We partnered with Freeset to create fair trade gift bags handmade from locally sourced organic cotton as part of our Seasonal Gifting range.
Freeset is a life-changing fair trade organization creating positive employment opportunities for women affected by sex trafficking in West Bengal, India, by making customisable bags, tees and apparel for sale around the world, using locally sourced organic fabrics. Freeset exists for the many women who have never had the choice to be free.
Freeset is much more than a fair trade business, providing an income above the minimum wage, paid leave, pension contribution and sick leave.
We couldn't be more proud that our partner, Freeset Bags & Apparel has been awarded Fair Trade Guaranteed status by the World Fair Trade Organisation.
We have interviewed Janet Rogers, Freeset Fabrics’ Product Developer and Designer.
What is Freeset?
Freeset is a fair trade business, established nearly 20 years ago in Kolkata to provide women working in the sex trade with a choice of alternative fairly paid employment of sewn customisable products for the export market. Most of the women were not working in the sex trade through their own choice, but as an outcome of extreme poverty, the driver for human trafficking... Freeset is much more than a fair trade business though, providing an income above the minimum wage, paid leave, pension contribution and sick leave. Justice, equality and freedom underpin the Freeset business model, where respect for each other, self-worth and kindness are evidence that a flourishing community is also being created. Freeset’s product range comprises mainly customisable bags and tees made from locally sourced organic fabrics and uses processes which are kind to the environment. Clients choose Freeset for the excellent quality and timely delivery of the products, but also for ethical and sustainable values and the stories which share the positive impact on the lives of the women and their families.
When did you first become involved with Freeset?
I first became involved with Freeset in 2011 – when I was already working with another social business in South India. I got involved with Freeset on a long term basis from 2013 and until 2019 I was particularly working with one of the rural business units I helped establish in a rural area 200km North of Kolkata where many of the women come from – We were producing handloom scarves and fabrics and also sewn products. I am still working with a small group from that unit (which closed last year), to support them with consultancy and product development as they establish their own artisan cooperative, which is very exciting.
How did you find out about Freeset?
I knew the General Manager who I had met in another context and was invited to provide design and technical consultancy to Freeset as part of a larger project, but I had heard of Freeset already as it was gaining global recognition as a fair trade brand.
What did you feel when you first met some of these women? How has Freeset changed their lives?
The women were really welcoming and quickly made me feel at home. Some of the most special times were just sitting drinking tea and chatting with them as well as the work we did. They love working together and getting on with production – Freeset has given a fresh start to them and for many of them who have kids they now also feel more hopeful for a better future for them.
Can you tell us about one of the most rewarding moments of your work with Freeset?
Seeing the look of achievement and satisfaction on the faces of the women when they have completed a product or a task that they felt they would not be able to do –always a beautiful moment!
Can you share any empowering stories about the women you have met at Freeset?
One of the ladies I worked with in the rural area went through a very difficult time before she came to work with us. Her husband died in an accident leaving her with 2 small children and no income - We were able to offer her work at the Freeset unit in that area –Initially we were not sure how she would manage with weaving because she was not tall – but she was determined and worked hard – within a few months she was one of the best weavers and absolutely loved her work -her whole demeanour changed as she became one of the family and realised she was not alone. I’ve seen this kind of indomitable spirit in the women many times - which enables them to rise above life’s challenges. It is this kind of impact and transformation that keeps me connected and partnering with Freeset and other Freedom businesses.
Can you tell us about Freeset’s commitment to fair trade and eco-friendly practices?
Freeset Bags & Apparel has been awarded Fair Trade Guaranteed status by the World Fair Trade Organization (Guaranteed status valid from 12 April 2016). This achievement recognizes our existing Fair Trade practices and our commitment to constant improvement. The cotton in Freeset Tees is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified 100% organic, which means it is good for the grower and for you.
How does collaborating with brands, such as Nourish London benefit Freeset?
There is always a special synergy when a client shares the same values – so the fact that Nourish London uses organic vegan ingredients, is committed to using sustainable packaging and shares the same values which are kind to the planet is a bonus. It's orders from brands like Nourish London which provide ongoing fairly paid work for the team and enable them to provide for themselves and their families. Knowing they are appreciated and valued as well as the lovely products the women create also helps build a flourishing and vibrant global community – the Freeset team loves to hear from the clients and customers using their products – so feedback is always welcome!
Freeset are delighted to be working with Nourish London, and to have been able to produce these gift bags - sharing the same values of sustainability and care for our beautiful planet.
Every woman who finds freedom through Freeset also brings freedom to her family. They find hope for a brighter future and the means to make it a reality. As the business has grown, a positive community has emerged calling itself the “Freeset family”. This family not only supports its own members, but impacts on the wider community. The common understanding is “we’re in this together”.