VOZ

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VOZ: Artisanal Fair Trade Fashion

Brooklyn, United StatesAraucania Region, Chile
Year Founded:
2011
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

VOZ makes modern luxury fashion that is co-designed and hand-made by rural artisans in Latin America. Fair trade and ecologically sustainable, VOZ empowers the previously hidden culture of its artisan partners and bridges rural communities to the global fashion market through collaborative design.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if fashion could be used to pull rural artisans and their families out of poverty while simultaneously protecting their ancient culture from the threat of globalization?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Indigenous Latino communities are plagued by unemployment and poverty. In Chile, over 300k women, often barred from education, sustain their families selling crafts with an av. of $110(US)/mo. (Chile Census ‘10). Lacking formal economies and market access, when women cannot sell, they work in cities as maids, endangering cultural transmission. Grant dependent NGOs allow artisans to work in their communities, but are not financially consistent.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

VOZ uses design innovation to bridge traditional fair trade and commercial fashion, connecting indigenous weavers to a luxury market capable of offering higher prices and sustainable incomes. Our expert designers cultivate seasonal fashions and accessories in collaboration with artisans through ongoing workshops. Fashion’s 50% wholesale margins offer artisans in developing countries a living wage. We establish rural production chains from organic raw materials to final product, and thus provide creative and financial freedom to marginalized women. Presently operating in Chile and Peru, VOZ plans to scale globally. VOZ is a platform for cultural preservation where indigenous elders share knowledge and technical abilities with artisan youth.

Awards

Stanford Haas Post Graduate Fellow, Start Up Chile Fellow 2012, Elle Style 360 Emerging Designer 2013, Ethical Fashion Forum "International Design Leader" 2014, Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration 2015, The Venture 2016 Finalist
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Veronica is an artisan Director at VOZ, as well as single mother and farmer. Before joining she could not secure consistent enough textile orders from the local NGO to pay for her daughter's education. Upon joining VOZ, we helped her get set up with her own bank account, walked her through her first professional contract, and helped her register for the formal tax system in Chile. She went through a year curriculum of design innovation training, and today is an Artisan Director of VOZ. Today she takes home as many orders as she wishes to work full time as an artisan, enabling her to put her daughter through college to become a veterinarian. Today she is a leader of our organization, teaching weaving and supervising quality.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our artisans have seen their monthly average income increase 3x since starting with us. A number of single mothers have been able to educate their children on VOZ earnings. We've employed over 60 artisan women, 40 who currently work with us in Chile, and 10 in Peru. VOZ is the primary source of income for a majority of these women and their families. We've provided over 18 months of design and professional educational programming, hosted 6 major cultural workshops, and continue to explore ways to better educate our artisans. We've also sourced 200+ kg of organic materials. In the next 5 years Voz will have trained and employed 1,421 people previously living in poverty, created 139 leadership roles for indigenous women, employed 468 skilled workers, taken 935 artisan designs to market, provided 10,176 hours of design training, and seeded 18 influential industry leaders.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We will partner as an independent design intermediary to fair trade production cooperatives and NGOs throughout Latin America and connect them to the global market. Not only will we bring a rotating educational program to their local facilities, the fruit of that program will be transformed into ongoing fashion and product collections that produce ethical income to artisans while celebrating their cultural art forms. As we continue to spread country to country, we will be powering rural economic development through our supply chain.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

VOZ maintains a 55% profit margin on B2B sales with our 43+ stores, and a 79% profit margin on D2C sales via our website, online partners, and pop-up shops. By scaling orders through more department stores, boutiques, and our online store, VOZ is on track to be excel beyond self-sustainability by 2017. We also plan to license our custom-built production software to other artisan brands as an additional revenue stream.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We are very distinct from other artisan fashion companies as we are the only that partners with Mapuche artisans, giving our collections a completely unique core aesthetic and compelling social mission. Furthermore, none of our competitors have access to our custom-built production software, which employs statistical analyses to enhance production efficiency and provides strategic insight for the management team.
Team

Founding Story

Since my thesis with Quero shamans in Peru, I’ve focused on ceremonial design of textiles and objects. Blending anthropology and aesthetics, design is a tool to empower and protect cultural art on the brink of extinction. I realized during my thesis field research that knockoffs threaten the existence of indigenous art forms. To this end, I spent four years supporting indigenous artisans with product design, marketing, and production methods in South America through a Stanford Haas Post Graduate Fellowship. When I realized local NGOs could not gain funds needed to invest in product development and education, I founded VOZ to bring artisans market access.

Team

The VOZ team is now based in Chile and NYC. We have our weaving community in Chile, where we currently employ 40 weavers as well as a Production Manager, Carolina Avilés (PT), Administrative and Legal Representative Fabian Castro (PT, and ten artisan directors (PT) who help oversee quality control. We additionally source in Peru. Our New York based team is comprised of a diverse team that spans the business spectrum. The CEO/Creative Director Jasmine Aarons (FT), Creative Direction Eviana Hartman (PT), Technical Designer Lauren Jones (PT) , Pattern Maker Sandra Paez (PT), Operations Manager Camille Mori (FT), Marketing and D2C Sales Director Irys Kornbluth, Alison Taylor (PT) Financial Strategy, and Web Developer Noah Jeffrey (PT). Jasmine comes from a background of product design at Stanford and is the CEO/Creative director who oversees design, management of the business, and finances. Eviana Hartman founded Bodkin, a successful sustainable fashion company, which won an Ecco Demoni award. She also has a career in fashion editorial (Vogue, T Magazine). Our Technical Designer, Lauren Jones, works on a part-time basis to help with the details of our collections. She's worked for a series of major fashion labels - most recently Banana Republic. Our Pattern Maker, Sandra Paez, works on a part-time seasonal basis outside of Helmut Lang. Camille Mori works full time as the Operations Manager in NYC, overseeing sales and US production management. Irys went to Stanford with Jasmine and is an early VOZ manager, building our international sales presence and E-Commerce platform. Allison Taylor has an MBA from Stern NYU, experience in luxury fashion marketing, entrepreneurship and finance. Noah Jeffrey has experience growing 6 other young business ventures and works part time developing our custom production software platform. As the project grows, we will move most of our extremely talented part time teammates to full time positions. Our team of dedicated Chilean weavers will continue to grow via internal recommendations to meet demand.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Brand Representative, Designer, Supplier - contractor, Technologist.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Specialty Store, Women.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Social Protection Services (i.e. Insurance, Pension, etc.), Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Capacity Building, Media, Standards, Technology.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

We encourage and empower indigenous women and young fashion talent to be changemakers by giving self esteem and educating.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Our 43+ fashion store partners continue to evangelize VOZ and our 50+ artisan partners continue to improve product quality.