Local Buttons have evolved a collection of professional accessories and garments ethically in Haiti to help the local community. The design team launched three years ago with the aim of mainstreaming sustainable fashion to demonstrate it can be stylish, engaging and exciting. “We are putting a face on fashion,” say the duo behind the project Consuelo McAlister and Anne Pringle. Their lifestyle and community brand create a direct link between the consumer and the producer, presenting the full story about where an item is made to encourage consumers to think carefully about their choices and not invest in the world of unethical and unsustainable fashion.
While hosting a sustainable fashion show in Toronto, 2010, the designers raised awareness about the organization Brandaid. The Canadian initiative help Haitian artisans find a place for their goods in the global marketplace. With University Majors in International Development the team explored the region themselves and realized there was a gap for sustainable and stylish professional wear. They began working with INDEPCO to produced their first up cycled vests and decided to follow the clothing to see the entire process. They met the artisans and were really impressed with the craftsmanship, and began the process of expanding the concept.
After three years working in the industry, and a lot of research, Local Buttons employ 8 full time tailors on a contract basis who produce all the jewellery and accessories in the Local Buttons’ studio space. They pay twice the minimum wage and advocate fair trade, as well as providing a whole host of benefits to help the tailors. “The garment industry in Haiti is being revitalized and we want to be there from the beginning to show that the sector can change to incorporate sustainable and ethical standards,” says Anne.
Anne says the reaction to Local Buttons has been really positive. “The story is very engaging, and we have found that fashion provides a great avenue to speak to people about issues surrounding sustainability and human rights.” So far they have found that customers really appreciate the idea of a transparent supply chain, especially one that produces high quality, unique items. In North America they have been fortunate to pair up with MaRS, Ryerson, Cornell University, Fashion Takes Action and SheEO.
As for the future, the team say that they want to see Local Buttons become a highly successful model in Haiti before expanding to other locations. “It has been our goal to manufacture with local communities around the world. We want to showcase that clothing manufacturing can be done ethically and sustainability,” Anne says. “Haiti has an incredible history and we are honored to work with the skilled artisans and tailors at our ‘Design Lab’ in Port-au-Prince,” she adds.