At Atlas & Ortus, everything we do and every product we sell has a purpose beyond its primary function (as well as making our customers look great). We’re 100% committed to sustainability and sustainable development, and as well as trying to help consumers cut down their plastic use, we aim to use our supply chain and the profits from our products as a force for good.
We believe that consumers have the power to change the world through their purchasing decisions. To quote Anna Lappe, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” - and we couldn't agree more. What we at Atlas & Ortus aim to do is provide consumers with an ethical and eco-friendly option by creating and sourcing products that help make a difference to people and to the planet, both here in the UK and across the world.
That’s why today, on World Fair Trade Day, we’re sharing the incredible story of hope and freedom behind our 100% organic cotton, Fair Trade certified Weekend & Everyday Bags - so you can get to know a little bit more about the kind of projects we (and our customers) are supporting, helping improve the lives of some of the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable people.
About Our Manufacturers
We’re extremely proud to be working with Freeset, a Fair Trade certified organisation based in Kolkata, West Bengal. Freeset was established back in 2001 as a way of providing employment and intervention for women who are trafficked into prostitution in Kolkata, and now exists specifically to provide freedom for women from the sex trade. All of Freeset’s profits go towards benefitting its workers, enabling them to earn a fair wage (twice the going rate for an equivalent job elsewhere), as well as obtain health insurance and a pension plan - and most importantly, experience freedom.
As Freeset’s workers are also paid a set wage, rather than per item, they have access to stable employment which enables them to emancipate themselves, regain control and transform not only their own lives, but that of their families and the communities in which they live.
Watch Priyasha’s Story
Making our bags is part of these women's journey to freedom. To their friends and neighbours among the thousands still trapped in prostitution, they are a symbol of hope.
Our Bags’ Story
Freeset sources the cotton for our Weekend & Everyday Bags from Chetna Organic, a farmer run cooperative providing certified Fair Trade, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton, grown using only sustainable farming practices that don’t rely on damaging chemicals, hormones or preservatives.
Chetna Organic supports over 30,000 farmers in India by making cotton farming a sustainable and profitable occupation. The Chetna project aims to improve the lives of smallholder and marginalized farmers in some of India’s rain-fed cotton growing regions, which are highly vulnerable to the unpredictability of nature and climate; suicides among the farming communities here are common. Chetna converts part of the Fairtrade Premium into revolving funds at the co-op level, helping provide farmers with a better price for their cotton, as well as a more stable income all year round.
The cotton is sent to the certified Fair Trade Rajlakshmi Cotton Mill (RCM) in Kolkata, where it is woven and dyed using GOTS certified, “low impact” techniques, which means less water, less heat and less runoff than regular dyeing processes.
Next, the dyed cotton arrives at Freeset’s sewing centres, which are also located in Kolkata. These centres are arranged around a number of rooms that handle specific production processes, and the material is sent from room to room to be made from cotton sheets into the bags you see on our site.
First the cotton is cut into specific patterns, and is then sent to be screen printed with our logo, using water-based ink. It’s then passed on to be sewed into its final shape, finished with zips and poppers, and finally packed before being sent to us in the UK.
Freeset's Manufacturing Process
Our bags are more than just a stitched piece of fabric. Not only do they help improve the lives of India’s cotton farmers and their families, but they also give the hundreds of women previously trapped in India’s sex trade the opportunity to learn weaving and sewing, bringing them freedom from a life that robbed them of dignity and hope. By purchasing one of our bags, you’re helping Freeset provide more than 250 women with a fair wage, and helping ensure a brighter future for them and their families.
About Fair Trade
Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability. Fair Trade organizations work directly with marginalized producers to help them move from a position of vulnerability to security and economic self-sufficiency. Fair trade empowers them to become active stakeholders in their own organizations, helping to achieve greater equality in international trade. You can read more about the 10 Principles of Fair Trade on the WFTO website.