Artisan & Fox
Artisan & Fox is an online marketplace that takes showcasing extraordinary craftsmanship and the stories behind the products you buy to another level. They currently work with Artisans from Nepal, Kenya, Guatemala, Mexico, Afghanistan and Syria.
Their story begins in the villages and towns of developing nations across the globe. It’s here, that plenty of incredibly talented makers from silversmiths, weavers and others alike, lack the access to the global market – ie. the online world you are reading this from.
It was this realisation that led Jaron and Laura to create Artisan & Fox, an online store highlighting the extraordinary craftsmanship from all corners of the globe. Their goal is for you to really #KnowYourArtisan, and I think it’s an incredibly important thing. I know I now want to know who made my clothes, yet it’s often that things like jewellery and accessories get lost in the process of those questions.
So, in order you to really grasp what it is Artisan & Fox do differently, I’m going to take you through some of the incredible pieces they sell alongside the story of the person who made it.
Made in Nepal
This beautiful jewellery is made by Prem, a silversmith living in the Himalayan mountains in the city of Bhaktapur. After the 2015 earthquake, Prem dedicated himself to providing for his family through his craft.
He has been working with Artisan & Fox for the past two years, which has helped him expand his micro-business so he can afford better education and nutrition for his family.
Made in Afghanistan
These beautiful gems are handmade by Saeeda in Afghanistan. Saeeda was born in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. Throughout her life, she has persevered through many challenges, including being diagnosed with cerebral meningitis while in Pakistan, a condition that took away her hearing.
After the fall of the Taliban, Saeeda was able to continue with her education in Afghanistan where she enrolled in the Turquoise Mountain Institute, which ultimately helped her fall in love with the art of making jewellery.
Artisan & Fox only collaborate with ethical and responsible individual artisans, small artisan groups and social enterprises. After costs, the artisans receive 50% of the profits from each purchase. Artisan & Fox serve those who seek meaning in what they buy – which is why this incredible business resonated with me so much.
Behind the Brand:
An interview with Jaron and Laura, the founders of Artisan & Fox.
What made you start Artisan & Fox?
Artisan & Fox was started after a chance meeting that we had with artisans in the Himalayas. We realised that many Nepali artisans were struggling to get fair prices for their beautiful craftsmanship - they either had to work through extortionate middlemen to sell online, or be pressured into peddling low-quality tourist trinkets on the roadside as tourists tend to haggle.
We saw an opportunity to help artisans move up the value chain - focusing on producing quality craftsmanship at fair prices by selling to international audiences.
What is something others wouldn't know about starting a business that you think they should?
If you wish to start a social business, be sure to truly understand the issue before starting a company. Often people start a business for a problem they don't understand. So apprentice with your problem first to build up your understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. For example, if you wish to 'build an app for farmers in Southeast Asia', first you take a step back. It would be silly if you have neither farmed, nor if you have never been to Asia (which part of Asia?). We can't build an impactful organisation if we do not know the people we want to help the problem we want to change.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
Scaling at large. Because we try to adapt to each artisan community we work with, there is a specific need within each community that we have to adapt to on a needs-based basis. We are unable to simply 'plug' each artisan into the global market because each micro-business faces different obstacles.
Some obstacles are cultural (women not being able to work freely or some communities are discriminated against), while some obstacles are financial (some do not have bank accounts so we have to assist with that) or legal (the Syrian women refugees we work with do not have the legal right to incorporate a co-operative).
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Artisan & Fox, what are the criteria you require to decide what artisans to stock?
Our founding member Laura has been working with Fashion Revolution's #whomademyclothes campaign for the past year. We adopt the hashtag #knowyourartisan in a similar vein to inspire mindfulness in consumers behind the things that we buy.
For Artisan & Fox, we have specific artisan partnership guidelines that we share with potential partners. Only if artisans agree to our guidelines on ethics, transparency, and commitment to sustainability, would they be onboarded onto our platform.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Keep it about the work.
Sometimes the journey gets tough, with unexpected surprises and delays, but as long as we remember our purpose and the mission behind our work - our journey to empowering artisans becomes fulfilling and purposeful.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Do not start a business simply because you wish to be an entrepreneur or social entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship should not be the end-goal, it should be the means to a goal.
Your goal should be to solve a problem in society, be it a commercial issue or a social problem. So find something you are passionate about, a problem that you care about, and start from that point.
If your desire is to simply build a successful company, you will find that when the going gets tough - you will question your purpose and why you even started in the first place.
Where do you envision Artisan & Fox in the future?
We envision Artisan & Fox as a global leader in ethical retail. We want to transform the way global retail companies view ethics, transparency and sustainability. We want to inspire the human connection between consumers and their makers.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Our artisan partners around the world, and the beautiful stories behind their crafts.
We recently returned from Lebanon from an upcoming project with Syrian women refugees, and we are excited to be working on a new collection of Syrian embroidery-infused scarves. The women are remarkable people to collaborate with!
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Practice mindfulness. Many of us on the team try to practice mindfulness continuously - be it attending yoga sessions today, or enjoying a cup of Himalayan tea at the office. It's also in line with what we're trying to do with Artisan & Fox, to inspire mindfulness in people about the provenance of the things that they buy.
One book everyone should read? Why?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. While it is a simple book, it reminds us of what are the things in life that truly matter: human connection, friendship and purpose. The 'Fox' in Artisan & Fox was also inspired by the story of the taming of the fox in the book.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers our there in your world that you think people should know about?
We’re big fans of similar social enterprises in this space – Coopita which works with craftsmen in Asia, and ISHKAR which works with artisans in war-affected areas! Check them out!