It isn’t exactly breaking news that fashion and ethics don’t always go hand in hand. Carly Burson built her career designing and merchandising for J. Crew and Anne Taylor in New York, and she loved her profession, but she also wanted to give back. That’s how Tribe Alive, her artisan-crafted jewelry and accessories brand was born.
Growing up, Burson took frequent trips with her family to volunteer for international nonprofits, and she developed a heart for helping people in need. Today, she lives in Fort Worth with her husband and their little girl, who they adopted from Ethiopia. This process catapulted her to start Tribe Alive. “Her mother was young and impoverished,” she says. “For me, it started in wanting to impact mothers and women like her, to give them means to help their families.”
Tribe Alive partners with and trains groups of women artisans in developing-world countries who create products in exchange for fair-trade living wages. Right now, most of the brand’s jewelry is from Honduras, and most of the bag collection is from Guatemala.
The only Ethiopian jewelry is the paper bead collection and ammunition bead collection, which have a powerful story, she says. They come from a group of women living in tents in a dump outside the capital city of Ethiopia that has one of the highest infant mortality and orphan rates. “The group [of women artisans here] is growing, so for us, it’s exciting to grow that collection” because it means generated income and an improvement of living conditions for them, she says.
Burson crafts her products’ designs before handing them over to the artisan groups to make the delicate necklaces, rings, earrings, and bags. “Because everything is handmade, it ends up a little different than the original design, which we tend to like because it’s almost like the artisans put their stamp on it,” she says. The number one goal is growing the women’s skillsets, and in turn, their confidence, while creating a marketable (and fashionable) product that people want to buy. Creating beautiful pieces that are on trend is “kind of our way of tricking people into giving back and helping empower communities.”
Tribe Alive’s summer launch on June 15 will announce a few more partnerships with artisans in other countries. You can buy the jewelry and handbags online at www.tribe-alive.com, and keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages for select Dallas-Fort Worth pop-up store locations.