· · Presently, indigenous people suffer higher rates of discrimination, poverty, landlessness, malnutrition, and internal displacement than other members of society. We aim to end the marginalization of tribal groups and instead recognize them as key players in the world's achievement of peace and prosperity. In the future we are creating, indigenous people are thriving because they have a sustainable and ethical source of income, the opportunity to stay in their ancestral lands and preserve their culture, and the ability to continue serving as gatekeepers to some of the world's most precious natural areas. This scenario benefits the rest of humanity as well because through these agents of conservation, we secure our planet's cultural and environmental heritage, which ultimately has all kinds of positive economic ramifications.
Designers, artists and social entrepreneurs are already reaching out to native peoples to create exquisite products. At the same time, consumers find the indigenous aesthetic (which is popping up everywhere from Nike shoes to Donna Karan sheets) an irresistible trend. Through our online marketplace of authentic, contemporary, indigenous goods, we are simply filling the need of linking fashion-conscious consumers up with products that reflect their environmental and social values. We don't carry any inventory, we are simply the platform where transactions take place (and information is exchanged and ideas are discussed). What Etsy is to handcrafts, what 99designs is to graphic artists, what you are to us... that's what we are to fierce indigenous folklore gone pop.
There are three product categories that will be featured on the Fierce Folklore site and sold to individual consumers via the Internet. They will all be shipped directly by the seller. Goods are not limited to clothing and accessories, and can include cookbooks featuring a fusion of modern and indigenous cuisine, traditional or digital artwork, musical pieces, instruments, aromatherapy, medicinal knowledge, toys, shamanistic paraphernalia... the sky is the limit!
1. Authentic (meaning real indigenous), high design, private label goods.
Although finally represented at the United Nations by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the living conditions of most native peoples remain precarious. With only about 100 uncontacted tribes left in the world, there is an ever-growing need to develop a a strategy that incorporates tribes into the folds of modern society yet protects their cultures and values.
We believe this category creates the most positive impact, literarlly weaving the aboriginal and modern worlds together, as the products are conceptualized and manufactured by the designer or artist in conjunction with indigenous partners.
This symbiotic relationship allows the indigenous artisan to feature her traditional craft on a pop culture frame, and therefore reach larger markets. An example is Cuna women stitching a mola onto a lycra bikini to produce a Pitahaya label swimsuit. The artisan can secure a stream of revenue from her skill because the end product is now accessible and more appealing to the world community.
Examples of other labels that fall into this category are Oro Verde Jewelery, The PreColumbian Connection T-Shirts and Apparel, and Vigilant Bags.
2. Through its non-profit partners (local foundations and NGO’s), Fierce Folklore will facilitate the sale of traditional products directly from indigenous tribes to the consumer if no designer alliance exists. Some of these products can be customized, such as the line of Wayuu mochila bags we will be offering through Fundacion Herencia Ambiental Caribe (this foundation is our partner and is conducting the "Customization" pilot project). The idea in this category is to eventually empower the tribe to sell directly on the website without the assistance of foundations or third parties. This will be done through a training program on how to set up and operate a shop on the Fierce Folklore platform.
3. Products inspired in indigenous cultures (new, vintage or second hand) can be sold on the site as long as it is clearly stated that they are not sourced or designed by indigenous people. A percentage from the sale of these goods is donated back to the tribe that served as muse, or to International Funders for Indigenous Peoples and to other organizations that allocate these funds to support the community empowerment of tribes around the world. Examples of some of these brands could be Pineda Covalin, Handle Only With Love, Auric Blend Perfumes, and the Urban Outfitters’ Navajo line. The idea is to instill the behavior of recognizing the concept of intellectual property by giving back a royalty to the indigenous culture that created the aesthetic in question.
We have punched in the numbers and set the goal of attracting about 100,000 sellers to the site in order to reach the economy of scale that will make this operation profitable. We aim to reach this target by the third year.
I'm a mompreneuer that has always followed her heart. I graduated from college with a degree in Environmental Studies and have worked in this field for 10 years. That decade was integral in bringing me to the place I am in now.
I have been really lucky because my family in Colombia has this gorgeous business called Pitahaya Swimsuits that partners with Cuna women who stitch their traditional mola craft onto bikinis (all from the comfort of their village). When Pitahaya got invited to the United Nations Fashion for Development event in NYC in 2009, I was a new mother looking for flexible work opportunites. I attended the event and was hooked immediately.
I knew I had to make this work on a bigger scale, and so I reached out to my sister Cristal who leads a successful environmental conservation foundation in the Colombian caribbean that works with several tribes in the region. Fundacion Herencia Ambiental Caribe became my ally in the Fierce Folklore project, and is directing a pilot project with the Wayuu nation of customized knitted bags for the company. We aim to replicate this relationship with other foundations around the world.
Doing good is great, but if we can do it with flavor then it's also fun! The products we have found and will feature on our website are stunning, but most importantly the stories behind them are beautiful and compelling.