With products from around the world, Jolica’s founder Darlene Loewen shows off the diversity of her fair trade company. Photo courtesy of Darlene Loewen

Fair trade, a gift that gives twice

By 
  • December 8, 2012

TORONTO - By sticking to fair trade products while Christmas shopping this year, you’ll have wrapped a gift once while giving twice.

“To buy fair trade is a vote in favour of respecting the dignity of people in the community who have crafted it,” said Darlene Loewen, founder of Jolica. “It’s that kind of pay-it-forward piece.”

Founded in 2005, Jolica is a North American home party-structured business model which sells, through gift consultants, jewellery and accessories which are produced in an ethical way. This means that workers are both paid a decent wage and have dignified working conditions. This allows these workers, many of whom are single mothers, to send their children to school, purchase necessary medical supplies and avoid a life of begging on the streets or worse, prostitution.

But what that doesn’t mean, according to Loewen, is that the products Jolica sells will cost the consumer more.

“Fair trade being more expensive, that’s a perception that’s out there,” said Loewen, who runs the Canadian operation out of Fonthill, Ont. “Truthfully I think that our products’ price point compares really well against the market place.”

With products ranging from $19 glass earrings to a $449 leather brief case, Loewen said there is something for everyone among the 383 items in Jolica’s 2012-13 catalogue. There’s even a special section for men and another for children.

If by chance there isn’t something in the catalogue which catches your eye, Loewen still encourages people to purchase other fair trade products — many of which she said can be very cost-effective gifts. Some common ideas include chocolates, coffee and spices. Things you may not have considered though are bouquets, sporting balls and cosmetics.

But if you’re looking for a slightly more eloquent gift for that special someone who is a fair trade advocate, a trip to The Fair Trade Jewellery Company on Parliament Street in Toronto is a good place to start.

“If you’re wearing something that is suggestive of your values and faith, it should really embody that in its making and in its materials,” said company co-founder Robin Gambhir.

That train of thought is what led Gambhir to open The Fair Trade Jewellery Company in 2005. Since then it has become North America’s first registered fair trade jewellery company to ensure not only that the products are manufactured in ethical ways, but that they are made of metals and stones mined ethically as well.

“What we’re all about is let’s grow more food and feed more people and dig fewer holes to do what we do,” he said.

“And those people who are digging the holes, lets make sure that they are well compensated for what they do and that what they do they’re doing in a sustainable way.”

Gambhir did admit that his jewellery is slightly more expensive — by about 15 to 20 per cent — than the non-fair trade equivalent, with the average gold ring without a stone in his shop holding a $1,700 price tag.

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