Greenola Style is Combining Fair Trade Fashion with Female Empowerment

Did you know that around the world it is women who are bearing the brunt of poverty and all of the myriad issues that come along with it? Cutting edge eco-fashion label Greenola Style doesn’t just know about it…but has decided to do something about it! I recently had the honour of interviewing Greenola’s Creative Director, Teresa Kuruvilla, about fashion, fair trade and female empowerment. 

Q. Greenola is a relative newcomer to the world of ethical fashion. How did this journey begin?
In 2008, Greenola’s CEO and Founder, Jennifer Moran, began working with a non-profit medical mission called Solidarity Bridge, which provides critical medical care to patients in impoverished parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. Jennifer, who has a background in visual arts and social activism, was inspired to combine her passion for fashion and social justice after visiting Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she had the opportunity to experience Bolivia’s diverse and vibrant community cultural heritage. She was particularly inspired by the women she met on her trip, who had limited resources, but were so passionate about creating positive change for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Q. Your mission statement is “Change your LOOK, change a LIFE”. Can you tell us a little bit about what this means?
“Change your LOOK, change a LIFE” is a statement that resonates with our company on many levels. Our brand is designed to create connection and solidarity between our consumers and our producers, to empower women all over the world, and to preserve and protect our planet and its resources.
10% of our profits are donated directly to Solidarity Bridge, which has supplied over 20 million U.S. dollars worth of medical supplies, medicines, health care services, and training to developing South American countries. 

Handmade earrings made from sustainably harvested tagua nut, the ethical alternative to elephant ivory

Additionally, we work exclusively with women artisans (statistically, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty). According to research conducted by the United Nations, women in marginalized communities are extremely effective in creating positive social and economic change in their communities, once they have access to basic human rights such as health care, reproductive rights, and education.

Finally, Greenola strives to use natural and/or recycled materials whenever possible. We use eco-friendly production (no factories or high-emission machines) and are committed to sustainable design.

Q. How would you describe the design aesthetic of Greenola in 10 words or less? 

Eclectic, bold, and rebellious!

Q. Can you tell us a little about what makes Greenola an environmentally friendly company?

We use re-purposed materials such as used bottles and containers, paper, plant dyes, and natural fibers wherever possible. We try to use pre-existing materials, such as old blankets or dresses to make new, modern designs. We also recently launched a recycled fashion line.

These striking earrings have been handmade in Bolivia by women entrepreneurs from recycled plastic grocery bags

Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now?

People Tree, the U.K.-based company is extremely inspiring both as a Fair Trade business and as a fashion brand. Check out the “Ethical Fashion” board on GREENOLAstyle’s Pinterest account for more of our ethical fashion inspiration.

Q. I’ve noticed that the items in your dedicated Recycled Fashion Finds section are almost always sold out. Do you think there’s a growing market for recycled and upcycled fashion?

Absolutely! Fashion with a story is something that few mainstream retailers today can provide, and women definitely want to be able to wear clothing that has meaning and history to it. We take special care in curating our Recycled Fashion  Finds collection – quality over quantity. We handpick unique, well-made items that still have a place in a modern fashionista’s wardrobe. We like to think of upcycled fashion like used books – they may not be current best-sellers with brand new covers, but they can still tell a damn good story!

One-of-a-kind recycled Nautical Neddie blouse

Q.  Why is Fair Trade so important to the future of fashion?

At its heart, Fair Trade is a practice designed for sustainability. When ‘big-box retailers’ mass produce products with no regard for their workers and production processes, they create a system that is designed to self-destruct. People working for an unfair wage in harmful working conditions are unable to bettering their economic or social situations, and often have a much shorter life expectancy as well. By paying workers a fair living wage, and creating a direct relationship built on mutual respect between the business and its producers, Fair Trade allows communities to develop sustainably and ultimately create a long-term, profitable, and ethical relationship between businesses, producers, and consumers.

The purchase of these lovely cotton wallets supports the fight against human trafficking

Q. Your Spring/Summer 2012 ‘Sedgwick’ line doesn’t shy away from the bold use of colour. Who or what was the muse for this collection?

I often look to artwork when brainstorming ideas for collections. I happened to come across some photographs of  Andy Warhol (one of the most influential artists in the Pop Art movement of the 1960s) and his muses, including the model/actress Edie Sedgwick. I loved the sleek lines, and bold styling of Sedgwick and the other ‘Factory Girls,’ and was fascinated by their uninhibited, rebellious aesthetic. Andy Warhol’s use of color in his work was also a huge inspiration for our color schemes and designs. The collection is flirtatious and fun with a little bit of an edge, which aligned perfectly with our brand.

Q. What does the future hold for Greenola?

We’re going through a bit of a growth spurt right now, which is both frantic and exhilarating! We are thrilled to be able to share our brand with more and more women, and are continually inspired and impressed with how both our customers and our artisans revolutionize our world…one style at a time. 😉 We hope to keep expanding to production (and sales!) in other countries…look out for a collaboration with artisans in Ghana, Africa in the near future! 

You can also find Greenola on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

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