- everyone has a story | everything comes from somewhere
When I first came across EST/WST I knew they were directly aligned with all the things I aim to uphold with Ethical Made Easy - ethical manufacturing, sustainability and empowering people. The extent to which they achieve all three of the key pillars, however, is seriously amazing, so I apologise in advance for how long this brand summary will be, as I want to do them justice in their write up for what they do.
First things first, EST/WST is a bag and accessories company that have quite a selection for you to choose from, think backpacks, totes and convertible bags, as well as small clutches & wallets, hats and scarves.
EST/WST defines themselves as being 'an expression of universal values; values that prioritise the planet and the global population'. They understand the impact our daily choices can have on the planet and therefore their choices come from the understanding that 'everything we use comes from somewhere, and every choice we make has an impact'.
It's with these choices that they focus on the connection between the East and the West, and the traditions, lifestyles, and insights that make us all unique - hence the name. EST/WST are a family team that holds deep roots in Nepal, as it is a place that the founder's parents had spent 12 years working with local communities. In both India and Nepal EST/WST have established partnerships with skilled artisans who are now key pillars of who makes their products.
EST/WST also pride themselves on using premium materials within all facets of their products. From natural fibers to organic cotton and vegetable tanned leather, every element within their supply chain can be traced.
Why natural fibers?
Microfibres from our clothing make up 85% of all human-made debris found in our oceans. Majority of these microfibres come from synthetic clothing that has generally speaking been dyed with harsh chemicals. While there will be more on this in an upcoming blog post, in terms of EST/WST they only use natural, organic or recycled fibers in all of the products they create.
Why Vegetable Tanned Leather?
While there is a multitude of ways to tan leather and create its final product, the most common method is using toxic chromium salts that have a devastating effect on the environment and the works who manufacture it.
Vegetable-tanned leather relies on the tannins found in vegetables, fruits, tree bark and other naturally-derived sourced to produce a soft brown finish. EST/WST also ensures that any leather they use is a by-product so that animals are not harmed specifically for their products.
Every season EST/WST features an artisanal collection that incorporates custom handwoven textiles from their partner collectives. They use these collections to donate a portion of the profits back into the community to tackle some of the biggest issues they face such as access to clean water, education, and other vital necessities.
One of the ways that EST/WST currently give back is through Water Harvest, an organisation who have spent the last 30 years providing sustainable water to the poorest of communities. For every bag sold from their Indian organic cotton collections, they give $10 towards water harvesting units and to providing rural communities in India with access to clean water.
Here's some more insight into what the water harvesting units are helping to change:
"It is in remote villages in Rajasthan, India, where women and girls are being made vulnerable daily by having to walk miles to fetch water. This puts them at risk of illness and assault.
While the women walk these perilous distances, families living near the famous Sambhar Salt Lake are still being forced to drink contaminated groundwater as they face an increasing shortage due to changing rain patterns, rapid desertification, but also as the salt lake has salinized the groundwater supply for many kilometres around."
For EST/WST fair trade practices are a must throughout all aspects of their supply chain.
This means they pay a premium for high-quality materials and ensure their partner collectives set fair wages. All their products are made in factories in the USA and a fair trade factory in India. They pride themselves on having a completely transparent supply chain, so if you do have any questions they encourage you to ask.
I've been using one of their bags solidly for the last month to test the quality and I can safely say it has lived up beyond my expectations. From the arrival of the bag (packaged in cardboard with recycled paper) through to my daily use. The pockets are easily accessible and offer an extra layer of organisation - something I so desperately need.