Smarteria – Turning Junk into Innovative Fashion by Ceri Heathcote
The saying goes “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. This is definitely true of Smarteria, the ethical fashion brand working in Cambodia to provide jobs and a positive future for locals turning rubbish into surprisingly stylish fashion accessories.
Products like net can be found amongst the debris on building sites or on boats for fishing. Smarteria use refined Italian Design and the expert skills of their Cambodian tailors to turn it into some amazing. Discarded plastic bags can be an environmental menace until Smarteria put them to go use by combining them with the net and leather for their innovative bag designs. Motorbikes are a common form of transport in Cambodia and at the end of their useful life Smarteria also make good use of the seats recycling them into their clever designs.
Smarteria was founded in 2006 by two friends Elisa and Jennifer, both of whom lived in Cambodia and share similar ideas but only met by chance at a children’s play date. Eliza is the creative force behind the company, creating the first prototypes after coming across a roll of faulty net in the market and tripping over a plastic bag. Jennifer is the business brains behind the brand who drew up the business which allowed them to open their first workshop and shop. In the beginning they started out with just three tailors and heaps of ideas but they are now working with over 60 tailors in Cambodia, running 4 shops in Cambodia and exporting to over 10 different countries. The company is now operated from their commercial offices in Phnon Penh with Elisa coordinating production from her home in France with regular trips to Cambodia.
All Images Smarteri
Smarteria are not only helping to protect the environment by recycling materials that would otherwise end up as waste but they are helping to create a sustainable livelihood for those working for them in Cambodia. All of the profits made are reinvested in the business which has grown in just 5 years from 5 to 60 employees. In contrast to many of the practices in the fashion industry, Smarteria employees are treated very well. They are employed in accordance with local labour law and are also encouraged to bring their children to work where Smarteria pay for childcare. They have also recently started a preschool program for their employees with 2 teachers. Staff also receive training with the Garment Industry Productivity Centre to give them the skills to work efficiently and productively. Work is also outsourced to the family members of Smarteria staff giving them the chance to earn additional income with free training and sewing machines financed interest free.
Each and every member of the team is valued…
“Each new member of staff brought to the team a wealth of different human and professional experience. This diversity soon became our greatest strength. It is thanks to our amazing staff that the work at Smarteria is a daily adventure full of surprises and emotions. One we never tire of”
To work alongside Cambodian managers in their business who were formerly exploited workers without rights or a future, confirms for Elisa and Jennifer that their dream has definitely become a reality.
You can find out more about Smarteria and stockists of their beautiful and innovative accessories at www.smarteria.com
This Guest Post was written by Ceri Heathcote, Fashion Blogger, ethical fashion advocate and founder of www.style-is.co.uk, a search engine for ethical and sustainable fashion.
Darren Hoad B.A (Hons.), M.A. M. Phil.
IEMA Certified Sustainability Practitioner CSR-P
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