Here at Sapahn, every community we work with has a story. They each have their own craft, their own struggles, and their own stories of triumph where they have overcome hardships. In a series of blog posts over the next few months, we are bringing you these stories in a way we never have before. Our founder, Brooke Mullen, travels regularly to the villages in rural Thailand where Sapahn's products are made. While there, Brooke speaks with the artisans, listens to their individual stories, learns the details of how the products are made, and most importantly strives to build trust between artist and buyer. After all, slow fashion is built on relationships!


Finding artisan communities to partner with is no easy task. The goals and objectives for both artist and buyer must reach a certain level of alignment in order for a fair trade fashion partnership to work from a business perspective. In 2011, about a year after Sapahn was launched, Brooke attended a local craft market in Bangkok. These Thai markets, held all over the country, give artisans a way to sell their products domestically. For Sapahn, markets are a way to learn more about Thai culture and the range of products that are produced, as well as meet new artists who are passionate about their craft and doing good for their community.


That's where Brooke met P'Puy. P'Puy comes from a village located in the Buri Ram district in Southeast Thailand. She is the third generation to carry on the silk business that was started by her grandmother, and the business currently employs around 20 women who come to the "compound" every day to weave silk into scarves.


After meeting P'Puy at the market, Brooke and her husband took two buses to the village to see the silk compound for themselves. The visitors were welcomed with their own bungalow hut and a village feast that night. The villagers gathered together to meet and welcome Brooke - no surprise to those accustomed to Thai hospitality.

 

Thailand Silk Compound Where Silk is Made

 

When walking around the village, Brooke realized just how respected P'Puy is. Although she doesn't hold any official leadership position, she is known in the town as the person who can help fix your problems. Although P'Puy is passionate about carrying on her family business, taking care of the community is her number one task. If a woman is sick and can't work on days that she is unwell, she can still find a job with P'Puy. If she is struggling and needs help caring for her children, P'Puy is there to help.

 

Sapahn Founder Brooke Mullen with Silk Compound Leader P'Puy

 

An ethical fashion business model like Sapahn only works if we have a strong local leader. Brooke travels as often as she can to the villages, but Sapahn can't have someone there running day-to-day operations; autonomy is an important part of the collaboration between Sapahn and its Thai artisans. At Sapahn, we want our artisans to set their own working conditions, in accordance with their own cultural customs. That can only happen if a local member, rather than an outsider, is on the ground. That's where a leader like P'Puy comes in. P'Puy keeps the silk compound running and acts as the main contact between her silk business and Sapahn.


Over the next few weeks, we are bringing you the story of how our Mulberry Silk scarves are made, and how the community has changed for the better since working with Sapahn. For now, check out our Meet the Artisans page to learn a little more about the ancient tradition of Thai silk weaving. And take a look at our Silk Scarves to find the perfect one for your wardrobe! 

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