Creating a stylish home should not come at the expense of the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable people. In fact, if you buy ethically made carpets you can actually help put an end to the exploitative cycle.
You just need to know what to look for – the GoodWeave label. Ruth Lazerson knows all about it. When the Sydney-based artist, textile designer and the founder of ruthie L. designs launched her textile design studio two years ago and then began manufacturing and producing rugs and wall art for her clients, ensuring her works were produced ethically was top of mind. And just the beginning of much research…
Sadly, Ruth discovered child labour exploitation is rife throughout the industry and many third world countries. But there is a way to stop it. Here, Ruth shares her journey from artist to ethical business owner and reveals how we as consumers can buy beautiful works without exploiting impoverished children …
You did a lot of research before setting up your business. What did you learn about child labour exploitation in the carpet industry?
“Unfortunately child labour in the carpet industry is very prevalent, particularly in South Asia; countries like India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan, although China is also to blame.”
“In India, about one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. India’s carpet industry is an age-old, very well-established manufacturing sector, employing more than two million rural workers. Over ninety percent of carpets produced in India are exported to the USA, Europe and Australia, creating a high demand for these luxury items. Unfortunately, the cheaper these items can be produced the more can be sold, increasing the use of children for such work. When child labour is prevalent in a country’s primary economic sector adult wages are then in-turn drastically reduced, children are not educated and this then keeps communities trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.”
Why was sourcing ethically produced carpet manufactures so important to you when setting up your business?
“Personally, I believe that every child is entitled to be a child and to acquire some sort of education and have some opportunity for personal growth and development.”
“The children in these countries who are making these rugs are often spending long days at the looms which leads to stunted growth and development. They are working in extremely poor conditions and are malnourished. They are more likely to injure themselves with tools they should not be allowed to handle and they are breathing in wool fibers, amongst other things.”
“I can’t bear to think of any child in such a predicament and this is my small way of making a difference.”
You work with GoodWeave. Can you explain how GoodWeave can help people buy ethically made carpets and rugs?
“GoodWeave is a global non-profit initiative working to end illegal child labour in the carpet industry in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. It rescues and frees children from their work at the looms and offers viable alternative opportunities to these children through education and vocational training.”
“Regular monitoring at all stages of the rug making process ensures child-labour-free supply chains in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. Only licensed rug importers whose supply chain has been monitored and approved by GoodWeave may place a GoodWeave label on the back of their rugs, assuring that their brand is not associated with child labour.”
Is this how you found your manufacturers?
“Yes. The manufacturers I work with, particularly in India, have the same ethical beliefs that I do and we are working towards the same goals. The honesty, loyalty and trust we have built over the past 18 months is absolutely priceless and something I will never take for granted. For me it is essential that we are coming from the same place in terms of our integrity – this is a fundamental cornerstone of my business.”
Tell us about ruthie L. designs
“My company and my work is really an extension of myself and who I am,” explains Ruth. “It represents everything I stand for – integrity and ethical responsibility first and foremost but also a personal need for beauty, harmony, serenity and understated elegance.”
Who are your customers?
“My clientele are mainly interior designers, architects and their clients. They’re people who care about making a difference no matter how small it might be. They want to have beautiful things around them but not at the expense of others. They are people who care about how their beautiful things are made and don’t mind paying a bit extra to ensure they are getting this.
“Through my unique and bespoke artistic creations, my intention is to constantly push the boundaries of art and design and bring serenity, beauty, joy and harmony into a space and a person’s life while simultaneously giving back to the community. That’s my philosophy in a nutshell!”
What else can consumers do to ensure they buy ethically?
“I think creating awareness in the market is really important. Educating people on the ethical responsibility they have when purchasing a rug is the first step. Secondly, The GoodWeave label found on the back of a rug provides the best possible assurance that no child labour was used in the manufacturing of a particular carpet or rug. It also ensures that a percentage of the purchase price pays for remediation, rehabilitation and education of children as well as improving the working conditions for adult workers in the supply chains.”
“Rugs that are made with experienced, adult hands are of a much higher quality and more beautifully woven, since fine detail work takes years of practice and the patience of an adult weaver.”
“For me personally, knowing that I’m making an ethically conscious choice is more than enough justification to pay slightly more for my luxury item.”
What are some of your fave works from your new collection?
“THE SECRETS OF NATURE RUG COLLECTION is very special to me for several reasons. Most importantly, it is the culmination and realisation of a personal dream. I’ve overcome so many challenges to create and develop this collection so I’m incredibly proud of each and every work!”
“Depths of the Ocean is one of my favourite rugs in the collection because it was my first design. It really was my ‘initiation’ into the whole process of rug making. The design was inspired by the ocean with its rolling and breaking waves and its many spectacular shades of blue. Hand knotted entirely in silk, Depths of the Ocean epitomizes the serenity and beauty of the sea. Embracing silk’s natural tendency to change appearance and colour from every angle, Depths of the Ocean sometimes shimmers in silver and sometimes darkens to a deep greyish slightly ominous blue … just like the ocean! With 175 hand made silk knots per square inch it is utterly gloriously soft and cool to the touch.”
“I love the highly textured and hand-carved rugs with high and low pile height like Sunlight Paints the World with Gold, Fragile Wings and Windswept because so much artisan skill has gone into creating these totally hand made beauties with some of them taking up to eighteen days of hand-carving. Each rug in the collection has a special story to tell!”
Check out the collection at ruthie L. designs.