We're Headed to Latvia!
A note from Molly Hardwick, TSK Creative Director & Founder:
Hello, friends and fam! I wanted to fill you in on some [more] exciting happenings with The Simple Kind.
This past year has been so incredibly valuable for us as a company. Our research trips to Cambodia, Thailand, and Hungary challenged us greatly and opened our eyes to the nuances of what it means to run a healthy social business. Our time here in the States (designing, sewing, and selling two collections) has taught us so much about working hard and rolling with the punches to achieve short and long term goals. We’ve done all of this while working full-time jobs, and we’ve realized that in order to continue growing, we’re going to need to start outsourcing some of our labor!
This decision has been something we’ve really taken our time with. We’ve learned that easy answers usually aren’t the best ones, and we’ve been determined to be patient in the process of finding a production group that meets our standards of empowerment, sustainability, and quality. With a big ol’ sigh of relief, I’m happy to announce that we’ve connected with an incredible group who are going to join us in production in 2017! We’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to help cover some of the expenses that come with this partnership (2017 supplies + a portion of travel costs). You can view it, read the overview of our mission, and donate HERE... and keep reading if you’d like to hear more of the behind-the-scenes story. :)
Freedom61 is an organization in Latvia that empowers women coming out of exploitive situations to live independently with health and wholeness. I (Molly) have known the folks who run F61 for a few years, and I was able to visit them in Latvia in 2015. They are shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves in their work-- reaching out to women working in prostitution, providing genuine friendship and support, and walking alongside several ladies who have chosen to exit the sex industry and move on to meaningful work. F61 links together the pieces for women to successfully do this, all while experiencing a time of rest & healing at a beautiful home in the Latvian countryside. They have a vocational training structure at this location that allows the ladies to make an income-- in order to slowly begin contributing to their room/board, learning financial planning, and saving for their future education and living expenses.
Before The Simple Kind started, we received some incredible and timely advice: “If you want to be a social business, you have to be a good business first. It’s unwise to invite economically vulnerable people into an operation that isn’t stable.” We heard this again on our trip to Southeast Asia, and we've made it our goal this past year! We’ve been working hard to stabilize our business, better understanding what will sell (and how). I think we’ll always continue learning, but we’re at a place where we feel that this partnership will truly be mutually beneficial. We reconnected with Freedom61 at the conference we attended in Budapest in late August, and since then the ladies have been practicing sewing under the guidance of instructors and professionals. Here’s a photo of their sewing room— with some of our dresses hanging in the background!
We also value a partnership in Eastern Europe because in our travels we have seen that women from this part of the world are some of the most heavily trafficked into the sex industry and forced labor, largely because of economic need. The women I met who were working in prostitution in Latvia had come from villages where they couldn’t find work, and lack of access to education prevented them from finding decent-paying work in the city. Economic opportunity is an invaluable piece of the rehabilitation puzzle, as well as instrumental in preventing at-risk situations in the first place.
I also witnessed Riga, Latvia’s capital city, bursting with young creatives who are using traditional Latvian skills of knitting, embroidery, and sewing to make a living. Our hope is that the partnership will be an allied force for the women to gain culturally, socially, and financially relevant skills. We are purchasing Baltic linen and embroidered ribbon in Riga for our garments this next year, to celebrate their cultural strengths as well as invest in local economy and support small wholesalers.
This is a brand new partnership, and we are hopeful for it growing organically to continue empowering women in the Baltic region. I’d be so, so honored if you joined us on this journey, prayerfully and financially! I am humbled to remember that we’ve only gotten this far with your support and encouragement-- what a beautiful thing! This truly isn’t just my story or The Simple Kind’s story, it’s been all of us working together to create hope and change, empowering women to stand tall.
THANK YOU so much!