4/24 – Show Your Label

Photo credit: Fashion Revolution

Turn your clothing inside out and show off your label! Then snap a pic and post it to social media with the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes to demand transparency from apparel companies.

Thursday, 4/27 – Take a Stand

Take a stand today against companies that use sweatshops, exploit cheap labor, or aren’t transparent about their supply and production chains by donating to fair trade organizations or purchasing fair trade products!

If you’re having trouble deciding on a fair trade brand to support, we may have a suggestion for you…


Tell Your Fashion Love Story

Photo credit: Fashion Revolution

Clothing isn’t meant to be worn a couple times and discarded; it’s meant to be cherished, cared for, and passed on! Check out some of these fashion love stories, and then tell your own. Make an Instagram post, YouTube video, podcast, or blog post about an item in your closet that means a lot to you. Your story could be featured by Fashion Revolution!

Share Your #Haulternative

Photo credit: Haulternative

Fashion shopping hauls are all too common, but not at all necessary! There are numerous ways to refresh your wardrobe without buying new clothing. Make a video showing your #Haulternative, whether it be distressing jeans, trying a cute DIY, buying secondhand, or organizing a clothing swap with friends. Upload your video to YouTube during Fashion Revolution week and spread the hashtag #Haulternative. For a complete how-to, download the #Haulternative guide.

Become a Student Ambassador

Photo credit: Fashion Revolution

If you are a student and would like to get involved in organizing Fashion Revolution events at your college or university, download the guide!

Be a Conscious Shopper


The best way to stop the harmful effects of fast fashion is to stop supporting it. Instead, invest in slow fashion and research where and how a garment is made before purchasing. For a more comprehensive guide of how you can be a fashion revolutionary, download this booklet.

Learn more about how your favorite fair trade fashions are made at our artisan partner cooperatives, and how your support of ethical fashion affects the lives of garment workers overseas. And all week long, share Fashion Revolution photos from our facebook album of some of our artisans.

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10 Women of India Who Changed History

Happy Women’s History Month! As March comes to an end, we want to recognize the skilled female artisans who craft many of Mata Traders’ pieces, as well as pay tribute to strong, inspirational women of India who’ve made their mark on history. Below is a compilation of just a few of the courageous women who have broken down barriers and changed their country for the better.

Medhar Patkar


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Activist turned politician, Medhar Patkar is a well-known advocate for sustainability, just land acquisition and development, workers rights, and the rights of slum and forest dwellers. Over the years, Patkar has led the fight against numerous development projects in India that have threatened to displace marginalized groups and hurt the environment. She is most famous for founding Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a social movement that protests the construction of a number of large dams across the Narmada River. Patkar has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout her career, including the Human Rights Defender Award from Amnesty International and the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice.


Irom Chanu Sharmila

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Recently ending her 16-year hunger strike on March 14, Irom Chanu Sharmila, also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur,” had been fasting in protest of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) since she was 28 years old. AFSPA grants the military the right to to use unregulated force in “disturbed” areas of India in order to prevent uprisings. As a consequence of her protest, Sharmila was arrested for “attempted suicide,” detained at a hospital, and fed through a nasal tube after beginning her hunger strike. Realizing that her fast was not bringing about the kind of change she’d hoped, Sharmila ended her hunger strike and shifted course to pursue a career in politics. Her legacy of passion and perseverance make her among the most influential women of India.

Rani Lakshmibai


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As the queen of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai fought fiercely and ferociously against British rule during the Great Indian Rebellion of 1857. Having a young adopted son did not stop her in the slightest, and many accounts depict her riding into battle wielding two swords, the horse reins in her teeth, and her son on her back. Though Jhansi eventually fell to British rule, Lakshmibai was able to rally her troops and, against all odds, hold onto her land for over two weeks. Despite being forced to evacuate her city, Lakshmibai fought to the death, dying in battle after refusing to surrender. Her strength and bravery made her a legend in Indian culture. She has been honored with numerous statues, and the Indian National Army’s all female infantry was named after her during World War II.


Usha Mehta


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A freedom fighter and devout follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Usha Mehta and a few of her associates organized the underground radio station Secret Congress Radio during the Quit India Movement of 1942. Her efforts got her arrested and sentenced to prison for four years for conspiring against the British government. In 1998, the Indian government honored her with the Padma Vibhushan award, one of India’s highest civilian awards.


Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

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A diplomat and politician, Pandit’s career was full of many impressive accomplishments. She was the first Indian woman ever to become a Cabinet Minister and the first woman in the world to be an ambassador to three different countries, serving in Moscow, London, and Washington D.C. Most notably, however, she was the first woman and the first Asian to be elected the President of the United Nations General Assembly.


Savitribai Phule

Savitribai Phule

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Described as “one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists,” Savitribai Phule is most known for, along with her husband Jyotirao Phule, opening the first women’s school in India. Together, the couple opened 18 schools for girls, and Savitribai became India’s first female teacher and headmistress. Their social work did not stop there, however. Savitribai and her husband opened an “infanticide prohibition house” to help care for pregnant victims of sexual exploitation who were at risk of committing suicide or infanticide due to their condition. They also fought against the caste system and opened a well in their house, welcoming untouchables who were denied drinking water by the upper caste.


Justice Anna Chandy


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Justice Anna Chandy became the first female Indian judge when she was appointed to a district court 1937. When she was appointed to a high court in 1959, she became only the second woman in the world to hold the distinctive title of high court judge. Along with her judicial accomplishments, Justice Chandy advocated for women’s rights in the journal she founded and edited, Shrimati.


Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

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Freedom fighter, feminist, and socialist, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was a major contributor to India’s independence movement and an advocate for women’s equality. After the Partition of India in 1947, she organized the Indian Cooperative Union, helping rehabilitate over 50,000 refugees in the newly founded township of Faridabad. Today, the industrial township has a population of around 1.5 million people. Kamaladevi is most known for her work to preserve Indian handicrafts and protect the artisans who make them. Worried about the effects that Western methods of mass-production would have on India’s traditional crafts, she set up numerous craft museums throughout the country, as well as founded the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography. Her leadership was instrumental in starting the All India Handicrafts Board.


Kiran Bedi


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Kiran Bedi became the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1972. She voluntarily retired from the force in 2007 as the Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development. In May 2016, she was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, a position that she still holds today. In 1984, she launched the NGO Navjyoti India Foundation (NIF), whose mission was to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of drug addicts and has since expanded to tackle illiteracy and women’s empowerment issues. She also founded the India Vision Foundation in 1994, which works to reform police forces and prisons, empower women, and develop rural areas within India.


Sucheta Kriplani

Sucheta Kriplani

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A freedom fighter during the Indian Independence Movement, Sucheta Kriplani worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during the Partition Riots. She was elected to the Constituent Assembly and, as part of a subcommittee, helped draft India’s constitution. In 1963, she was elected the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, making her the first female Chief Minister in India’s history.























Spring Break Style

Dust off your flips flops and grab the sunnies – your escape from winter doldrums has arrived. Meet Mata’s new Spring/Summer 2017 collection!

Take a look at some fresh, fun pieces to add to your warm-weather wardrobe. Whether you actually get a vacation or just plan on daydreaming your way to a sandy beach, our spring break style tips will take you there. You’ve worked hard – treat yourself to a destination-worthy outfit.

No matter where you’re headed, our Spring 2017 collection is flexible and flattering, with bold prints and style to spare. Four trips, four outfits; we’ve got you covered.

Mountain Trip Outfit

Etta skirt *coming soon!* // Crosswinds cuff gold

All that urban air gotten to your lungs? Take a deep breath of some mountain air and be bold – that’s right, hike in a SKIRT. That’s crazy, you say. It’s so silly, you say. But if you like feeling a little girly, there’s no reason not to! Go straight from trail to taproom in a skirt that’s got plenty of room to stretch but looks nice enough for a night out. Add a fitted cuff for a smart accessory that won’t get in the way.


Sydney dress black // Santa Fe ring *coming soon!* // Althea neckalce gold *coming soon!*

Galavanting across Europe is a gift in itself, but take a cue from the Euros: get a chic new outfit, and make it look effortless. No need to shy away from prints just because you’re in the most fashion forward area of the world – a graphic black and white dress will do the trick! Bright earrings and a big ring add the right amount of punch, and a gold layered necklace dresses it up.


Tea Time dress red //  Hex Cutout earrings emerald

Stick a straw in that coconut, it’s time to relax (lucky you)! Take your funky side out for a beachside stroll in a bright dress and standout earrings. The salty breeze will carry you all the way to a dressy dinner. Just give your windswept hair a quick brush, and change out of your flip flops. Our favorite perk of spring break style? Versatile dresses take up minimal space to keep your luggage packed light!


