Founded as a place for producers from marginalized communities around the globe to offer their wares to Canadian shoppers, Villages Calgary is one of the longest-running and most esteemed fair trade retailers in the country.
The store’s history goes all the way back to 1984, when founder Erna Klippenstein offered up her family’s two-story tool shop on Crowchild Trail to start trading artisan goods.
Today, the shop has a new name, but the ethos and mission is much the same as the day it all started – as is the location inside the Klippenstein’s old store.
As a valued Laundromat (Lost Horizons) retailer, Villages Calgary plays an essential role in creating sustainable employment opportunities for our artisan partners in Nepal. In October 2020, they joined us as a fully verified member of the Fair Trade Federation!
We spoke to Villages Calgary Manager, Laura Drapeau, about what it’s like to run a retail business in 2020, and why fair trade is more important than ever.
What is the philosophy behind Villages Calgary?
At Villages Calgary, we believe that every producer should be able to have a sustainable livelihood and be treated with respect and dignity. Our role in that is to provide a market where producers can sell their fair trade goods to customers in Canada.
As a not-for-profit, we are able to ensure a sustainable trade relationship with the producer groups that we work with and can share their stories with our customers.
How did you first get involved with fair trade, and why is it so important to you?
When the first group of volunteers founded our store in 1984, we were established with fair trade values at our root.
Fair trade is important to us because it means that everyone involved in our supply chain is able to have access to food, clean water, shelter, income, education, medical aid and much more!
Do you think the events of 2020 have changed consumers’ attitudes towards fair trade?
We have spoken with several customers who have expressed how they have realized the importance of fair trade and shopping local in light of recent events. The importance of community and working together has really been highlighted during the pandemic.
Locally, we are seeing hardship, which can lead us to feel empathy with marginalized communities who are experiencing similar hardships.
Could you highlight a couple of items or any trends that are popular with your customers right now?
Our Annual Rug Event was a huge success this year and we noticed similar patterns with some of our customers. Many had travel plans that have been cancelled and were looking for something exciting to make the winter feel less bleak.
People are also spending more time in their homes this year than is typical. A new rug, tablecloth, basket, mittens or accessory is a great way to spruce things up.
We are also seeing people begin their holiday shopping early so they can avoid going at the busier times of year!
What motivates you to stock Laundromat? Do you have a favorite item in the collection?
We love that the items are all hand-knit by artisans in Nepal, and knowing that the producers can carve out a livelihood for themselves in a community where jobs are scarce is great motivation.
The fact that these items are also beautiful and well-made means they are popular among our customers and we’re able to sell even more of them.
Our team at Villages Calgary loves the glittens! They are warm, stylish and allow for texting during the cold winter months.
Shop Laundromat on the Villages Calgary website or in store at 220 Crowchild Trail NW, Calgary.
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