Day 4 – Fashion & Compassion
Day 4 of our 12 Days of Christmas has such a powerful story! Fashion & Compassion is an ethical jewelry and accessory shop that gives back! We got to chat with the founders and wow, you will want to read about them!
Where are you from and why did you start your business?
Our names are Michele Dudley & Celeste Bundy, Co-Founders. We live in Charlotte, NC! We started F&C in 2009, when we went on a mission trip to Rwanda and Burundi. I’d gone on the same trip a year before and stood in a church where 11,000 people were brutally murdered in less than five hours during the Rwandan Genocide. It was an eye opening experience and was also the exact moment that I felt called to do something more with my life and to help fight injustice around the world. So when the trip came around again in 2009, it was a total God thing that Celeste was there too. It was during our mission work in Africa that we saw how women craved education and work. They didn’t desire things or gifts; they desired a dignified opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. They needed aid that helped, not aid that hurt, and it was out of that mindset that Fashion & Compassion was eventually born. We want to empower our artisans with the opportunity to be leaders and change-makers in their own communities. True empowerment only works when funds are accompanied by a relationship, mentorship and accountability. Our artisans are the heart of what we do, and we know that as they thrive, so do their families and the communities where they live. And when communities become empowered, that’s when the world starts to change. change.
What is your mission, values & why are you passionate?
Our mission is to connect caring consumers with vulnerable artisans to bring dignity through economic empowerment. And while our values are deeply rooted in Christian principles, we believe that all people are created in God’s image & that they are worthy of love, dignity & respect, regardless of their beliefs.
We’re passionate because we really want to see our artisans lives transformed as they become self-sufficient. One thing that makes us unique is that we are a non-profit and we have several Ministry Partners around the world that help us fulfill our mission. When a product sells, we donate ALL of our net proceeds back to our Ministry Partners so that they can do their part to further support the needs of the artisans & communities we serve. In the last four years, we’ve had the privilege of donating over $275,000 and that money has been used to purchase a safe home for human trafficking survivors in Ecuador, care for and educate 12 abandoned children in Ethiopia, start a school for the blind in Rwanda, train leaders in Central Africa in peace-building and reconciliation, and invest in the transformation of local women by providing housing and support programs for the exploited and addicted. 4.Our
What's your favorite part of the business?
Michele – The people and learning to love and serve them well. Sitting around a table and making jewelry is a means to bring about healing and that’s what F&C is all about! It’s a way for women who have been overlooked and underestimated for their entire life to stand up and proudly say, I did this! It gives each woman a sense of ownership and dignity and that will never get old.
Celeste – Our artisans. They’re such beautiful people and they’re survivors. Some of them have overcome unimaginable circumstances, but they have more joy than anyone else I know. It really keeps things in perspective and it’s impossible not to have a grateful heart.
What's the hardest part of our business?
The hardest part of our business is balancing ministry with fashion and meeting the needs of both our artisans and customers. We’re a ministry first, but we have to operate as a business so that we can continue to do ministry and serve our artisans. We try our best to design products that are on-trend & will be pieces that people want to purchase. Our customers are the ones who keep our business going and we’re beyond grateful for them! Without them, we wouldn’t exist, so we want to make sure that we’re offering them beautiful products at a great price, while also paying our artisan’s fairly and being mindful of their needs and skills.
What is your advice for consumers shopping ethically?
There’s so much great advice out there and we think it’s awesome that there are so many organizations empowering artisans through jewelry, clothing and home goods! It means that more consumers care about who made their products and that’s amazing! Our best advice would be to always do your homework on a company. Look for faces and stories about who made your product and check out the information on their supply chain to see where the products come from. There’s a documentary called True Cost that’s a great resource for people looking to understand how their dollars make a difference and what it means to support slow fashion. Another great tool is a website called Slavery Footprint. You can enter where you live, information about your consumption habits/lifestyle and it’ll send you a detailed breakdown of your slavery footprint, ways you can make improvements and information about the issue.
Why do you think it is important to shop small and ethically?
We think it’s important to shop small and ethically because we’ve seen the positive effect it has on people and communities. Shopping small supports community development and shopping ethically covers so much more than just the environmental benefits. Ethical shopping is also about paying fair wages, supporting safe workspaces and responsible sourcing practices, and providing people with work they can be proud of.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our audience?
As F&C continues to grow, it’s our hope that the current projects will grow deeper. Our goal is to employ 1,000 artisans (we already have over 200!), to educate 10,000 consumers and to give away $1,000,000 in the next 10 years! We are based in Charlotte, NC, but have six projects around the world in Ecuador, Ethiopia, Mexico, Rwanda, Uganda and the U.S.!
How can our audience shop in your store?
Thank you guys so much for sharing a bit of your heart behind your shop, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year!
~The Archibald Project