“Ethical trading has always been at the forefront of my mind. I’m conscious of fast fashion and fast homewares and I always want to do whatever I can to support the maker and the weaver,” says Amy Eaton of the decision to establish her ethical rug label Oh Happy Home in 2017. Filled with gorgeous on-trend colours and designs, the brand also has an admirable commitment to fair trade, something that sets it apart from many of its competitors.
“Supporting fair trade has always been important to me and also the opportunity to give talented crafts people a go to create a better life for themselves. The carpet industry is known for its child labour force so it was super important for me to visit the yarn makers and weavers for myself,” says Amy of the many journeys she has made to her Indian manufacturers.
“There are many rug companies in India, large and small, and the carpet industry, along with other handicrafts, is known for the use of forced labour or child labour. I wanted to make sure that every person in the supply chain, from yarn production to the weavers, was paid fairly and treated with respect,” says Amy who has partnered with the international regulating body Goodweave. The body is recognised across the world for abolishing child labour, advocating for the carpet industry and educating children in carpet weaving communities via its school programs. “In addition to partnering with accredited manufacturers, I donate part of the proceeds of each rug sale to Goodweave too,” says Amy.
And while there is no doubt a long way to go when it comes to education around ethical design, Amy believes consumers are much more aware than they used to be. “People want to know who is making their products and what they stand for. I also think that many consumers see the value in a better made product that is made fairly. I don’t believe fair trade products should be more expensive as such but the middle man should be more transparent as to how much the product actually costs to purchase. For instance, if you buy a rug for $100 you have to wonder how much the maker was paid for the retailer to make a profit. It’s really just about thinking through your purchases and making them count,” says Amy.
Another issue that plagues the industry is the ripping off or replication of designs. “Many buyers shop around with a design – they see a trend and take it to the cheapest manufacturer. We have found that manufacturers tend to quote lower than they deserve just to get the sale in such a competitive environment and bigger buyers have more ability to squeeze the little guy,” says Amy who explains the industry is rife with dodgy practices.
“More often than not a weaver or manufacturer will agree to produce a design even if they may know it’s not original. This has happened to us both ways where a design of ours has been made by another manufacturer and we’ve had a manufacturer claim one of our designs as their own. It is very hard to navigate but I’m committed to transparency and honesty,” says Amy.
And despite the trying conditions, Amy remains optimistic. “I just take one day at a time – two steps forward and one step back at times. I do believe that trying to do the right thing will always pay off in the end.”