Happee at Elle magazine Brazil!

July 20, 2017

Happee at Elle magazine Brazil!

This post is a translation of the story published at Elle Brazil's website. You can find the original here. As the story was published by Brazilian magazine, the focus of this specific story is on our Brazilian co-founder, Leticia.

Using fashion as a way to promote social justice in India

Letícia Sales saw closely how cruel the fashion industry could be and decided to work actively to empower Indian craftspeople with her Indian business partner, Peeyush Rastogi.


The brand Happee was founded in 2014, conceived by Letícia Sales, Brazilian (who will be talking to us in this interview), and Peeyush Rastogi, Indian. The idea of the company is to encourage Indian craftspeople to develop their work for a fair price, teaching them how to manage and invest. With a logic which is completely opposite to the one followed by most enterprises in the fashion industry, Happee works with collaborative actions, valuing the local craftwork. The result can be seen in colorful and richly-embroidered accessories sold online worldwide.

“We live an irreversible wave of consciousness, and this is good. People are questioning themselves more, and this is important because you start understanding that everything you consume has human and environmental cost”, says the designer and entrepreneur about the process of comprehension of the responsibility she has been going through for some years and, apparently, is concerning the fashion world too.
Get to know the story of the brand and Letícia’s trajectory in the creation of Happee.
 
Happee artisans making scarves
Indian artisan making scarves for Happee. Credit: Happee

 

How did you begin your journey in fashion?

I am graduated in fashion design and I worked with fashion and marketing in Brazil for some time. Before I left the country I was disappointed with this field, especially with the price difference the companies offered the couturiers and the amount the product was sold for. I have become full of the way fashion was been made, and as I always wanted to live abroad I found an exchange program and decided to take the risk. I found some vacancies in the area in countries like Vietnam, China, India and Italy. I applied for two job options, was approved for both them, and in about two weeks I was going to Milan to work in a volunteer project.  

And how was the experience there?

My boss had been living in Italy for about twenty years and decided to take me to meet the providers in the surroundings of Milan and Florence. It was a punch in the stomach. I had to face a reality that was different from what I had imagined. I was very happy with my trip and then I was shocked when I got to know the work conditions in those places, I didn’t know that happened. People sewed in terrible conditions, huddled in sheds, some of them didn’t even had bathrooms. I read about it later and discovered that many Italian factories belonged to Chinese families, with Chinese workers, but produced items for luxury brands valuing the Made in Italy label.  

How India ended up in your itinerary?

After Italy I came to India to work for companies that develop clothes for big brands in Brazil (M. Officer, Marisa, Pernambucanas). As the linguistic barrier is a very difficult matter they always hired Brazilian people to get new providers and clients. The company had 400 workers and presented the quality certificate, but the bosses always did something to avoid the inspections. One example is the time I saw many children in my work room. It was mandatory for the company to provide childcare for the workers, but instead of it, while the inspection took place, they settled a provisional childcare in my room to pass the quality control. There was a lot of dubious stuff, and it became harder and harder to support a company that did so many wrong things.

Indian artisan sitting on the floor making a shoe

Anchal, the artisan who makes leather products for Happee. Credit: Happee

Creation of the own brand How did the idea of creating Happee begun?

Happee is a pun with the word “happy”, and also a kind of junction of my business partner’s name, Peeyush, with mine, because Letícia means happiness in Latin. The idea was to create a company which offered more appropriate remuneration, valued the local production and, at the same time, made a more honest fashion, in a more fair way, helping people. The concept is to make the client happy for helping someone who really needs. We started helping children, but now we are focusing in the craft work, teaching entrepreneurship and improving the conditions for each artist that collaborates with us. When we decided to build the brand we got in the car and knocked in every door searching for craftspeople in small villages. It was wonderful. We connected to the people and had the opportunity to know honest workers. You have to go to the source to be sure you are helping the right person, and it is a very good feeling when you see the result.  

Talk a little about the production process.

Our mode of production is focused on the people, it is more human, and because of it we work directly with the craftspeople in the small villages. When we make tie-dye, for example, we spend some days in these villages and develop samples along with the artists. Our goal is to apply the concept of ergonomy (also known as the study of the relation between the person and the work environment). We want them to continue having other clients, and because of it we encourage them to sell their work to other people. To encourage it, our items come with a label with the face of the craftsperson who made it and always tell a little bit of the product’s history. The embroidered items are made by women of tribes in India, and it is possible to identify the tribe they are from by the kind of embroidery produced. I don’t design any item, I just follow the process, they are the ones making combinations of colors and knots. We only adjust the size according to the accessory the work will be applied on.

Indian artisans making embroidery

Indian women artisans making embroidery. Credit: Happee

How can the company keep working against the production logic of most of the fashion industry? We sell by e-commerce because 70% of our clients are from Brazil. We also have costumers in the United States, Australia, England, France, Spain and Colombia. What are your plans for the future? We don’t yet possess documentation with the craftspeople, but we want to work with a certification seal. Our company is registered in India and Brazil and it has documents and exportation license. We want to start in July a bonus system for all our partner artists, which means that if they finish the products within the stipulated time and with 100% quality we will pay more for them. The idea is to make each craftsperson trust us, we want to be partners, because if they deliver a better quality they will benefit too, it is a system in which everybody wins.

Is the communication a barrier during the negotiations?

It is really complicated, but there are lots of people who speak English here. The Indian population learn it in school because of the British colonization, but still not everybody can speak English. I am learning Hindi in order to communicate better. Peeyush speaks Hindi and English, so we always go together to do the negotiations, I explain to him in English and he talks in Hindi with the craftspeole. A bit of patience is necessary, because sometimes information get lost.  

Have you guys ever had contact with workers who had been in poor work conditions in other companies?

All of them pass by poor work conditions. The craft work is one of the biggest sources of income in India and the government does not have the exact number because they consider, for the statistics, one person in the family, even if all of the members in the family do a bit of the work. The productions are very much family-based. One example is the craftsman Salman (responsible for our tie-dye fabric). He ended up leaving his job as an engineer to work and help his father, but it is one of some rare cases, because India is in an industrialization process and does not value much the manual labour. The craftspeople’s children, for example, are less likely to submit to this kind of work because they know about the difficulties.

Indian artisans making tie dye scarf

Salman (in blue T-Shirt) and his brother Juned making tie dye scarves.

In which other ways people can help fighting slave work?

It is necessary to become more and more aware about the kind of product we consume, know about its origin. We live an irreversible wave of consciousness, and this is good. People are questioning themselves more, not only in fashion, and this is important because you start understanding that everything you consume has human and environmental cost.



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Size Chart

In case you have any doubt regarding which size you should purchase, kindly follow these steps to measure your foot, then check on the table below, the size which corresponds to the length of your foot in centimeters.

1. Standing up, place a sheet of paper under your foot. Draw the outline with a pencil.

2. With a measuring tape or ruler, measure the length of the foot, from the heel to the tip of the biggest toe.

 

   BALLERINA SHOES
COUNTRY SIZE

UK/INDIA

5

5.5

6

6.5

7

7.5

 

EUROPE

38

38/39

39

39/40

40

41

 

BRAZIL*

36

36.5

37

37.5

38

39

 

US

7

7.5

8

8.5

9

9.5

 

CENTIMETERS (FOOT) 23.8 24.1 24.6 25.1 25.4 25.9

 

   MOJARI SHOES
COUNTRY SIZE

UK/INDIA

3

4

5

6

7

8

 

EUROPE

35

36

37

38

39

40

 

BRAZIL*

33

34

35

36

37

38

 

US

4

5

6

7

8

9

 

CENTIMETERS 21,3 22,2 23 23,8 24,6 25,4

 

*The Brazilian sizes are already converted in the Portuguese version of the website.

*Our ballerinas fit the foot comfortably. Mojaris, however, are a type of shoe which are naturally a little tighter, as they adjust to the foot upon wearing.

*This chart may vary a little from other charts, as there is no international standard for shoe sizes.

*In case you still have any doubts regarding your size, send us an email at info@iamhappee.com, we will revert back ASAP. :)

 

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