Responsible Feature : Equal Uprise
After shopping ethical fashion brands exclusively for over a year now, I've had my fair share of research and let downs when looking for items in my wardrobe. Hats were one of those in my search. Once a staple in every person's wardrobes years ago, the everyday hat has been making a comeback with stylish fedoras, summer straw hats and the everyday wool hat - thank you hipsters and Nashville natives for always keeping them in style. Lucky, Equal Uprise came up through social media scanning last year and I'm here to share more information of what you need to know about the brand and the product.
Equal Uprise was founded to create timeless, modern accessories for your closet and your home. Each product is hand made by artisans in countries like Ecuador and Tunisia, in small quantities using locally sourced materials whenever possible. The mission of this small but mighty responsible company is to create a platform for global artisans enabling sharing their talents and handmade goods. With the platform, Equal Uprise is able to connect these artisans to conscious consumers who "enjoy modern design while acknowledging the importance of accessibility to responsibly made goods." With attention to the ethical supply chain, responsibly sourced materials and overall quality, Equal Uprise is able to continue to provide timeless pieces each season. And with those sales, the brand is able to work on additional initiatives to fund education for children of artisans as well as education funding for the artisans themselves. You can read more about Equal Uprises work and mission here.
The brand produces seasonal product lines featuring hats, leather bags, and home goods like pillows and decor. Each design emphasizes simplicity over trend to ensure that your purchase is a life-long purchase enduring the test of time.
Try : THE ROUND TOP - KHAKI - $80.00
This wool hat fits true to size (as seen in the below photos). With Equal Uprise's transparency, you can read more about each artisan, the fit guide and timeless quality.
Leather Bags -
Try : LEATHER ACCESSORIES - $32.00 - $208.00
A variety of leather wallets, totes and cross-bodies handmade and functional bags. With attention to detail and minimal, modern style, these bags will last for years. You'll find leather care, artisan descriptions and other details.
Pillows & BLANKETS -
Try : HANDMADE PILLOWS $38.00 - $75.00
You'll find care instructions, fabric and artisan details when shopping pillows, blankets and throws.
I touched base with Equal Uprise founder, Denise Paredes, to provide you background on the brand, what you should know about the responsible production practices and beautiful handmade product.
How did you start Equal Uprise?
It's a bit random, but I had a corporate job for years and towards the end of my time there, I started volunteering with a local organization that made me realize I wanted to do something that had an impact. Having grown up in Ecuador, I knew there was a wealth of talent that deserved attention and that's where a vague idea of Equal Uprise started circling around my head. After doing some research and refining the idea a little more, I booked a flight to Ecuador. My best friend was such a supporter from the get-go and ended up joining me. We flew to the province where a big chunk of the artisan-made goods come from and we started exploring. Little by little, we found the types of workshops we wanted to work with. A few months after my trip in Ecuador, I connected with Dhia, the Tunisian-male version of me, and his work. His model focuses on partnerships with independent female artisans from Tunisia, where he's from. What's special about his team of makers is that in a male-dominated society, the group of Makers he works with are all women. They organized and created a system where they created fair income opportunities for themselves that fit around their home life. As Dhia and I discussed our business models we realized we were working for the same objective - championing the work of Makers who are responsibly creating the types of goods we want in our homes/wardrobes.
What’s your background in the fashion/accessory industry?
I actually don't have one. However, my mom was an incredibly successful interior designer for years. Growing up I was exposed to this world as we had to accompany her to meetings with suppliers and even clients sometimes. I think this is where my passion for interiors came from. Aside from that, my mom also paid very close attention to her personal appearance and had an incredible sense of style. She would select timeless pieces for her wardrobe, take incredibly good care of them and wear them for years. This had a lasting impact on me - as soon as I could afford to, I started investing my money on higher quality pieces and started paying close attention to the materials and construction of the pieces I was buying. Training my eye to pay close attention to these details is what helped me recognize quality when I saw it.
I have also partnered with my local community college and have two interns from their design program that have brought a lot of knowledge into the design aspect of the business.
What does ethical fashion mean to you?
Everything! I think once you open up pandora's box in terms of fast fashion, there is no putting it back. After Rana Plaza happened, I became very aware of the practices in the fashion industry. Going back to my corporate job, a factor that really influenced my decision to leave was the fact that their moral views on how corporations are structured conflicted with mine - I am incredibly grateful for my time there and the opportunities it brought my way, but the dynamic was one where profits were the determining factor on how things would be ran. This is where I could see a lot of similarities with the fashion industry and I started evaluating what my responsibility in all of it was. Then I came across Anna Lappe's quote "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want" and after seeing this, there was no going back, the importance of conscious consumerism never left me after that.
Why have you chosen to sell the range of accessory and home good products that you do?
In the beginning, I wasn't sure what direction things were going to go, I had a rough idea of the types of goods that were being made in Ecuador, but ultimately, I knew that visiting the workshops and seeing the operations working would be the best way to know what would work. Once there we found a couple of industries that dominated, mainly textiles and leather, so that's where I decided to focus. The process was a bit like shopping, which to me means investing your time to find things you know you'll love and keep forever, you take your time and once you find what you're looking for, you just know. I remember the first artisans I had this feeling with - our team of hat makers. I visited their workshop and saw the best example of teamwork that really stuck with me. I arrived towards the end of the day and anytime someone would finish up with their tasks, they would move to another area of the workshop to pick-up the work that was still left. At the end of the day, everyone ended up working in one specific area where the final touches for the hats are done. The team ended up sitting in a circle where they were sewing bands on the hats and as they worked they chatted and laughed, that's when I captured this shot:
Where do you work with your artisans and how do you get connected with them?
So far it's been by traveling there or through my network (Dhia from Tunisia). I'm also finalizing a few details with other Makers that I have connected with the help of non-profits/NGO's.
What tips would you provide someone who is working towards shopping responsible brands like Equal Uprise?
Do your research. Transparency is king when it comes to responsible brands, it's how they set themselves apart from the rest. Conscious brands will provide you with plenty of insights into how their pieces are made. I think investing your time into researching brands that really speak to you is important, I can assure you that once you find that brand that you connect with, the feeling of purchasing something from them is ten times more rewarding. Some of my favorite brands are Only Child, Everlane, Elizabeth Suzann, and Nisolo, to name a few.
What’s one thing you’d like people to know about Equal Uprise?
We're passionate about evolving and being the best version of ourselves we can be but having fun while doing it. We allow ourselves the time we need to develop products that we're proud of. What I mean by that is we're constantly working on the small details that make a product stand out. We listen to all the suggestions we get and incorporate a good amount of them into our production processes.
What can we expect from you next?
I am looking forward to introducing two new groups of Makers. The products that will be joining our line-up are perfect for the upcoming warmer months - think straw baskets and light cotton throws. We'll be sharing the news with our email subscribers first!