Maisie Trim Top black // Empress earrings red

Who says you have to go somewhere exotic to treat yourself to a new look? Most of us don’t make time to explore our local hidden gems, so a hometown weekend is the ultimate opportunity to rediscover great places in your own backyard. Be the new tourist in town (wink) with a comfortable top and dangly earrings. After all, adventure goes beyond a passport stamp!










Women-Owned Businesses in honor of International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to acknowledge the perseverance and determination of women everywhere. What better way to celebrate than by supporting your local and nationwide women-owned businesses (luckily, Chicago is FULL of them)! We compiled a list of just some of the hundreds of thousands of women-owned businesses nationwide, so you know your money is going to a fellow female. Happy shopping/eating/spending!


Uncommon Ground link

A Chicago jewel, the weekend brunch is a must try! Their menu changes seasonally, and they use organic, sustainable, and locally grown ingredients whenever possible. In the summer, enjoy dishes made using produce from their certified organic rooftop garden above their Edgewater location.

Located: 1401 West Devon Ave., Chicago, IL 60660 & 3800 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60613

Women & Children Firstlink

Not only women owned, but over the years Women & Children First has grown to be one of the largest Feminist Bookstores in the country with over 30,000 books by or about women on the shelves! Be sure to keep an eye out for the many special events and book signings they have with well-known female authors throughout the year.

Located: 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60640

Art Effect Boutiquelink

A “one stop shop,” the Art Effect Boutique offers a wide and continuously changing selection of clothing, jewelry, accessories, home goods, and bath and body products.

Located: 934 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL  60614

The Growling Rabbitlink

An adorable, laid back cafe that is very vegetarian and vegan friendly! Recently relocated from Roger’s Park to Edgewater, The Growling Rabbit features a slightly updated look with the same delicious food.

Located: 5938 N. Broadway Ave, Chicago, IL 60660


A store full of handcrafted and vintage items, that is devoted to the principle of buying better–not more. Swing by for gorgeous jewelry, home goods, and more!

Located: 1452 W. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Ethiopian Diamondlink

Whether you’re already a fan of Ethiopian food or simply an adventurous eater, Ethiopian Diamond is the go-to for Ethiopian food in Chicago. Just don’t forget to make sure your hands are clean before you chow down.

Located: 6120 N Broadway St., Chicago, IL 60660 & 7537 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60626

Lori’s Shoeslink

Lori opened her first shop in a small storefront in Lincoln Park in 1983. Since then, Lori’s has expanded to occupy nearly 4,500 sq. ft. and sell shoes, bags, accessories and, most recently, apparel.

824 Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614 (See website for suburban locations)

Badass Cross Stitchlink

Cross stitchers unite! If you are a fan of the craft, you have to look into Badass Cross Stitch. Not only are the patterns created by a woman, but many feature various influential women and women leaders–just check out the Badass Women Series!

Twisted Scissorslink

A funky salon that specializes in bold color and cuts. If you have been contemplating an edgy new style, this is the place to get it done!

Located: 2001 N. Point St., Chicago, IL 60647

Dirt Body Carelink

Reasonably priced body scrubs that are good for your skin and the planet! Dirt body scrubs are all natural and never use parabens, mineral oils, petroleum, artificial colors, or animal testing.



Nation-wide Businesses


Gorgeous handcrafted accessories and kitchenware. Badala provides employment to female artisans in East Africa and Central America, with the goal to eventually put an end to poverty and sex trafficking worldwide.

Mater Soaplink

Handcrafted, small batch soaps that are made using 100% natural and sustainably-sourced plant ingredients.


S’well was founded in 2010 as a way to combat plastic water bottle waste. Fast forward seven years and it is the fastest growing female-owned business in the country!

Juniperseed Mercantilelink

Juniperseed Mercantile is where you can find eco-friendly alternatives to many common but wasteful household items. They offer handmade cleaning solutions, beauty products, and cloth versions of everyday paper goods.


Handcrafted in L.A., Kosås lipsticks are not only rich in color but they do not contain any parabens, preservatives, or synthetic fragrances. As well as being gluten, egg, nut, soy, and cruelty free.

Rae Venalink

Describing herself as a Visionary Pop Surrealist, Rae Vena’s piece are rich with color and play with perspective. View her work on her website or at one of the many festivals and art fairs she attends.

Le Feu De L’eaulink

Translated into English, Le Feu De L’eau means “the fire of the water.” Appropriate, as Le Feu De L’eau candles are sculpted using water rather than molds!


Created to encourage young creatives to pursue a career in the arts, a portion of every sale is put into a tuition fund for the artist.

Cleanse by Lauren Napierlink

Not only are Cleanse wipes easy and effective at removing makeup, pollution, and impurities from the skin, but you can rest assured knowing that they contain only pure ingredients and complex natural compounds that have been deemed safe by the World Health Organization.


A curated selection of worldly goods from artisans and Fair Trade Organizations across the globe!


Handcrafted and ethically-sourced jewelry, Soko utilizes mobile technology to introduce small-scale and marginalized artisans into the global market.

Moon Juicelink

No doubt you heard about their “sex dust” when Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that she adds it to her infamous $200 smoothie, but Moon Juice offers a wide variety of different holistic and plant-based juices, milks, and snacks.

Moonrise Whimslink

Love cross stitch but don’t know how to do it yourself? Or simply want to support another artist’s work? Moonrise Whims offers numerous beautiful designs, many with funny or empowering sayings.

Isabel Halley Ceramicslink

Handcrafted pottery that is not only incredibly chic but also undeniably unique!

Sprinkles Cupcakeslink

Founders of the Cupcake ATM, by now the bullseye topped cupcakes have become iconic. Not to mention that it was founded and is owned by a woman! As if you needed another reason to eat a cupcake today…





Behind the Scenes: Spring 2017 Fashion Shoot

As we get ready to launch our Spring ’17 Collection (coming soon to stores and our website!), we’re excited to share a little sneak peek of the catalog photo shoot, which took place in September 2016. From the time we start designing a collection to when it hits stores takes more than a year, and the spring 2017 fashion shoot happens before the goods even go into production in India and Nepal!

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Theme of the Shoot:

This season we really wanted to capture the essence of the “classic” Mata-lovin’ girl, with unpretentious, relaxed styling set against romantic, beachy, bohemian scenery. Here is the moodboard we created to kick-start our spring 2017 fashion inspiration:


Location Scouting

In need of a dreamy, woodsy location to evoke the right mood for the catalog, we looked in our own backyard. The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary was perfect for the outdoor portion of the shoot, and only a short drive from our office in Chicago. Not only is it a beautiful place to walk around and explore right in the city, it’s also a stone’s throw from Montrose Beach –two different backdrops in one trip!

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Since we had more than 75 garments to photograph, we also shot a full day in the studio – but tried to carry over the playful, relaxed vibe of the outdoor locations.

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The amazing crew:

We worked with our awesome photographer, Ashley, hair and make-up artist Caitlin, and three models: Carissa, Colleen, and Sierra (our very own Sales and Operations Assistant!).

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The Styling

For hair and make-up, we kept it natural and effortless – long loose chignons, natural waves and curls, easy up-dos, and minimal make-up.

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Our staff raided their closets and brought in accessories and shoes to help us style each outfit and our lovely friends at Greenheart Shop (hi, guys!) lent us some fair trade purses and totes to add the finishing touches. They say “it takes a village,” and that couldn’t be more true.

Last but absolutely not least, our Customer Service Manager, Emily, brought in her too-cool vintage blue bike. How cute is this thing?

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Our Spring ’17 Collection launches online mid-March – stay tuned!


Behind the Seams: a Special Q & A with Kristin


By now, you’re well aware that we specialize in unique prints and original designs – we create our own clothing and jewelry from start to finish. The prints come from us, patterns for the clothing are developed in-house, and we learn a lot with each collection we launch. One of the best parts of fair trade is remembering that there are human beings behind every piece we make, but we usually think more of the artisans physically producing our products than of the people designing and planning. Our Design & Production team here in Chicago is so involved and experienced with the immersive process of designing and creating garments and jewelry that we wanted to spend this Q&A hearing from one of Mata’s early employees and our Designer, Kristin. She joined the team in 2010 and will be taking her 10th trip to India & Nepal next month! Here’s what she had to say:

1) What is your favorite part about traveling to India/Nepal?
The first time I traveled to India and Nepal I had no idea what to expect – it was overwhelming and new. Now, it has become such a part of my life, a familiar place with familiar people. I have so many favorite parts: the animals – cows, donkeys, dogs, an occasional camel or elephant sharing the road with your rickshaw, the vibrant colors – organized chaos is the best way I can describe it. I can’t get enough of the food, the daily cups of chai, and the go with the flow attitude.


