Chicago-based fair trade fashion company Mata Traders, all began when three women went on a trip to India. Mata Traders now provides a steady income for many women who find themselves in poor conditions in India and Nepal. The name is a nod to the universal power within us all, the power of the female, as Mata means mother in the Hindi language.

The company’s selection is entirely for women by women, spanning all types of clothing and accessories. All the patterns seen on Mata Traders goods are its own design creations. In production, the designs utilize the processes of block printing and screen-printing, which have been widely practiced art forms in India for centuries. Everything Mata Traders sells is handmade, whether it is a pair of earrings or a dress.

The company partners with cooperatives in the region, which are practically operating as a type of social service. This means that women members are provided with a variety of health, social and educational resources. Mata Traders founder Maureen Dunn says it also provides “healthcare, daycare and scholarships for the women’s children, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions, vision testing: all part of the membership package. Social workers on staff assist the women in addressing their personal needs, from opening a bank account to situations of domestic violence and dealing with HIV/AIDS.”

Women are paid by each individual piece they create and play a role in deciding the prices for which items sell. The Huffington Post recently named Mata Traders one of the top five brands that are empowering women. Mata Traders products are now sold in every U.S. state, online and in many countries around the world.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr