fair trade policy

environmental policy

Product Profiles

Producer Profiles

ganesha

Coral Seed, UK / Bangladesh / Mongolia / Cambodia


Coral Seed is a Partnership, and a BAFTS accredited supplier. Alan Flux was working in Bangladesh, and asked for my help in selling the products in the UK. We then formed the partnership to formalise the trade in 2003.

Our core activities are developing and marketing hand woven silk, cotton and jute fashion and home accessories.

Coral Seed forms partnerships with its producers and aims to sustain these partnerships by inputting design, suggesting new design directions as indicated by market trends and supplying constant constructive feedback regarding customer reaction. We have a designer who works with the producers in Bangladesh while we develop the market for the products in the UK, and intend to maintain a designer on a part time basis in the long term. Our aim is to ensure that local traditional skills are used to produce quality products and to establish these products in the mid to upper end of the market thereby ensuring a fair return to the producers. In the longer term, once the business is established we intend to feed revenue back to the NGOs in the form of development grants and working capital.

The producers are village women mainly employed on a part time basis by NGOs. Our main supplier is Charka. Proceeds from Charka sales go to help support development programmes such as skills development, primary education, and training in health and nutrition. Charka has eight working field areas (villages), each consisting of a range of 6-40 women. It is dedicated to the principles of fair trade, fair prices, clean and safe working environments and self-empowerment.

 

Charka producers at their embroidery, Bangladesh
Charka producers, Bangladesh


In the main our producers are part-time and work either at home or in groups locally- there is no other paid employment.

Our main challenge is persuading the UK retailer and consumer that these products are quality products- made in Bangladesh seems to be a problem for some of them. They expect everything to be low priced.

We trade because we know that we are contributing directly to women's empowerment and increase in standard of living. We plan to work with more producers and also start trading with other countries in the next couple of years.

Many people either do not know what fair trade is- or believe it is entirely food based. They need to understand that the prices we charge are giving a reasonable return to the producers and large multi- nationals can sell cheaper because wages are far less. People need to be more open minded and fair about what artisans in countries like Bangladesh can achieve. Hand made in Bangladesh does not mean cheap: a low price is a sweated labour price. Their skills are worth more than that.

Brenda Anderson

Waterside weavers of rangnewali wraps

Reaching the island of Leveah Sor from Cambodia's capitol, Phnom Penh, involves a lengthy ride over ever-rougher roads; a small ferry cross to a rural riverside landscape of rice paddies, maize and sugar-cane, and eventually, a tiny canoe punt over a peaceful tributary by smiling village women, takes the visitor to where a gentle clack-clack can be heard from the wide wooden looms resting between the high stilts that support the waterside houses, and protect them from the annual monsoon floods.

From this beautiful region, Coral Seed buys soft silk scarves hand-woven in a wide variety of subtly-coloured stripes, with no two ever being exactly the same. Sadly, this idyllic scene is set to change, as prices for the silk yarn, bought in from neighbouring Vietnam, are rising so rapidly that the village weavers are being forced to abandon their traditional livelihood, and seek factory work in towns many kilometres distant, thus destroying family life at the same time as robbing this, and many other weaving areas, of their textile-producing heritage.

village weaver Cambodia
weaver, Leveah Sor Island, Cambodia


Coral Seed (and Ganesha) will continue to support these skilled artisans for as long as possible, and we hope that our customers will continue to enjoy wearing this unique and luxurious product. 


Alan Flux, Spring 2011

   
Coral Seed's sacks appeal

For some years, brightly-coloured animal feed sacks have been coming over the border from Vietnam into Cambodia; their cartoon-like fish or pig logos have made them an obvious choice for up-cycling into fashion bags. Coral Seed has taken the brief and run with it to create a collection of intricate appliqued and patch-worked designs that stretch the cutting and sewing skills of the producers, and result in strong, roomy and secure bags, fully-lined, with inside zip-fastened pockets.

The sacks - generally known as rice-sacks by local farmers who re-use them – are sourced and scrubbed; most of Coral Seed’s rice-sack bags are then cut and sewn by a countryside-based project supporting the rural poor, while others are sewn by an inner-city NGO supporting disabled artisans.

This summer Coral Seed is using vibrant colours, and is looking up at skies and flags for an inspired collection that includes sunrise, rainbow, stars and stripes and the union flag, for bags equally at home at the market, on the beach or by the hotel pool.

 

 

coralseed renbo totes
rice sack patchworking, Cambodia

Alan Flux, Spring 2011
   

Heartfelt from Mongolia -Alan Flux on Coral Seed's new range of felt bags

Mongolia's great natural product is wool - knitted, woven, felted; and so the bags [and other items] now being made in Mongolia for Coral Seed, under the 'Heartfelt' label, perpetuate a very long tradition.

The nomadic herders use this particular felt to protect their gers [yurts] against the long sub-arctic winters; but Coral Seed's designer [currently working in Mongolia as a VSO volunteer] was inspired to find a more decorative use for this utilitarian product - decorative, but practical, as demonstrated by Coral Seed's current range of bags .

Coincidentally, a small workshop trained to produce fur coats during the Soviet era was in need of help - and it so happened that their vintage East German fur and leather-sewing machines adapted perfectly to the pure sheep's wool felt.

 

Spinning yak wool, Mongolia

The bags are first sewn together by machine, for strength, and then over sewn by hand, and hand-embroidered with motifs often inspired by traditional Mongolian and Buddhist imagery; the range of hand-dyed colours swings from subtle to vibrant.

Perfectly in tune with fashion's current hand-made mood, these Heartfelt items are a unique fair trade offer from a beautiful and distant land.... more will follow, so watch this space...

Alan Flux