A Peace Treaty



By: HELEN HATZIS  
Published: February 16th 2010


Farrah Malik (left) and Dana Arbib (right)
Pic: Kristy Leibowitz
Roquia Sand Afghan scarf
Pic: Kristy Leibowitz
Gardez
Pic: Devin Doyle

 

Two women are taking their fashion business to a noble direction - to make a difference. Sharing a common appreciation for traditional craftsmanship, they discovered that this was slowly becoming a lost art and decided to do something about it. Shalom Life had the opportunity to speak with Dana Arbib, a Libyan Jew and Farah Malik, a Pakistani Muslim about 'A Peace Treaty' - a company they formed to create employment for skilled artisans working in socio-political strife. Their initiative is not only supporting a family but a community.

 

Your concept to assist artisans with employment is a noble one, how did you conceive the concept?

 

We launched with the aim to explore hand-crafting cultures in different regions of the world with political strife where the work of artisans receives no credit and are under-appreciated (in the luxury fashion market). Also, with restrictions and embargoes placed on more and more countries that America is politically dissatisfied with what has happened, is a complete ‘cutting off’ of trade from those places. We are trying to reinvigorate local artisan economies and bring what they have to offer to the luxury marketplace while also bringing them long-term employment opportunities and market share.

 

We've set up projects for artisans and rejuvenated at-risk businesses in many towns and villages. Our approach is very much a community empowerment one -- elevating traditional handcrafting skills; valorizing artisans that, in recent years, in many contexts have been overlooked or have been receiving less and less attention as more industrialization is starting to replace age-old specialized-skill requiring production techniques.

 

We both come from a line of social justice and humanitarian work so after working for other people we became eager to do "things on our own terms" and we had to make sure that any projects we did would initiate social change. We both felt like we came up against challenges and obstacles working in our fields [Dana in design and Farah in human rights/social change] so we were eager to try a new approach. There are billions of brands just making "more stuff" and we didn't want to do that. We knew that if we were going to make more things for people to consume, that there had to be some sort of social benefit attached to it - above and beyond giving to charity. Once we started, it was important that any of our projects involving the employment of others would be ethically motivated and fair. We pay fair trade rates and employ artisans who have been unemployed for years because they had to shut down their small businesses as they could not keep up with the competition from factory-based manufacturing.

 

We also bring work to widowed and disabled women. In addition to creating employment for artisans at above fair-trade rates paying up to 4 times the local wages, 10% from our sales goes to Counterpart International's programs in the regions that we produce in. With each collection and each season we shift our giving to a specific project and region. Our charitable giving has gone towards medical supplies for Counterpart's Darfur projects, their Coral Gardens reef conservation project; towards aid and medicine for Palestinian children and towards women's rights and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

 

 


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