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Art & Culture Center of Whidbey Island

Langley – Fair Trade Outfitters

Author: Langley Chamber of Commerce

Date:

Fair Trade Outfitters is a women’s “fair trade” apparel, accessory and gift boutique in Langley started by Lilly and Barry van Gerbig in 2015,

Fair Trade Outfitters is a women’s “fair trade” apparel, accessory and gift boutique in Langley started by Lilly and Barry van Gerbig in 2015, after many years in the women’s wholesale apparel industry. Even after years of making clothes from Miami to LA … they came to a place where they felt it was vital that anyone creating something that would be in their new store would have to be paid a living wage. The belief system of “fair trade” does just that, and more — not only providing a thriving income for those from Tibet and Guatemala to Colorado Springs, it also honors a goal of teaching ecological sustainability, from the farmer growing cotton to the worker using earth-friendly dyes to color a shirt. It’s a whole range of honorable endeavors that seek to elevate everything about the companies that choose to follow this path.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, one of the top companies in the sports apparel world pays only around 30 cents in labor on a garment that retails for $100+. We believe if customers know that paying someone a little bit more per garment can change lives, it is a natural choice to make. This simple choice takes away the pressure of having to choose whether to shelter, feed, or educate your child. ALL things should be possible, if you intend to educate the rest of the world as to WHY it’s vital to pay these hard-working artisans living wages. It has nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with the pride of self-sustaining communities, both economically and environmentally.

It took Barry and Lily a few years to wake up to the Fair Trade movement:

In 2001, Lilly and Barry founded “Govango,” a women’s printed resort collection (based in W. Palm Beach, FL), that went on to be sold in over 300 boutiques up the East Coast from the Bahamas to Maine. It combined Lilly’s 20+ years in the retail and customer service end of women’s clothing, and Barry’s love of painting whimsical paintings and designing jungle animal-themed prints (www.barryvangerbig.com). By 2008, they were approached by a company that contracted with QVC to license their names to a resort wear collection for QVC, and Lilly & Van was born. After working to develop the first collection for a year, Lilly & Van sold for two years on the direct-to-consumer channel.

While both endeavors had their highs and lows (and an occasional hurricane!) the years found them traveling to Whidbey Island often to visit Barry’s mother Victoria, who had moved to the island in 1998. Falling increasingly in love with the feeling of community and sanctuary they found here, and the mesmerizing vistas of Puget Sound, the Olympics, Cascades, and Mt. Rainier, by 2006, they knew they had to make plans to move to the island.

By late 2012 they’d driven 3,300+ miles, with their two mutts and a feral cat to arrive in time for Victoria’s 70th birthday. After a couple years of settling in and getting to know the island, a weekend retreat at the Whidbey Institute  focusing on “Thriving Communities” convinced Barry that one way to karmically help a city could be to reach out to other communities that needed help. And the idea of starting a “fair trade” women’s boutique was born, because they felt that if they could help villages a world away to rise from poverty, it could only reflect positivity back to Langley, and its caretakers’ precious vision to keep improving its own little part of the world.

Three years later, with customers from around the world, and deeply appreciated local support, Lilly and Van continue to try to improve with every collection and piece chosen. And with people learning more and more about “fair trade,” from capris, to chocolate and coffee, it makes “retail therapy” practically guilt-free!

 

Lilly & Barry van Gerbig

Fair Trade Outfitters, 112 Anthes Ave., 360-221-1696 Store

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