Our guiding principles help us to stay accountable and focused on our initial vision of preserving culture and creating sustainable income for locals.
- Community Focused- Promote the positive, respect the culture, give back program
- Efficient- On time culture, communicate well
- People First- Respect buyers, artisans and staff
- Strategic- Take orders only if capable, plan well, give reasonable timelines
- High Quality- Train well, encourage even better and quality check twice
- Financially Stable- Minimize waste, monitor costing, complete market testing
How can we use fashion for good?
The number one way we use fashion for good is generating jobs. According to Euromonitor International, as of 2016 the apparel market was worth around $1.3 trillion in yearly global sales. If that money was paying ladies and men working in fair conditions for fair wages, we could impact a huge number of people and greatly improve their living conditions. Currently the majority of the clothing we purchase is made in sweat shops in horrendous conditions. Workers are paid very little and face extremely dangerous work conditions. What if we could change that? That would be using fashion for good! For Changgih, the number one way we want to use fashion for good is to produce jobs that provide a fair income, a safe environment and opportunities to growl.
What does that look like for us?
- Our head artisans are asked to help set the production wage on all of our products. We believe asking these head artisans to lead this conversation empowers them to choose a fair wage and take care of one another.
- Ladies work in the comfort of their homes at whatever hour suits them, and they can choose how many items they want to make in any given period. If you’re a mom you know how tough it can be to juggle picking kids up from school, cooking, cleaning and work. We have received overwhelming feedback from our ladies that this is one of the top reasons they love Changgih- they have very flexible work hours and work load. If one of our artisans is going to be outstation or celebrating a holiday, we ask for advance notice then allow them to take whatever time needed off of work to focus on their family.
- Trainings as a family in a supportive environment. We schedule trainings at least monthly, but sometimes as often as weekly, that train our artisans on new skills. The goal of these classes is to help our artisans gain new skills. The classes are taught by our head artisans. This creates an environment that is focused on learning and isn’t intimidating because it’s with friends!
How can fashion become wearable art?
Fashion becomes wearable art when we understand the design and meaning behind it. As a designer, when I sit down to sketch out ideas, they always have an origin. Whether my inspiration is from nature, the culture around me, or an event that recently happened, there is a story behind the design. Fashion becomes wearable art when we understand the inspiration behind the item. Just like walking through an art gallery and reading the description from the artist, when we hear how a designer was inspired, or how a product came to be we understand the art form behind the design.
What are some of the necessary elements of a fashion brand that strives to preserve culture?
- Designs are inspired by the original culture, not handicraft items or products produced by other businesses
- Time is spent on research and development
- There is some change in the design whether it’s color, shape or pattern in order to create a new product that is not a replica, but an item inspired by a cultural element
- Stories are stored and shared!
What can we do to conduct business in a way that respects and honors the culture?
Ask! With each item we produce, including our textiles, we always produce alongside locals. We’ve got contacts all over the state in many different people groups who are our go to cultural experts. Our first step after sketching a design, is to meet with one of these people to discuss the design. If there are elements that aren’t a pure representation of the culture or could be offensive, we are able to find that out during our research and development. In general, we ask multiple contacts in a people group for their feedback prior to proceeding with a design. This time-consuming process is my favorite because it means getting to be in the village as a learner. I believe it’s also one of the most important elements of our business because it is the time we find out how to respect and honor the culture as we share it with buyers.
Changgih’s goals for the future as it relate to cultural preservation:
- Continued emphasis with connecting culture and fashion
- More storytelling!
- Connecting more deeply with the museum
- Heritage experience with Changgih Designs
- Give Back Program