Grace and Able’s ethos is about aiming to go one step further than just being ‘ethical’.
Through directly supporting the artisan manufacturers in their communities, this new-found Australian brand aims to create employment opportunity that will pave the way for brighter futures.
“It’s about empowering the consumer with the gift of having an impact and making a difference through power of purchase”.
Founder Emma, has built a sustainable social enterprise spanning the globe and bringing handmade accessories right to our doorstep. Coming from Kenya, Sri Lanka and Uganda, each of these pieces has their own story to tell, the story of opportunity and a unique link to the culture of the artisans who make them.
The inspiration behind the idea stems from Emma’s upbringing in the in the Philippines, ‘where I witnessed first-hand the struggles of those in urban development’, instilling in her ‘a deep sense of imbalance and injustice’. This combination of personal experience and her passion for justice, ignited a desire to connect cultural identity and a story to the products we consumers buy.
By creating a sentimental quality to an ethical product there is justification to the purchase – and what better reason do we need than that to enjoy or fabulous jewellery anyway?! Immediately recognising a niche in modern retail for impact conscious consumers (just like us), Emma resolved to use this opportunity as an ‘agent to create real change’ she says.
It sure hasn’t been an easy road though, she reflects, ‘it’s ‘been all the cliches!
Life changing yet challenging’ with the real key being perseverance, an essential element to anyone hoping to embark on the sustainable business journey. ‘It’s really about bringing things down to basics and collaboratively working with the artisans… who are the soul and foundation of the brand’.
It’s this social enterprise approach that help make Grace and Able unique.
Working directly with the artisans, the object is to train them from the basic design stage all the way through to production and logistics. This method helps people gain new found skills that can make them more employable in the future while also combining their ideas, abilities and resources, which adds a personal and cultural element to their work.
What’s more exciting still is that in 2017, these artisans will have access to a formal developed training course whereby they’ll learn basic literacy skills, financial planning and business skills. This will then arm them with a whole new skill set to benefit their futures – the core and dream of Grace and Able!
Emma says “I have long held issue with the quote about ‘giving voice to the voiceless’ because the more I listen, the more I understand; no one is truly voiceless. Everyone has the voice to tell their own story, it’s just that they haven’t had opportunity to be heard. So I like to say that Grace & Able is simply their stage, giving their voice to the world.”
“Let me share with you Susan’s story. Susan grew up in a large family, but as she was one of the youngest and also a girl, the opportunity for her to complete her schooling was slim to none. Forced to work from a young age, she married young as a means of escape. Over the years, her husband’s problem with alcohol grew, and later he abandoned her, leaving her to provide for her children alone. Through the opportunity of fair and dignified work, Susan is creating brighter futures for her children where they all receive education. She is looking forward to begin learning to read, something she never thought she would be able to do.”A favourite piece in the Grace and Able collection, which Emma has a soft spot for are the malachite earrings from Kenya.
This jewellery acknowledges the traditional bead work of Kenyan Tribes but in a contemporary style that compliments the desired retail market. Handmade by disabled women who are deaf and devalued as non-contributing members of their community, this jewellery reaches out to consumers, who in turn by purchasing these products have helped establish a marketplace for these women, giving them an employment opportunity they never previously had, ‘empowering them toward a brighter future’.
In 2017, Grace and Able also hopes to launch a program for Australian women who want to create change, empowering them with the skill set and knowledge they need to help make a difference to sustainability.
The philosophy for this brand it’s not about what a manufacturer can do for a business, it is what the business can do for the individual and for their future.
It’s not a matter of giving people a voice, because they already have a voice but have just been denied fair opportunity in their impoverished contexts.