Once you choose hope, anything's possible
~ Christopher Reeve
In certain circumstances fashion has been viewed as a vehicle for female dis-empowerment - but at the Starfish Project it's being used as a mechanism for restoring dignity and hope in exploited women. I'm so pleased to be able to share with you my interview with Emily O'Connor who is the Communications Officer at Starfish Project.
Q. What first sparked the idea for the Starfish Project?
Starfish Project was sparked by a compelling desire to see women freed from exploitation. Started in 2006 by a group of individuals who witnessed the heartbreaking reality of women trapped in sexual exploitation in their community, Starfish Project’s vision is to see every woman valued. Not only did we want to help women leave their old lives behind but we also wanted to empower them to pursue a life of hope and to give them the tools to achieve their potential. That is why we decided to open a jewelry business.
Not only do we offer the women housing in our women’s shelter and a range of holistic care services, we also offer them alternative employment which provides them with stable and fair wages at a job that honors their dignity and recognizes their value.
Q. Your tagline is “Restoring Hope to Exploited Women in Asia”. Can you tell us how the Starfish Project has impacted on the daily lives of women in this region?
When women first come to us they often will not even make eye contact or speak. But after time, as they begin to know that they are safe and loved, they are transformed into women who are full of confidence, who hold their heads up high, who are not afraid to laugh and cry, and who share their thoughts and feelings.
Q. How would you describe the design aesthetic of the Starfish Project in 10 words or less?
Bold, versatile, ethnic-inspired with a piece for everyone.
Q. How does the Starfish Project ensure that it is an environmentally friendly and socially responsible company?
As an ethically based project, we seek to have good, honest business and organizational practices that provide long-term viable employment and empowering opportunities for women. We do everything in our power to make sure our materials come from trustworthy and respectable suppliers. We guarantee our employees fair and competitive wages.
Even though being socially conscious presents many logistical and financial difficulties, we seek to uphold the value of ethical business in all the work we do. In addition, we are dedicated to working with other projects and organizations help build the effectiveness of the entire social enterprise and NGO sector.
We actively pursue accountability and transparency in all of our decisions and actions. Starfish Project seeks to be a model to its employees, customers and the community in ethical and sustainable practices.
Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now?
We are inspired by all our follow ethical designers. One of our favourites is Urban Offering (since we only make jewelry, we highly recommend them to our male supporters. We love their custom men’s suits and blazers!).
Some of our other favourites are Lusso Bags, Adorned in Grace, 31 Bits, and Freeset. We love all of the creativity, inspiration and originality found in the world of socially conscious design.
Q. Do you think there’s been an increase in socially responsible fashion retailers or does it still feel like swimming against the tide?
I have definitely observed an increase in awareness and moral support of socially responsible fashion retailers. Businesses and individuals are becoming more and more conscious of where their products come from, how they are being made, and who’s making them.
At the same time, there is often a disconnect between the good intentions of the retail world and its customers and their actual actions when it comes to the products they sell and the products they buy. With the economy being what it is at the moment, we are often met with people hesitant to commit to being socially responsible in their fashion choices.
I would not say we are necessarily swimming against the tide, but perhaps we are swimming in a bit of a riptide. It is, however, wonderful to see a definite increase in the amount of projects and business dedicated to ethical fashion.
Q. Have you got a favourite item in store right now?
My favourite item in the store right now is hands down the Turquoise “10 Strands of Hope” Necklace! I want to wear it every day! I love that since each strand is made by a different woman, one necklace involves 10 transformed lives. It is such a beautiful reminder of the power of unity and hope. Plus, it is just a gorgeous necklace! I love boldness of the color and design!
Q. How can people get involved?
There are many ways people can get involved! People can:
- Purchase and wear our jewelry! The profits from the jewelry sales go back into the Project to provide for the women’s salaries, housing, healthcare, vocational training, and counseling;
- Become a Starfish Representative;
- Host a jewelry party to share the vision and mission of Starfish;
- Intern with us! We are in great need of human resources and are accepting applications for passionate and qualified individuals who want to join the Starfish team;
- Spread the word! Simply sharing about Starfish with your friends, family, co-workers or the person in line in front of you at the grocery store helps build awareness and spread the message of hope; and
- Visit our website! You can learn more about what we do, who we are, see our products, and read more about how to get involved!
Q. What does the future hold for the Starfish Project?
That is an exciting question! Right now the future holds opening our second branch. In this next year Starfish will be launching its second fully-functional branch in another part of Asia which will allow us to reach and empower even more women. We hope this is just the beginning of expanding into other regions and communities. We hope to increase our sales so that our capacity to employ more women also increases. There are, of course, always challenges in our line of work but we believe the future of Starfish Project is one of hope!
You can connect with Starfish Project via Facebook, Twitter and their Blog!