Just Trade have been a firm Frankly favourite since our opening a whole year ago! As the Christmas period fast approaches, we wanted to find out more about the origins of one of our favourite brands in store. It was so nice chatting to Laura and finding out more about the amazing work Just Trade do for communities worldwide - helping to shape lives and empowered, particularly women who otherwise would never had tried or received training in jewellery making.
Hi, Laura. thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us! Could you tell us a little bit about how Just Trade began and your early inspirations?
Yes of course, so I studied Jewellery Design in Birmingham and always knew I wanted to do something useful with my designs, to help either people or communities. In my second year of studies I visited Peru and began working in Shanty towns volunteering, often working with women to help them gain skills in jewellery making. I loved doing this work and felt so at home working there. I didn't speak any Spanish but it taught me that through connection and by working together, amazing things can be achieved. Coming back to the UK to continue my studies in Birmingham, this really influenced my work. I knew that working with people and communities was the way forward for me. For the next 6-7 years I began going back as a volunteer, I gained so much experience and knowledge about the power of teaching new skills and empowering communities within this time. I then progressed to studying my MA at the Royal College in London.
Around 15 years ago Just Trade began. It began with people in mind first and its something that is always at the forefront of my work and I think always will be. I have since worked in India Ecuador, Vietnam and we are beginning to work in Indonesia on an exciting new project too!
Community seems so at the heart of Just Trade. How important is the ethics and sustainability of Just Trade?
For me, it's the most important part of what we do. Consistency for us is key and we make sure all our products are as sustainable and cost effective as they can be. All of our products go through a strict quality control process. Each piece is made with the consumer in mind but also has artisans at the heart. The empowerment of the people and the communities we work with is also so important to us and is always at the forefront when making and designing all Just Trade products.
We love how affordable, yet sustainable your jewellery is. What is your favourite thing about Just Trade?
It has to be the people. They inspire me every day and push me to make work that makes a difference. I'm so proud of all the people we work with and for me personally the nicest thing is being able to teach someone a new skill who otherwise would never have considered it themselves. Building peoples confidence for me is the most rewarding part of what we do at Just Trade. It's all about long term relationships and about providing opportunities with people who otherwise would not have had those opportunities in their life. It's about collaborating to release their full potential. I'm so excited to work with more communities and artisans in the future. That's been the hardest thing about the pandemic for me - not getting too visit places like Peru & Vietnam and work with our makers and artisans in person. It's just not the same thing when you are working online. So yes, human connection and building confidence of our makers is for me my favourite thing about Just Trade.
Could you talk a little bit about some of your daily inspirations when designing jewellery for Just Trade?
The people we work with inspire me all the time. When studying at University, I was always encouraged to use my surroundings for inspiration - no matter how mundane they may feel at the time. It's important to have a positive way of looking at the world around you. I think no matter where you live or what is around you there is beauty to be found somewhere and for me, I just try and find that and maybe look a bit closer and slow down. I think for any creative this is so important.
Working in Shanty Towns outside of the UK, really taught me how little you need to succeed. I think when studying at the Royal College, I was always amazed by the amount of money and production that when into the degree show at the Royal College and I would always think about how this money could build someones house in Peru. Being between these two worlds only highlighted for me, the need for ethical jewellery making, working with communities and the need use what I had learnt to make a change.
We're so excited to see what Just Trade have in store for the future. You mentioned earlier your current project in Indonesia - could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Of course! I'm so excited about this work! We're working in a village in Indonesia called Java, specialising in recycled brass to make beads. This work has been a long time in the making, as COVID restrictions have meant that working with people abroad has been so so difficult - it's something that zoom just can't make up for! I'm really excited to see where this work takes us and to develop Just Trade further.
Thank you so much to Laura, for taking the time to chat to us about Just Trade. All products discussed and more information can all be found under Just Trade in our website.