Guest blogger Nicole Bassett, Director of Sustainability at prAna , shares the story of prAna and their decision to partner with Fair Trade USA  to bring U.S. consumers the first Fair Trade Certified™ Apparel .
Two years ago prAna started a conversation with Fair Trade USA about a pilot project for Fair Trade Certified Apparel. I want to spend some time to reflect on what this partnership has accomplished over the past two years.
When you start something new, you never know what is going to happen, especially when you are working on a pilot project, where you must carve your own path and create the systems as you go. I will be the first to say it wasn’t easy, but then again what new endeavor, which is worth it, is?
From the beginning everyone at prAna was interested in Fair Trade and how we could connect with the workers who make our clothes. prAna took a risk and jumped into the process. We were passionate about the idea, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
Bringing Fair Trade to our customers has been a company-wide project. It started with our merchandisers and design team who came up with the product ideas. Then our developers worked directly with factories to bring our products from a sketch to something material. Our production team figured out the logistics and production planning. At the same time, our sales and marketing team were wrapping their arms around bringing a new concept to market. How does a company communicate to the country something brand new? Fair Trade certification for apparel did not exist 2 years ago in the U.S. and we needed to share this story in a way that made our customers and the country take notice. So, our sales reps took the story on the road and the feedback was positive. Our marketing department connected with mainstream media, getting prAna’s ‘SOUL T’ in Shape Magazine’s  ‘planet lovin’ picks. All of these actions created the foundation to educate and spread awareness about the impact of Fair Trade certification for apparel and what that means for workers, the environment and communities around the world.
Behind the scenes, prAna is working on future Fair Trade designs. For October 2011, prAna is offering a women’s  and a men’s  long sleeve shirt – just in time for the cool weather. And here is a sneak peek of our Spring line – in addition to a men’s and women’s shirt we will offer a scarf too!
As we move forward we seek a balance. We want to do more, but we also need to see demand from the market. Is there a market for Fair Trade? Will our customers join us on this journey? It is interesting to be in the middle of this endeavor and wonder what our customers, the mainstream media and the consumer market think about Fair Trade Certified clothing. It is almost too soon to see the forest for the trees, but in my opinion this is a sea change. There is a continuous sense of pressure to produce more and to do more good, while making our lives better. How can we make OUR lives better? We can do this by making OTHER people’s lives better - and buying Fair Trade is one of the many ways to make this happen.
Sound pretty idealistic? Perhaps, but this is why we do what we do at prAna. We are focused on creating solutions for a better life - not just for the future, but for farmers and workers around the world right NOW. So you ask, ‘Can one T-Shirt make a difference?’ We think a Fair Trade one can. Give it a try and share the story – build a movement and welcome to our team!
Nicole Bassett is the Director of Sustainability at prAna in Vista, California. prAna is the active-living brand that offers a harmonious blend of functional design and progressive style. The ancient Sanskrit word, prAna translates to breath, life and vitality of the spirit that guides our vision for a positive future. Visit us at www.prAna.com