An Interview with Ethical Brand “deux mains”

Thais Cuachio is the Brand Merchandising Manager for deux mains. She works with deux mains’ marketing visuals strategy and manages events, while creating opportunities for sales and impact increase.

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Thais worked in sustainable development projects in different countries until she came across deux mains and its unique model combining job training (through its non-profit partner REBUILD globally) with employment through deux mains  as a way to restore people’s dignity and fight global poverty. She is committed to using creativity and passion for social entrepreneurship to change lives.

Originally from Brazil, she holds a BA in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Urbanism with a minor in International Affairs from Rollins College.

Hello Thais! Thank you for taking part in this interview for The Ethical Style Project. What can you tell us about your company deux mains?

-deux mains is an ethical lifestyle brand handcrafting unique and beautiful footwear and accessories in Haiti.  We are committed to fighting poverty by providing dignified living wage employment and business owner equity opportunities for our craftsmen and women.  The name means “Two Hands” in French and it’s telling of how our team use their own “Two Hands” to sculpt sidewalls into soles with a pride that comes from creating something valuable for others, while making a meaningful life for themselves.

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  •      How did the idea to start the company come about?  

-To fully appreciate the deux mains brand, I have to start at the beginning, January 12, 2010. Our CEO and Founder Julie Colombino was volunteering as a relief worker in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. She founded our nonprofit partner organization, REBUILD globally, which still exists today to provide paid job training for people. The women who survived that horrible disaster were looking for ways to help themselves recover their livelihoods, instead of depending on donations. So Julie, along  with three other Haitian women, opened a small training center to make sandals from the tires found in the streets. Over the years, through the efforts of REBUILD globally we were able to spin off into our business, deux mains, which is an official Haitian-owned company.  It opened in 2015 and now we employ dozens of workers who make a living wage and are able to support themselves and their families.

  •      Your brand has strong ethical values. Tell us about your journey into ethical fashion as an individual. Were you always aware of the cruelty, inequality and environmental harm involved in mainstream clothing and fashion production? If no, when did you learn about the cruelty and inequality that goes on behind the scenes and how did this affect you?

–I have always heard of the social and environmental issues inside of the fashion world, but they seemed to distant from me, and I never noticed how I was actually a part of the problem. It only became a real concern after being more educated on what happens within the fast fashion industry: many workers are exploited and there’s little or no concern for the environment.  To be honest, I felt both blessed and cursed with my new knowledge. There was no way I could hear about all the inequality and cruelty that happens in this industry and continue to act the same. Working at Deux mains has been a solution for me.  I have learned how to be a voice in this movement for better fashion, and a better world.  I love that we all can be a part of it.

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  •      Why is it so important for people to support ethical brands?

At deux mains we define an ethical -or sustainable -fashion brand as one that pays its workers a living-wage, minimizes  its environmental footprint, preserves local craftsmanship, encourages local leadership, and contributes to the growth of local economy. Basically, fashion that empowers people and cares about the environment.

The fashion industry is among the largest and most polluting industries in the world. If  the practices inside of this industry are revolutionized, by putting people first, imagine the huge benefits for workers, their families and our planet!?

 

  •      How are the materials used to make your products ethical?

Our brand incorporates an authentic and unique mix of discarded car tires, cloth made from plastic water bottles, and genuine leather into each product.  Each collection was thoughtfully created to enhance our culture, passion for environmental responsibility, and dedication to the slow fashion movement. We source these products in Haiti so we can guarantee transparency in our supply chain while also supporting other local businesses and keeping the economy dynamic.

Deux mains is committed to leaving a better planet for current and future generations and we have environmental sustainability walking hand in hand with social impact. We have recycled over 9000 tires and transformed them into the beautiful footwear, totes and accessories. We guarantee 50,000 miles of wear on every sandal!

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  •      As you know, this interview is part of The Online Stylist’s project: “The Ethical Style Project”, which aims to help and encourage others with their transition towards ethical fashion. What tips and advice would you give to those who are about to start their ethical style journey?  

The fashion industry has changed a lot in the past years. Major retailer brands no longer operate per season but instead, launch collections monthly and even weekly. I believe it is up to us to change this trend.  We don’t have to buy in this cycle that forces people to purchase more than they need. Undervaluing quality and craftsmanship in order to keep prices low and attend high demand is what allowed fast fashion to succeed.

 

The first step is awareness and I love how it is easier to find blogs (like this one) and other resources to help us transition towards ethical fashion. There is a whole world of options available for all tastes and pockets.  Buying less is my first recommendation. You don’t need ten cheap shirts that you will throw away after one month, if five high quality ones will be a much better fashion statement you can be proud to wear.

 

Buy used: Only 10% of the clothing we donate to second hand stores are actually resold. The rest? Is donated in African countries or Western nations like Haiti, which destroys the local economy, culture and craftsmanship. Why would people purchase from their local shoemaker if they are receiving used ones for free from somewhere else? This whole cycle is broken and needs to end.

 

Be informed! Choose to support brands that are able to tell you where their materials come from, how much their workers are paid, and how they treat the environment. Become an advocate for them. Bring others with you on this revolution.

I would like to recommend a few resources for all to check out:

  • The True Cost documentary and Fashion Revolution website will empower you with knowledge.
  • MODAVANTI.com has amazing ethically made products
  • www.deuxmains.com of course! 😉

Thank you very much to Thais and the deux mains team for this fantastic interview! You can contact Thais at: Thais@rebuildglobally.org

Visit the deux mains site here: www.deuxmains.com