Izara Arts is a fair trade project created by the Khom Loy Development Foundation to provide a sustainable income for the women of hilltribe villages ofNorthern Thailand. By combining traditional techniques with modern design, they are opening the door to trade with western markets, and giving hilltribe women the ability to earn enough money to remain in their villages, educate their children, and preserve a disappearing heritage. As a KLDF income generation project, all profits from Izara Arts are directly reinvested in the hilltribe communities through agriculture, education, and micro-finance programs.
To maximise jobs and add value, each of Izara Arts’ striking bags, eyemasks and other personal accessories combines the different styles, techniques and cultures of up to four different tribal groups. Villagers are trained as artisans and taught to produce to the highest quality to ensure that they are not competing at the low end of the market. All products meet Fair Trade regulations.
Currently, they work with approximately 60 villagers, from the Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Dalaang and Hmong ethnic minority groups. The manager, Patricia Solar and her assistant Natchakarn Seneewong Na Ayudhya (Muay) are developing designs and prototypes that will complement the hilltribe techniques and hopefully hit the rise of a new trend like the yoga mat/exercise bag and the range of permanent shopping bags.
Buyers so far include: US, Thai and Canadian yoga clubs, large resort hotels in Thailand, World of Good (a large US Fair Trade retailer) and an Australian wholesaler of eco-friendly shopping bags
In addition to its work in the north of Thailand, Izara Arts assisted groups in the Tsunami-struck south of Thailand in 2005-6. Special edition handicrafts have been designed and donated for fundraising projects such as Orlando Museum First Thursday event 4th September 2008 (see a 7 minute video here), an event for Angkor Hospital for Children, Siem Reap, Cambodia in February 2009 as well as producing products for the Anantara Resort King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournaments in 2008 and 2009.
We gratefully acknowledge the start-up funding from INDEVOR, a group of Alumni of the INSEAD Business School.