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If you’ve ever visited the towns of South American countries, you’ve probably seen the one-of-a-kind bags, shoes, ceramics (and more) that populate local shops. The artisans who create these beautifully crafted designs have influenced designers and brands the world over, but they don’t always reap the financial rewards of their labors. American businessmen James Dillon and Kara Goebel, the duo behind Ethical Fashion Guatemala (EFG), want to change that.
The team has been working with Guatemalan craftsmen for the last seven years. They EFG, a website that enables artisans to get their fair share. It gives designers easy access to payment and shipping systems, as well as customer services. Dillon, who has lived in Guatemala for 15 years, and Goebel only take a 10% commissions based on sales. They were inspired to start their business venture after noticing that e-commerce sites were selling Guatemalan goods in the United States and other countries for a higher price without their makers’ approval.
“Those [sellers] that have stolen and copied designs and produced knock offs as original works of art don’t feel that they’re doing anything wrong. Most come to countries like Guatemala, buy a few products, go home and sell them and decide to go into business,” Dillon tells People Chica. “When they find that going back to Guatemala for products is not feasible, they make their own. But how would a Guatemalan artisan in a village with no Internet skills or legal education of any kind stop it from happening?”
Dillon and Goebel have found thousands of fraudulent products online claiming to be “ethical” and “give back to the artisans.”
The partners hope to continue building trust with Guatemalan craftsmen by educating them as businessmen and women and inspiring other countries to do the same. “We would like to see other countries adopt what we’ve done.”