Let's be fair

This is how Jouelle changes the world

Jouelle Cuppen works as an independent product designer. She has travelled the world for her work, and sometimes visited factories where working conditions were bad.

“For years I designed products for large companies. I often went to factories and saw many things that could be better, but I didn’t know how to do that alone.

Then I came into contact with Return to Sender. They help women to build a life for themselves and their families through fair and sustainable trade.

Return to Sender works with companies that conduct fair trade, adhere to fair trade principles and pay fair wages. Thanks to my experience and all my travels, we were a perfect match.

I like to work with small producers. At Return to Sender, we work directly with the women who make the products. There are no middlemen, no traders or brokers. We don’t work with large, industrial-scale factories with hundreds of labourers.”

"This project really is sustainable. We source sustainable products for everything from the decoration to the accessories in the cottages. That’s a good thing!”

Challenges

“It’s not always easy to work with small producers. Other countries have different cultures. They don’t always know what sells best in the West. That’s why we visit the producers regularly.

At large factories, you design something and then give them the order to produce it. At the small factories that we work with, we first go there and see what materials there are. We then create a design based on those materials. We also ensure that women can do their work at home so that children don’t have to hang around the factory floor.”

Fair Wages

“It is also difficult to ensure that everyone receives a fair wage. We would like everyone who works for us to earn a so-called “living wage” which means that employees are insured, receive healthcare and that children can go to school. But if a factory does not have enough work, they cannot pay a living wage.

Although people like to buy fair trade products, they stop doing so if the price-tag is higher. However, it’s a simple fact that because we produce on a small scale, our products tend to be more expensive than if we mass-produced in China. It’s a vicious circle.”

Furnishing at Qurios

“We work with RH Interieurs on this project at Qurios. While many other companies think about sustainability, they usually opt for cheaper mass-produced products. But this project really is sustainable. We source sustainable products for everything from the decoration to the accessories in the cottages. That’s a good thing!”

Jouelle designed the set of glasses and water jug in the cottages. They’re made from recycled glass.

“I used to make thousands of commercial products that didn’t have my name on. Now, at Return to Sender, everything I design has my name on it and is a fair trade product. I’m really proud of that.”