Handbags and other accessories made of recycled aluminum pull tabs from cans may not be for everyone, but Escama Studio in San Francisco connects their customers with women's collectives in Brazil where their products are made.
Each item comes with a tag introducing the creator in Brasilia. The company's website, Escamastudio.com, offers a place where the recipient can write a message to the gift's creator. Escama translates the messages into Portuguese and sends them on.
Some of the Escama looks incorporate a traditional crochet technique into contemporary Western designs. In addition, the company funds computer literacy programs for those interested among the more than 100 women it works with.
"It's kind of a cool example of how Fair Trade organizations are trying to innovate in order to support artisans," Bowers said.
Giftier items include the small Smart Bag, with a fabric liner and detachable cross-body strap, and the Shaggy Bag, a "wristlette" with long fringe in black or silver.
We've all seen tote bags made of recyclables. The nonprofit Nomi Network, operating in Cambodia, does the same thing using colorful, graphic fish-feed and rice bags made by women and girls who are victims of human sex trafficking or are vulnerable to falling prey.
The Manhattan-based Nomi Network, named for a victim whom co-founder Diana Mao once met, partners with rehabilitation homes and other organizations in Cambodia to train and educate the women who sew the bags. The company also works with trafficking victims in India.
In addition to totes and wallets, Nomi sells a canvas bag with the slogan, "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body."
Key to the partnerships Nomi has in Cambodia is providing sustainable employment within the emotional support structure the traumatized women rely on, Bowers said. The company also helps connect them with training in other career fields.
Nomi's products are available at Nominetwork.org.
Have you ever tossed your iPhone in a mug to amplify the sound? A Fair Trade seller called Hope at Gottalottahope.com offers the Boozik to do just that.
It's an all-natural bamboo port for the iPhone 4 and 4s. The 9-inch-long Boozik, with a circumference of 6 inches, is cordless, battery free and comes with a cotton carry case.
The Boozik, made by village co-ops in Thailand, is lightweight, oven-dried and treated with water-based lacquer.
The organization was founded by Gina and Greg Hope and specializes in a range of products from Thailand, where they have worked with craftspeople for 15 years. Videos of the work are on the website, offering a glimpse of their incense makers in Nepal and screen printers in Thailand.