Why Fair Trade Matters to Aventura
“The [idea] to help others have a better life was definitely a core value that was instilled in us growing up.”
- Kathleen Kirsch Williamson, Owner and Design Director/Head Merchandiser.
In 2017, Aventura began partnering with Fair Trade Certified™ factories because this standard ensures that each factory is making meaningful, ethical choices for their employees. But our ambition to do right preceded this date. It began when the Kirsch siblings were growing up.
John Kirsch Sr. built a clothing business from the back of the family’s station wagon, revolutionizing sportswear in the 1960s. His children watched him grow this business, even helping out as they became old enough to do so. Along with his work ethic, they absorbed the values in which he ran the company.
“My dad had a philosophy about being very honest, about being very ethical,” explains Kathleen, the eldest of the Kirsch siblings. The six siblings, two of whom still run the company, watched their father’s generosity, though sometimes they didn’t appreciate it. “My dad was super generous back in the day, we didn’t recognize it as kids,” Kathleen says, “but now we see it!”
Their mother showed them no less enthusiasm for doing the right thing. “Her mantra is those who have should give,” Kathleen continues, explaining her mom often asks the question “why are we here if we’re not making a difference?” As a marriage and family therapist, she often works for free for the people who need her. “She’ll ask how much can you afford to pay,” Kathleen says, just because it is the right thing to do.
It was their mother who pushed them to seek ways to give back with Aventura. “she begged us to have a giving component so we did small initiatives around the country here and there,” Kathleen explains. From the start, Aventura sought to help empower women and local communities. To this day, we still donate clothes to Uncommon Threads Boutique and charities like LEAD with Horses. However, it still felt like there was a bigger and more consistent impact the company could make.
Kathleen recalls visiting tea farms in Sri Lanka. The laborors in the steep, mountainside fields, picking tea leaves were mostly women and they were made to carry bags that hung on their foreheads and rested against their backs filled with up to 50 pounds of fresh leaves. “And in flip flops, too!” Kathleen exclaimed. The owners began to realize that fair trade was the only way to ensure that this common workplace condition wouldn’t happen for the women who sew our clothes. They realized fair trade is the perfect way to help people on a regular basis.
“The thing with fair trade is that everyone I’ve met seems to [care],” says Michael Kirsch, former VP of Sourcing at Aventura. “All the owners of Fair Trade Certified factories that I've met seem to have an underlying tone that they are trying to bring up others, not just to line their pockets, but to help people get out of poverty and make a difference.”
By partnering with Fair Trade Certified, we can help by:
- Ensuring the policies, working conditions, and pay is verified by Fair Trade USA™ and each factory undergoes rigorous audits to make sure that they are compliant in harassment-free workplaces, providing safe working conditions, protecting fundamental human rights, offering paid sick and maternity leave, and managing their funds fairly.
- Paying an extra 3-4% for each item sold which goes directly to the workers as a premium on top of their wages that goes towards community development.
This blog is written to celebrate fair trade month. Over the next five weeks, we’ll be diving deep into why fair trade is so important in the fashion industry. Interested in learning more? Meet us back here every Thursday through October for insights on how fair trade works, who it benefits, how it empowers women, and who we partner with.