It must have happened to you… While travelling, you buy a product from a handicraft shop for x price and a couple of days later, see (what you think is) the same product in a market for half the price. Some of you might feel cheated. But some of you know that the price has a story…
Since October 2019, through our Village Weavers Project and in collaboration with the EIF (Enhanced Integrated Framework), we’ve been working with artisans from 6 different villages and 3 provinces. We helped (and still help) them develop ranges of handicrafts that combine craftsmanship and tradition with realistic creativity and market knowledge.
Our team of weavers, dyers, designers and tailors transfer their skills to aid artisans to make a better living from handicrafts.
Let’s delve into what comes into play when we talk about the price of an artisan made product. Of course, the first thing would be the materials and accessories. As you know, we only work with the finest raw materials and we make sure that as much as possible, all the materials used in our products are made in Laos.
We buy our handspun cotton from villages we work with through our Village Weavers Project, like Ban Houeyhok. The artisans in Ban Houeyhok produce high quality cotton. And since we always strive to source the best material for our products, we buy a good part of our cotton from them. You can learn more about them here and even see how they produce handspun cotton here.
In Laos there are two types of silkworm: the Eri and Bombyx Mori.
Same for our silk… In Laos there are two types of silkworm: the Eri and Bombyx Mori. The Bombyx Mori originated in China and eats mulberry leaves. This silkworm makes two types of cocoon: yellow and white. The silk filament is fine and smooth. The other type, Eri (Philosymia Riccini), originated in India and can eat a variety of plant leaves, such as castor, cassava, and papaya, but not mulberry. The spun yarn is thick and textured, creating textiles that feel soft; almost like wool.
Going a step further in ensuring that we work exclusively with raw materials from Laos, some of our new products now sport a “GI” (Geographical indication) tag certifying that this silk was produced in Luang Prabang itself.
We work in all areas of the value chain so we can guarantee to our customers that we apply the fair trade principles at each stage of the chain, from sourcing raw materials to making the finished product. Full time weavers at Ock Pop Tok earn at least 3 times the official minimum wage for Laos. And the other dozens of artisans we work with through our Village Weavers Project, are remunerated fairly for their work.
Artisans we work with through our Village Weavers Project, are remunerated fairly for their work.
They are artists and their work is not only art but also helps to preserve, in our case, the textile traditions of Laos, and we think they should be remunerated fairly for this. We do hope that by educating visitors from around the world about Lao crafts, we help them develop a deeper appreciation of both the high level of skill involved and the cultural significance of designs.
Read this blog to learn more about the artisans we work with.
We also have to add to the cost the other supplies like zippers or buttons, among other things, which we can’t unfortunately source in Laos and have to import from Thailand. Plus, the labels. Also sourced from Thailand. Fortunately, for the packaging, our go to is our trusty saa paper, which we buy in Luang Prabang itself.
Before a product becomes available in our shop or webshop, there’s a whole product development phase.
But that’s not all. There are also the things that customers might not always think (or know) about. Before a product becomes available in our shop or webshop, there’s a whole product development phase. This can go smoothly or it can take time to get it right… And once it’s ready for sale, we also need to upload it to our webshop and this means pictures, copywriting, marketing…
It’s never as straightforward as you would think. So when you pick up a product next time you travel (or shop online for that matter), if the product seems overpriced to you, think about everything that went into making this product available to you…
…Think about what it represents, the story it tells.
This activity was supported by ECL Project which is funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).
EIF is an Aid for Trade partnership in action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Operational since 2009, the EIF is a multi-donor program that supports the LDCs to become more active players in the global trading system by helping them tackle supply-side constraints to trade.
ECL Project intends to promote private sector-led economic growth in the least developed Northern Region of the country in response to the Government’s eight National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP). The project consists of three components: Improvement of the local business environment, Enhancement of productivity and exports of critical sectors, and project management.