Stallholder focus: FAIR TRADE AT ST MICHAELS

 In Events, Indie Oxford Interviews

The Independent Oxford Christmas Market is back this year on 2nd December this year at Turl Street Kitchen in Oxford. Over the coming weeks we will be inviting our indies to tell us a little more about their companies and share the products that they will be selling at the market.

Today we find out about Fair Trade at St Michaels.

Fairtrade St Michaels

Tell us about Fairtrade St Michaels.

Fairtrade at St Michaels was the first shop in Oxford dedicated to offering a wide range of fairly traded goods. It was set up at a time when Fairtrade was still something of a fringe activity, heavily reliant on Sunday stalls in churches and cardboard boxes in spare bedrooms. From this background, a group of six people came together with a shared vision of making high quality, fairly traded products available to Oxford shoppers throughout the week and throughout the year. Hospitable landlords were found at St Michael’s Church on Cornmarket Street, who agreed to lease us their basement premises; the enterprise was registered as a bona fide company; and in October 2003 we opened for business with stock from a handful of suppliers spread rather thinly over the new shelves, a second-hand till and a small team of enthusiastic volunteers.

Because we operate as a not-for-profit enterprise, any profits we do make are either ploughed back into improving the business or donated to charities with a fair trade link. It gives us particular pleasure that over the past 14 years we have been able to make donations totalling £55,000 to a wide variety of projects around the world, from 500 new olive saplings for the beleaguered Palestinian farmers of the West Bank to a complete pop-up school in Nepal.

So every purchase made at FTSM is doubly important – not only helping to provide a more secure livelihood for the producer of that particular item, but also enabling fresh development in some of the world’s poorest communities. In addition, of course, the customer has a high quality product to enjoy!

Fairtrade St Michaels

Tell us a bit about yourself, your role and what you enjoy most about your job.

Hello, I’m Feng and I’ve worked as the Marketing & Publicity Manager at Fairtrade at St Michaels for the past 6 years. My background is in Ethical Fashion, so I’m very familiar with Fairtrade from the producers perspective.  I first started out working as a temporary assistant manager, but was asked to join the team after making improvements to the shop signs and printed materials, and I introduced them to to the scary world of social media. I have to admit the committee were a little hesitant at first, I was pushing them a little out of their comfort zone, but they’re an open minded bunch and were up for change. I absolutely love my job; I have a lot of creative freedom and am always thinking laterally. I’ve got a great team of like-minded people to work with, and I’m proud to be part of a social enterprise that help farmers and crafts people around the world build a more sustainable future for themselves and their families.

Fairtrade St Michaels

Describe the gifts you will be selling at the Independent Oxford Christmas Market.

We’ll be selling a wide range of Fairtrade and ethical gifts for all the family. All of our products are made by the hands of artisans living in disadvantaged communities. For example, we’ve got clay-pot candles that are handmade by the Dalit people of India and hand embroidered brooches made by Syrian refugees living in Istanbul. There are also products made from unusual materials – such as jewellery made from zulu grass from Kenya; and paper star decorations made from 100% recycled cotton waste in India. We will have gifts for foodies such as Palestinian caramelised almonds & Medjoul dates. We’ll have a range of handmade wooden toys, and a range of super soft bamboo socks for those who are particularly difficult to buy for!

Fairtrade St Michaels

What’s your favourite product in your range this season?

I’m a big fan of the brass jewellery range by Just Trade – I own several pieces already! The geometric shaped stud earrings & necklaces, are really versatile and go with everything. I also love the felt animals & plants by Felt So Good, especially the cactus – I’m terrible with plants but I know that I can’t kill this one!

Fairtrade St Michaels

Lastly, what are your favourite indies in Oxford?

I’m Oxford born & bred so I have a long history with the city! I have childhood memories of going to Boswells toy department, and wandering through the Covered Market to buy fish & treats from the bakery. My mum has maintained a good relationship with the Covered Market butchers, she charms them into giving her the best cuts and extra bits thrown in for free.

As an adult, I love the shops & cafes in East Oxford. In particular Indigo, which is always full of beautiful ethical clothes & home ware, and Silvie which is a gorgeously eclectic and quirky place for brunch.

Indigo Oxford

We can’t wait to check out all these awesome Fairtrade goodies that Feng and the team will be selling at our market this year. Our Christmas Market will take place on 2nd December at Turl Street Kitchen. Join us from 10 am – 5 pm for a day packed full of awesome indies and festive fun!

Love, Rosie



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