Fair Bazaar emerged out of the need for conscious and sustainable consumerism. Based in Lisbon, it sells clothes, accessories, household objects and cosmetics that reach a growing amount of customers throughout the world.
The impulse has always been there from an early age. Joana Cunha calls it “the dream to make an impact on the world”. At 31, she’s the founder and organiser of the Fair Bazaar, a place that brings various sustainable brands together under one roof. The project started out from her wishes as a consumer and ended up becoming a genuine style of life – with less consumerism, less waste and better social and environmental care. Today she says it’s a question of responsibility: “I have a one-year-old son and, in the future, I don’t want him to say to me, ‘You knew the planet was in danger and you did nothing?!”
Fair Bazaar has the participation of about 40 brands and serves as a showcase, sales intermediary and consultant. “Our mission is to make available whatever is necessary to live a sustainable lifestyle. Products ranging from solid shampoos and deodorants to bamboo toothbrushes, home decor like lamps and tables, clothes for women, men and children, jewellery, purses, shoes.” The shop opened its doors in 2017 inside the Embaixada Shopping Plaza in Príncipe Real, Lisbon. There a wide selection of the products can be found although it’s a fraction of the amount available on their website, which caters for clients from all over the globe.
“There would be over a hundred brands if we answered every request, but we have standards of selection”, says Joana Cunha, who created eight seals of distinction for these products. “I felt the need to offer an explanation for why these brands are here. All of them have at least three of these characteristics.” At Fair Bazaar the produce can be homemade, organic, recycled, vegan, environmentally friendly, fair trade, produced on a small scale and/or created with a minimal amount of waste. Some come from small workshops like German accessories brand Abury, that works with communities in Morocco and Equador and recently won a prize for social impact. Or bags from Um Pequeno Gesto (A Little Gesture), a project that helps vulnerable populations in Mozambique with which Fair Bazaar is associated, serving as a product distributor and returning one hundred percent of the profit. The Portuguese brands Baseville and Näz, stand out for their use of raw materials in the fabrication of their clothing. The former, founded by an environmental engineer, sells only basic clothes made of organic cotton, with timeless designs and considers every detail throughout the production and distribution of its product. Näz, based in Covilhã, works with pieces of fabric left over from other textile factories in the region, eco-friendly fabrics and organic cotton. “They’ve been with us since the beginning, they’re growing and they’re already selling overseas. Today 30% of their market comes from Fair Bazaar, which allowed them to launch men’s and a children’s lines. We take pride in that.” The examples keep on coming with brands that don’t use chemicals or parabens or that only use fabrics like cupro or modal, or use ingredients from natural or biodegradable materials. To all these criteria, there’s another one to add: the design. “The pieces must be aesthetically pleasing. The sustainable can also be cool and sexy”, she emphasises.
The true cost
We have to go back a few years to understand how Fair Bazaar came about. In 2016, Joana realised she had to change her life after watching The True Cost, the Andrew Morgan documentary that uncovers the truth about how the ready to wear fashion industry works, from cotton plantations to the catwalks. “I was already going through a journey of self-consciousness and trying to change my lifestyle, but that film shocked me to the core. So, I quit my job in spite the economic crisis,” she recalls. Some thought it was madness, others found it strange, but when Joana had the idea to build a sustainable consumer platform, nothing could stop her. For a year she built a project, analysed her opportunities and interviewed people who shared her concerns. “I thought there had to be more people like me, looking for more conscious brands and didn’t know where to look. I understood that these brands also needed to be seen and recognised.”
To create the concept, she put her business degree and her master’s in marketing to good use, as well as her time with the multinational cosmetics company Socosmet. She spent six months in Singapore in a start-up called Zalora (that has grown into the most popular fashion sales website in southwest Asia), and she also had a job at a start-up in Portugal, Gleam (also involved in fashion commerce and which was later purchased by Farfetch). In 2017, she participated in Green Fest, an ecological festival in Estoril, and managed to unite products from 50 different brands. It was a success, and everyone asked her where this Fair Bazaar shop was. There was no going back- a month later, in October, she was opening doors in the Embaixada Shopping Plaza.
Coming out of the closet
“It’s a growing market as there are more and more people searching for these types of products and they’re willing to pay more for transparency and sustainability”, she says, adding that most Fair Bazaar clients aren’t Portuguese. “Foreigners are more aware, they actively look for fair trade products. We ship a lot overseas and a lot of tourists find our Príncipe Real shop after searching ‘fair trade in Lisbon’”. There’s also a growing interest in Portugal. “These pieces are of higher quality and they last longer; apart from that, we need to think about the impact that the brands we buy have. Why is one dress more expensive and the other only costs 10€ when it was made by a person in Bangladesh and was shipped over here? Somebody is paying that price… and it’s certainly not a fair price. It’s time to start thinking differently and it’s also important to question more and more. If consumers start taking a stand, multinationals will have to change their strategy and adapt. It starts with us; our actions have an impact. We also vote with our wallets. We must act.”
Connected to the Fair Bazaar is a blog where you can find tips for a sustainable lifestyle and Joana Cunha is getting the message out in conferences and workshops that she frequently organises. She recently created a new service: styling advice. “We help people get rid of their clothes because they don’t wear about 50% of the contents of their closet.” At a client’s house or at the shop, the consultation is based on that person’s existing wardrobe, but also on the pieces sold at the Fair Bazaar, building up outfit possibilities, resorting to timeless items of clothing that work well with others. It was with that in mind, that she created the “capsule closet” a box of 26 clothing and accessories items, whose different combinations turn into 126 different looks. “The idea isn’t that people buy the capsule closet, but rather understand that they can dress for a whole season with only those items.” Little by little she’s stirring consciousnesses. “People don’t change from one day to the next, but they’ll do it gradually”, she believes. One step at the time, and the first step can be the jumper you choose to wear or the toothpaste you use to brush your teeth.
by Gabriela Lourenço
web design & development 262media.com