With the status quo of the industry, in which short-lived trends and overproduction lead to careless and anonymous consumption, navigating the world of meaningful fashion and design is no light endeavour. However, there's a wave of initiatives who are emphasising new ways of value creation, pursuing a refreshing appreciation on both the makers, merchandisers and customers side. One of the platforms at the forefront of this movement is White Label Project. Founded by Caroline Foerster and Ann-Kathrin Zotz in 2019, this e-commerce concept store curates a portfolio of over 40 impact brands. Although each of the brands have highly unique backgrounds and thus deliver exceptionally diverse products, there are two components they all share: Each of them ushers a seamless blend of traditional, local craftsmanship and modern aesthetics and is either founded and led by or in benefit of women. What sets White Label Project apart from other e-commerce platforms is their business model: White Label Project fosters an appreciation of cultural heritage while ensuring international opportunities and - most importantly - fair remuneration for artisans.
We aim to deconstruct norms in international trade, especially common practices in the fashion and design industry such as the exploitation of cultural traditions and people. Instead, we want to inspire the appreciation and celebration of culture and the economic empowerment of women.
Aside from their impact on a commercial and social level, White Label Projects is making a difference by offering a range of unique, artisan fashion and lifestyle objects that are imprinted with the stories of their makers, favouring special, colourful and expressive designs that reach beyond mere appearance and instead, advocate a return to the originality and intention behind design.
By enabling brands to directly communicate their unique story to consumers, we want to challenge the notion of anonymization in international value chains such as through white labelling, in order to maximise local incomes and restore the rightful recognition to the original creators.
Turning ancestral techniques into modern luxury with social impact: A case study with Mola Sasa
Whereas White Label Project works with a plethora of brands, each of them rooted in traditional craftsmanship in their very individual way, some of them explicitly embody how traditional techniques are revived with a contemporary twist. As such, Mola Sasa, a textile and accessory brand founded in 2015 by Yamine Sabet, based in Colombia, has forged a compelling blend of Colombian craftsmanship and modern design purposes, bringing forward a collection of accessories such as bags, bangles and earrings that are modern interpretations of ancestral crafts. As such, the brand presents colourful clutches and cushions with a distinctive applique design, which stems from the ancestral craft of the Kuna women. In an almost literal way, the women of the Kuna communities weave the quotidian stories that make up their culture into the Mola Sasa designs - baring narrative and abstract motifs from animal kingdoms to geometric labyrinths. The designs come to life by layering colourful fabrics, whereas each piece is cut-out and sewn onto the bag by hand, resulting not only in a subtle three-dimensional look but turning each bag into an object of intricate needlework. The technique has evolved from its purpose of creating culturally specific garments and has been repurposed to create more contemporary pieces, such as clutches as well as cushions.
In their White Label Project curation, Mola Sasa also presents metal jewellery adorned with wrapped threading - the result of an artisan technique practised by the Kankuamo indigenous women, who spin and dye the fibers through a process of manual labour. Further, the accessories featured details known as Cana Flecha, a skillful braiding technique practised by Zenú indigenous women. Yasmine Sabet herself says: "Each Mola Sasa piece evokes a sense of discovery and provides traces of a journey to the world of Colombian ancient tribes, their land, and their culture. This exotic aura was the starting point of the brand and follows with every new collection or collaboration."
Elevating local artisanship to global scales: The amplifying role of White Label Project
Albeit recording success prior to joining White Label Project, the international reach offered by the e-commerce platform has accelerated their growth, not only carrying the stories of the Kuna women wide into the world but also providing a stable source of income and, in turn, an empowered stake in their traditional crafts.
By changing the way of seeing, appreciating and supporting artisanship, Mola Sasa and White Label Project are not only enriching aesthetic experiences but also rewriting the narrative of the values that propel consumption. In this emerging narrative, ‘artisan’ and ‘modern’ as well as ‘local and international’ coexist not as conflicting concepts, but as mutually enriching elements in a grander, more meaningful story. White Label Project acts as a crucial enabler in this context, providing brands around the globe with a direct-to-consumer platform that expands their reach, impact, and market share.