“THIS IS A FASHION SHOW FOR ACTIVISTS.
Slavery is a $150 billion industry affecting an estimated 21 million people worldwide. We are all connected to it – which means we all have the power to fix it. The fashion industry is one of the many culprits contributing to this problem, and the cure is Fair Trade Fashion. Join us as we celebrate the stories and styles from artisans around the world while raising money and awareness to end modern slavery.”
On July 29th, 2017 The Fair Trade Fashion Show Fundraiser, a sold-out event at the CTRL Collective, Downtown Los Angeles opened its doors to over 150 like-minded people driven to make change in the fashion industry. KNOWN EFFECTS had the opportunity and absolute pleasure of chatting with the founder of this event, Sica Schmitz.
When you think of a person whose calendar would be overflowing with back to back meetings, organising, planning, fast paced life and everything else that being a social entrepreneur entails, you would not expect to meet Sica. Sica, an entrepreneur, relaxed, well planned and somehow balanced with her work load and functioning ethical lifestyle. Sica appears to have this pretty much under control and somehow makes all that she does flow so naturally.
Sica, founder of the USA ethical fashion boutique Bead & Reel, has devoted her knowledge, drive and passion to a greater cause, showcasing some of the top ethical fashion designer pieces at the annual Fair Trade Fashion Show. The Fair Trade Fashion Show brings awareness and voices the importance of transparency in fashion. But Sica didn’t just stop with just one Fair Trade Fashion Show she took her passion into a sister event, a fundraiser which gives back to organisations that are making a positive impact in underdeveloped countries.
Q&A with Sica Schmitz
For those of us who were not able to make this year’s event or missed the live stream could you give us an insight into the sentiment of the crowd when the lights went on for the start of the show?
The evening had a lot of build up – first there was half an hour of shopping/eating/drinking, following by introductions by our emcee Nada Jones and Allie Gardner from our charity partner Free the Slaves, and then followed by a panel discussion with our experts about fair trade, women’s empowerment, and consumer purchasing power. I gave a short speech about how we can use our fashion for activism, and shared the stories behind the collection I curated, and so when the lights went down and the music went up for the fashion show, I think the crowd was excited and ready to see what exactly fair trade fashion could look like.
Can you tell us what triggered the idea for hosting an event in a city that is immersed in fashion but can be seen by the greater public as an area of fast fashion trends pushed by celebrities? Did you find challenges when promoting a Fair-Trade Fashion Show for the first time?
Since Bead & Reel is based in Los Angeles, it made sense to start having our fashion show here. Los Angeles is the largest manufacturing hub in the USA, employing and impacting over 45,000 people, so it is also a necessary conversation we should absolutely be having here.
It was challenging to promote the Fair Trade Fashion Show the first year. Not everyone is excited about fair trade, and not everyone wants to know about the issues. But this year we sold out and were overwhelmed by the positive response leading up to and since the show, so I think that is starting to change.
The Fair-Trade Fashion Show Fundraiser donates to a different non-profit organisation each year. There are so many non-profit organisations out there that are focused on making a greater change for communities, tell us how you came to select the non-profit organisation for this year’s event?
Bead & Reel gives back a portion of each sale to a different charity or causes each month, so I have had the opportunity to get to know a lot of non-profits. Many are doing amazing things – and many aren’t. I’ve had to grow very picky and very cautious about which organizations I put my support behind.
I was introduced to Free the Slaves through another ethical fashion entrepreneur I highly respect and was so impressed with the work they are doing to end human trafficking and modern day slavery through a very well-rounded approach – from educating about how to end conditions that allow modern day slavery to exist to holistic healing approaches for victims of trafficking, they are tackling every aspect of slavery, and I very much want to support that.
This year the event collectively raised $31,000 with proceeds going to Free The Slaves, a non-profit organisation with a strong background in strengthening communities. All involved in this fundraiser (and all who are purchasers of fair-trade) must feel so proud to be a part of this.
Could you tell us firsthand the emotions that were in the room when the Free The Slaves donation calculations were finalised and how you think this will have an effect on the organisation?
We didn’t know the final total until a few days after the event, but we were all absolutely thrilled and touched by the incredible generosity of everyone who supported our campaign – both in person and from afar. Reaching and then exceeding our goal is going to have a huge direct impact on many lives, and that’s so exciting. Additionally, through this event Free the Slaves has received a lot of new press and exposure, so I hope to see people continue to support their efforts even now that the fashion show is done for the year.
How are you going to grow the voice of the Fair-Trade Fashion Show events to ensure the education of consumers so that their purchasing patterns reflect the conscience/heart of Fair Trade?
Bead & Reel is dedicated to educating consumers every day – we offer a variety of events (one of which is the Fair Trade Fashion Show), weekly blog posts, and I speak regularly about these issues around the country. You can follow along at @fairtradefashionshow and @beadandreel to continue the conversation with us.
We have seen some amazing talent on the walkway of this event, do you feel this event opening the eyes of consumers in the way that fashion can be ethical, fair trade & free of cruelty without losing that that sense of “fashion”?
I’ve received so much positive feedback from the event and from the pieces on the runway – I do really think it has helped shift people’s perspectives about what things like fair trade, eco-friendly, and vegan can mean. I hope I showed that they mean beautiful, stylish, and wearable!
Free the Slaves is an organisation we feel we will have to write a whole other article on as it is an organisation that is covering many of the problems in modern slavery. Free the Slaves is an independent organisation that is actively working towards ending slavery, something that should not exist.
“The anti-slavery movement can’t be successful working alone. We need other organizations to see that slavery exists in places where they are already working—and then educate their front-line staff to take action”. To find out more about this in-depth organisation that is charging full pace at every angle to end trafficking and put a stop to slavery (in a nutshell) head over to Free the Slaves to read more. You can also support the work of this organisation by making a donation to HERE
Images from the Fair Trade Fashion Show 2017. You can also shop the runway!