Have you ever visit art galleries or concept stores and stumbled upon beautiful collectible handicrafts? The stories behind these products are enchanting—they have traveled so far for you to bring them home as keepsakes from another part of the world. Unfortunately, the price you’ve paid may not include a fair wage paid to the artists or even the community where the products originated.
Indigenous and local artisans living in remote places can often be prone to exploitation, the lack of access to a wider market could make them rely on unfair middlemen. These middlemen may buy the products at an unfair price, without considering the local artisans’ welfare. You can read more about this topic here.
One of our communities in Malaysia, Earth Heir, has been working on infusing design, quality and ethics into partnership with local artisan communities. Earth Heir is a social enterprise aiming to elevate the fusion of traditional art forms and modern design. Founded by former banker, Sasibai Kimis, the enterprise is working with a network of more than 100 artisans, from women’s cooperatives, indigenous tribes and refugee groups from six states in Malaysia.
Started in 2013, Earth Heir combines traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designs to create unique luxury goods. The modern aesthetics, paired with quality materials, adds value to the traditional materials and techniques. Often, artisan-made products can fall short because consumers won’t buy something that doesn’t suit their taste, which is usually informed by current trends.
Earth Heir focuses on heritage preservation, sustainability, partnering with the artisans, as well as minimising environmental impact. The artisans that Earth Heir works with normally work from the comfort of their own homes and are paid fair prices. By empowering the artisans to earn a decent living, Earth Heir not only strengthens the artisans’ resilience and self-determination, but the local community as well—younger generations are more likely to carry on traditions and cultural heritage if they see their parents succeed. Earth Heir products are also made from either sustainable or long lasting materials, so that it’s production minimises environmental damage.
With every purchase from brands that prioritise ethical partnerships like Earth Heir, we contribute to elevating the artisan sector as a whole, as well as preserving craftsmanship. As consumers, we have to start being conscious about the true value behind the products we buy. Accessories from fast-fashion labels may be much cheaper, but buying from them could mean that you are contributing to workers’ unfair wages, poor and hazardous working conditions and damaging the environment. Supporting brands like Earth Heir not only creates a catalyst for a change in the fashion industry, but allows your accessories to tell a story that you can be proud of.
Read more about their story and purchase their products here.
Curious about Southeast Asian culture? Curious about Southeast Asian culture? Check out these unique traditional handicrafts from Southeast Asia here.