Carla Bruni Does Fair-Trade Bags

Carla Bruni is a former model, pop-singer, sex-pot and, oh yes, the wife of the President of France. So when this ultra-stylish and stunning First Lady carries a handbag--people look out for it. Bruni went to South Africa with her husband the President and visited a South African township, Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. She was given a cotton and hessian stitched bag in the six colours of the South African flag. She started to use it, and suddenly the most fashionable boutique in all of Paris, Colette, takes it on to sell in their shop. Since there were only 421 of them made, it becomes an instant cult status symbol: for once a fashion statement that’s both stylish and socially conscious.

The nicest part of the story is that the aforementioned bag is made by a women's co-operative in South Africa.


the Carla bag

The co-operative was set up with the help of Township Patterns, which assists the women with marketing, product design and administration. Township Patterns was established by a french woman in 1998 who gave up her career at Air France to develop township talent. It is based on fair-trade principles and helps 3 sewing co-operatives to sell their range of bags. There are now 9 women employed and making a decent wage. On a good week they make around 500 bags out of cotton.

Called Sophumelela, the co-operative's name means "We will succeed" in the local Xhosa language. Needless to say, the First Lady's endorsation has landed the bag, and the co-operative into a higher profile than they ever could have imagined. Said one of the women, “I am overwhelmed that these are being sold in France. To think Ms Bruni is walking around with one of our handbags is a big thrill." The Times

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Tags: Communities | Cotton | Designers | Sweatshop-Free