2) What is it like working with the artisans directly, when you visit?
I love working with the designers and patternmakers at each of our co-operatives, these are the people I email and talk to the most – having that global network of friends makes part of traveling so easy. A lot of my favorite memories are the chances we get to visit their homes, meet their families, and eat some of the best home cooked meals I’ve ever had. Visiting the artisans who stitch our clothing or make our jewelry and seeing the impact of our orders each season are some of the best parts about traveling. The feeling you get when they all pile in for a picture with you or their faces any time we get the courage to try and say a couple phrases in Hindi goes beyond any words.


3) Do you have any specific memories or stories of your first trip there?
Oh gosh, one of the funniest memories I have is when Maureen insisted on riding an elephant to complete my first tourist-y India experience. Not only was this elephant ride down the narrowest of all narrow streets – which ended up completely holding up traffic in both directions – but the elephant’s tail whipped and hit jewelry displays in front of small shops on the street, all while the owner riding with us used a wooden stick to hold the power line cords up so we didn’t run into them – or get electrocuted. True story, there is video evidence to prove it.


Fair Trade:

4) How did you first hear about fair trade? Was it something you had known about before working at Mata?
I had actually never heard of fair trade before I started working at Mata. Only left with an internship to complete before graduating college, I was searching through this huuuge binder of internship opportunities. Almost every page looked the same but somehow I stopped on Mata Traders. I went home, looked up the website online, and decided to apply for an internship. It wasn’t until then that I learned about fair trade and what that meant. Getting the opportunity to visit the artisans in India and Nepal is what made fair trade come full circle for me.

5) What is your goal, when designing for the fair trade fashion market?
When I’m designing sometimes I think back to 21 year old me and remember I wasn’t actively searching for fair trade items but attracted to unique pieces that caught my eye. Just because someone isn’t aware of what fair trade is or means, doesn’t mean that they don’t care. I feel like part of my job when designing to the market is to capture those people by their love for the product and to help them become passionate about the mission second. It’s all about reaching people in different ways.



6) What’s your favorite part of your job?
Favorite part of my job would have to be traveling and being able to be creative. If someone told me 10 years ago, this is where I would be I would have thought they were absolutely crazy. I’ve always loved to travel, but Mata has given me the opportunity to go so much further than I ever imagined. It sounds cliche, but it pushed me completely out of my comfort zone – teaching me a lot about myself and broadening my horizon in so many ways.

7) Do you have an all-time favorite Mata print?
Oh gosh – trying to mentally scan 12+ seasons of Mata prints and it is hard to choose! My favorite animal is a giraffe so when the SS13 collection came out with the giraffe print I was so excited! The delicate tumbling giraffes were just too cute! More recently, I am loving all the custom woven plaid/stripe designs we get to design. We are taking Mata to a whole new level!


8) All-time favorite piece (dress, top, etc.)?
Again…it’s so hard to say. Sometimes I just have a love/hate relationship with the styles designed. All the work in getting the fit right – picking fabrics, sometimes I have nightmares about them (not a joke). But then, once you see someone else love it and the way they feel in it – that makes it all worth it. One of my favorite memories of design would be the Shanghai Shift Dress (bringing it back to SS13 again) – mainly because that is one of the first dresses I designed and saw come to life. I’ll forever remember when I had my first “Spot a Mata” and saw a woman wearing it around Andersonville. It was the coolest feeling!

9) What most excites you about Mata’s future?
Having worked here almost 7 years already (which I can’t believe!), I have been so fortunate in witnessing how much Mata has grown in such a short time. Our staff has grown from 5 to 18 and with that growth so has the recognition for the brand. Most importantly, I’m excited to keep bringing more work to our artisans and to continue growing and building our relationship with our suppliers.  Design wise – there has been some talk about going deeper in some of our apparel categories…Mata blazers, shorts and pants may be in our future, people!

In case you missed it, here’s the last post in our Behind the Seams series, a Q&A with our Director of Sales & Social Impact.