Fazl’s handmade, Fair Trade knitwear is created in the Himalayas by local women artisans. Their socks, hats, mittens, and accessories give back to orphaned and destitute children in India. Vanessa and her husband founded Fazl to empower Indian women with fair wages and help kids in need. To check out Fazl’s beautiful knitwear, click here!
Can you tell us about the artisans that you work with, and how Fazl benefits them?
We employ about 400 artisans, all of whom are women in need in our community in the Himalayas. We wanted to do something that benefited both the children’s homes in the area and the women who needed work. For a lot of our employees, this is the only income in their family, and the women are able to provide for their entire family since we pay them a fair wage. We also employ about 10 staff members in our office who do inspections and corrections on the products. For these positions, we prioritize women who are widowed and come from tough backgrounds. All the designs used in our socks are indigenous to the community, so the women are able to express their culture through this work. We honor their traditions and give them the opportunity to work from home when they need to prioritize their families and help around the house.
How does Fazl support children’s homes in India?
For context, we refer to them as children’s homes instead of orphanages since not every kid there is an orphan. Some are rescued from child labor, come from abusive families, or end up there from extreme poverty. The people who run the homes are Indian themselves and work to solve a problem in their own community. I first came to India to volunteer in the children’s homes, and that’s where I met my husband. I knew that this is where I was supposed to be in the world, but the timing wasn’t right to make a permanent move. My husband and I wanted to help the homes, and we ended up moving to India to do just that. Now, I split my time between working on Fazl and working with the kids. We get to work in the homes everyday, being alongside the children and helping them every way we can.
Where do you hope to take Fazl going forward?
We have a few big partnerships coming up that we’re really excited about. Surprisingly and thankfully, we’ve had our best business ever since COVID started. I think a lot of people became aware of the suffering in the developing world during this time and want to give back however possible. I want to make Fazl as big as possible, I have big dreams of turning it into a household name. When we started, I was totally delusional about how hard it would be. We’ve been on the brink of bankruptcy more than once, but I’m still ready to push until we can elevate the community as much as possible. I would love to branch into health care, education, literacy, and so much more. People want fair-paying jobs and want to be educated, and I want to help them get there.
What is the best part of your job?
Anything with the children and with our ladies. One of the best things about working on the ground is having them around me at all times. It’s so touching and motivating to support one another. We’ve been through a lot together as a community, and it has really bonded us as a family. In India, loneliness is not nearly as common as it is in the West because society is much more communal and family-oriented. It’s an amazing experience to be part of that.