Mata Traders

indian womens
Chicago, IL

Mata Traders is a fashion company with a mission to empower women and end global poverty through Fair Trade.  Our apparel and accessories are designed in Chicago and handmade by women’s cooperatives and artisan groups in India and Nepal that pay fair wages and provide safe working conditions.  We produce two collections a year, currently sold on our Web site and in over 400 shops and boutiques around the country and internationally.  

Mata means 'mother' in Hindi, and our clothing is a tribute to the female shakti (creative) power in all of us.  We love mixing old-fashioned processes with fashion-forward silhouettes and color palettes.  Most of our fabrics are made using craft traditions such as hand loom weaving and hand block-printing.  By bringing traditionally made fabrics to a global audience, we support the family businesses of weavers and block printers throughout India whose livelihoods have been threatened by the shift of textile production to the factory.  

Mata Traders believes that women shouldn’t have to make trade-offs between style and ethics, a philosophy that has allowed us to grow and return to the co-ops each year with bigger orders.  While our production methods satisfy conscious consumers, our look, a little vintage-inspired and a little boho, appeals to many shoppers who do not typically or exclusively seek out ethically-made products.

Mata garments and accessories are made in small workshops and embroidered in the homes of rural women.  This manner of small-scale production, in contrast to factory production, leaves much less of a manufacturing imprint.  In fact, many of the garments are stitched on foot peddle powered sewing machines, rather than electric ones, due to frequent power outages in the area.

In India and Nepal, a Fair Trade cooperative is a unique and safe environment for a woman to work, particularly poor women.  The cooperatives that make our products are located in rural and slum communities, and their members are women who have little or no education, many of whom never learned to read or write.  Because of their work, they can afford to send their children to school and pay for necessities that they couldn't before.  The cooperatives are amazing, supportive organizations that are social service programs as much as they are workplaces.  

There are social workers on staff, and members are provided resources such as on-site daycare, paid maternity leave, medical check-ups, health care, vision testing and glasses, and retirement pensions.  To promote social mobility, the women are offered classes in literacy, personal financial management, and computer skills.  In addition, the groups ensure a safe, clean, well-lit and properly ventilated workshop environment where working hours are monitored and overtime compensated accordingly.  

The cooperatives are democratically structured organizations, where every woman has a voice, and many go on to be leaders in their families and communities.  Each group we partner with is a member of the the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), strictly adhering to the principles of Fair Trade including zero tolerance of child labor and the goal of empowering marginalized communities.