Made Trade founder and co-owner, Cayley Pater, was recently interviewed by the Conscious Chatter podcast hosted by Kestrel Jenkins. Conscious Chatter dives into the stories behind the products we wear, the people who make them, and those working to drive positive change in the fashion industry.
In episode 164 of the Conscious Chatter podcast, Kestrel interviews Cayley to explore the mission behind Made Trade, the journey that led Cayley to found the company, the complexities of defining a product as “ethical”, how Made Trade vets brands, and the importance of celebrating vibrant color and heritage motifs in artisan-made design.
From Linguistics to Fair Trade
Cayley originally came to the fair trade world through her passion for languages. Having studied linguistics and Hindi/Urdu, Spanish, German and Farsi in college, Cayley had lived in India for a few summers for language immersion. So when Cayley’s best friend, Marissa Heyl, was starting her ethical fashion label in northwest India, Symbology, Cayley had the opportunity to go with Marissa and support her as her interpreter with the women artisans in Bagru, a small village outside of Jaipur.
Cayley had volunteered in fair trade shops in college, and this first-hand experience of working with artisans helped her realize the amazing potential of business to preserve traditional art forms and create sustainable employment opportunities.
In 2014, Cayley started working with Dr. Janette Habashi, who was running the non-profit, Child’s Cup Full – a women’s collective of artisans in Palestine’s northern West Bank. Dr. Habashi had been creating sustainable job opportunities for low income and refugee women through their educational children’s product line, now Zeki Learning, and wanted to expand her reach and build the Child’s Cup Full business in the United States with a new line for Palestinian ‘tatreez’ embroidery.
Cayley worked with Dr. Habashi and the artisans to develop Darzah, a US-based brand that celebrates traditional tatreez with modern color palettes and new applications of the art form. Cayley ran the Darzah brand for nearly four years, expanding its reach across the United States before leaving to start Made Trade.
Quotable: “I love learning languages and I love cross-cultural communication and the challenges and the opportunities it presents. Fair Trade and international business are tied to that because communication is so important—especially when you’re talking about transparency.”
The Journey to Made Trade
Cayley shared how she wanted to build a highly curated store to celebrate quality craftsmanship, sustainability, and responsible sourcing. She saw the need for an online destination centered on design that could present these amazing products in a beautiful way with elevated photography and branding.
While working in the fair trade world, Cayley saw that so many small fair trade brands, as well as U.S. makers and other ethical brands, had limited marketing budgets and there weren’t enough curated online destinations to help those brands get in front of consumers who were interested in shopping more consciously.
Quotable: “In our global world, every product we buy has a person behind it, so there’s always an opportunity to create a positive impact.”
Defining an “Ethical Product”
Made Trade is an ethical lifestyle brand and an online store that curates exceptionally made ethically elevated goods. But what exactly is “ethically elevated”?
As Cayley explains:
“Ethically elevated is about celebrating the opportunities to create positive social and environmental impact through our purchases.”
In this Conscious Chatter episode, Cayley explained that ethical shopping isn’t about being 100% perfectly ethical and sustainable. Ethical shopping is about researching and doing the best that you can to make an informed purchase that puts people and the planet first. Made Trade helps take the work out of ethical shopping. The products sourced and curated on Made Trade are pre-vetted to use sustainable practices and materials and to adhere to fair trade practices.
Made Trade’s Curation Process
When vetting brands, the Made Trade team considers five values, Fair Trade, Sustainable, USA Made, Heritage, and Vegan. In this episode, Cayley mentions that Made Trade is launching an additional two values: Women-Owned and POC-Owned. Since the episode originally aired, we’re excited to announce that these categories are now live on Made Trade!
The application that brands go through to get on Made Trade goes far deeper than “checking the boxes” for these values. Made Trade gives brands the opportunity to explain their process and asks questions, such as how a brand determines a living wage and where and how they’re sourcing the materials.
Cayley also talked about how Made Trade recognizes that each brand’s process must be contextualized given factors such as their location and local options for sourcing. For example, sourcing certain materials, like organic cotton, in the West Bank would be virtually impossible when working with local suppliers—but the work Darzah does to create jobs for refugee and low-income moms, while also supporting the local economy, is still incredible — its mission directly support artisans, adheres to fair trade practices and creates sustainable economic opportunities in that region. Darzah is one of the brands we are proud to carry on Made Trade.
Quotable: “The goal is to provide transparency. Ultimately, it’s up to the customer to decide what values are important to them. […] It’s about presenting those five values and then digging into the details so that it’s an educational process where we can continue to ask questions, think critically about where products are coming from, and explore how we can be more responsible and mindful of what we’re buying.”
The Challenges of a Diverse Offering
Cayley spoke to the challenges of creating a robust, yet hand-selected offering across a variety of categories on Made Trade. Despite the difficulties, Made Trade is committed to providing high-quality, well-designed options across fashion and home because there is a substantial need for beautifully curated sustainable and fair trade goods especially in categories like furniture.
What Sets Made Trade Apart
Because Cayley came into the industry through the artisan sector, Made Trade puts an emphasis on curating hand-crafted, heritage goods made with traditional art forms. And while there are other platforms providing these types of products, Made Trade is focused on curating high-quality, exceptionally made products and complementing that with great photography and a fantastic online shopping experience.
Quotable “We love to shoot on fun, bright colors and to celebrate diversity in that way. […] Color is a big part of cultural representation.”