Mata Traders is a fair trade clothing and accessories brand made by the kind, loving hands of artisans in India and Nepal. Their mission is to ‘fashion a better world’ by creating designs that celebrate a woman’s originality and empower her to use her dollar for change and vote with it. We merge uncommonly vibrant style with fair trade practices to make an impact on global poverty – bringing fair wages to artisans in India and Nepal.
What are your main aims of Mata Traders?
Mata is about changing the world with ethical fashion. We try to think of it all as one big picture – the artisans lives change as they’re able to positively impact their families and communities and the lives of our customers change as they celebrate their original style and get a better understanding of the human impact of their clothing.
What inspires your collections the most?
I think at the heart of it all is a true love of color and vibrancy. I have always been attracted to neon pink and bright orange, and I will wear those colors together brazenly given the chance! For Mata designs we don’t go quite that crazy, but the brand was inspired by a core passion for bright and bold patterns. At the heart of the look of Mata is also India herself. You will literally see men in Rajasthan, where some of our clothing is made, with huge neon orange turbans and regal mustaches that curl! It just makes me happy to see such bright colors being worn in the everyday. Another big part of the inspiration is the fit. We want that Mata dress in your closet to be the one you pull out because it always looks good on you. We do a lot of fit and flare, and we consistently try to make sure our cuts are flattering for a range of body types.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Someone once told me, “Don’t hire new employees until you ABSOLUTELY need them.” Since Mata started 10 years ago, we’ve managed to grow every year organically and without outside capital, but that’s taken a lot of scrappiness. We now have over 17 full-time employees – and with every new hire it feels almost immediately like, “how did we do it without them?” But I think in general we have been really strategic about when to bring new people on in each department. Everybody on our staff is there for a reason – they are talented, passionate, hard working, and making a big contribution to the success of the business.
What made you start Mata Traders?
Honestly, I was 26 years old, had just gotten back from traveling the world with my two best friends (now my business partners!) and I didn’t have a job. I thought it would be easier to create my own job than try to apply for one! And I like working independently, I love selling things, and I love to travel. That was the original impetus, but then once I started importing I realized that I didn’t want to just buy something in the market and not know the maker or how much they were getting paid. So I sought out fair trade organizations that practiced transparency, fair wages, and community-building.
Where do you see Mata Traders in the future? Let’s say 4-5 years.
Ah, that’s the big question. I see us as continuing to be a leader in sustainable, artisan-made fair trade fashion and to grow both our wholesale and retail channels at a robust pace. There are also some new ideas for additions to our current product mix in the works but I’ll keep that a surprise. 🙂 We recently hired a managing director, who has become such an amazing addition to the organization. At our ten year mark we felt like we were at a pivotal moment and we realized we needed someone with experience to manage the organizational aspects of the company who could also position us for more growth. So we will have see what is in store, but I am definitely excited about the future!
Who inspires you most?
I immediately think of the makers of Mata in India and Nepal. As mothers, leaders, activists, and educators, women are changing the world. A key to ending poverty is education, and one way to ensure that all children get that education is by empowering women. That’s what we’ve seen with our artisans – once they start earning a living, they prioritize sending their kids to school. These are women that probably didn’t get more than a 4th grade education themselves. Fair trade allows women to change the world – it gives them voice, skills, the opportunity to do something outside of the home, and the resources to be changemakers in their families and communities.
What is behind the name ‘Mata Traders‘?
Mata means Mother in Hindi, and is a tribute to Shakti – the female creative power in all of us. When you give a toast in India you say “Jai Mata Ji” which means “To the Mother”, which I have always loved. And India is referred to as female, or Mother (Mata) India. So all of that makes sense in light of our brand. The Traders I think comes about because of the authentic trading connection that Jonit, Michelle, and myself established with India – I like thinking of an old world spice route – and the actual Spice Route goes through Northern India where many of the block printers are located. So this idea that we are not just importing mass-produced goods, but we are traders and explorers, and our products are handmade and unique to the country of origin.
Every item they sell is an original piece, so you know that you are getting something uniquely you!
By purchasing from Mata Traders you:
-Help women to progress in this society.
– Provide opportunities for women, so they can send their children to school and provide for them and their family.
– Score some serious karma points, hehe
– Lift communities with jobs, healthcare and education.
– Keep alive craft traditions that date back centuries.
I absolutely LOVE what they do and I’m sure you do too! Go check out there gorgeous garments or learn more about them here