When I ask Sophia Berman, head of the Sass & Bide Design Collective, if she thinks her industry is doing enough for ethical fashion, she’s frank with me.
“We’re never doing enough,” she tells me. “But it’s all about small steps.”
And small steps, important ones, are exactly what Sass & Bide are taking right now.
As early pioneers of ethical fashion in Australia, the local brand has collaborated with the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s Artisan.Fashion, to create numerous sustainable pieces with African communities.
Some 82 people from three different Kenyan communities were involved in production.
It’s the fifth time Sass & Bide have created an ethical range, and each time pieces are put on the market, it becomes more important for the story behind the pieces to be communicated with customers.
After all, consumers aren’t just purchasing a bag or a clutch. They’re buying into a movement that gives women and men access to a job that’s steady, that pays well and that harnesses their creativity.
“Sass & Bide are committed to producing ethical pieces that are created in fair work conditions,” Berman tells Mamamia.
“We work with three different communities to produce these bags. Some work on the beads, another works on the fabric and another community work on the tassels. They have fair work conditions and earn a fair wage. It’s important for us to be able to empower women.”
Although there are men helping create the designer pieces, 67 per cent of the workers are women. Working on these pieces gives them a kind of job security that’s otherwise hard to come by, and gives them the ability to plan ahead financially.
Leonida Okiela is one of the women who is able to use her income to "pay her rent" and "save for future use".
"All my children rely on me to provide food, shelter, clothes, education and other essential needs," she tells Sass & Bide.