By Sara Smola
With the ever-revolving stream of mass-produced products circling through big-name retailers, the struggle to stay up with the latest styles and trends has led to consumer (and bank account) burnout. There are also environmental and social factors to consider. The True Cost (a 2015 documentary available on Netflix) explores the links between consumers’ demand for low-cost fashion and the exploitation of the sweatshop workers who produce those goods.
Thankfully, more designers are launching brands that incorporate quality materials and ethical labor practices. Über-chic Los Angeles-based travel-accessories brand Velé, cofounded by Tiffany Wong, aims to change the status quo regarding how a women’s worth is seen within the fashion industry.
“From the exploitation of industry makers to fashion advertising, women are often treated as less than worthy by an industry intended to celebrate them,” Wong says.
Wong and her cofounder, Lauren Belfor, met in a middle-school sewing class. Years later, the duo dove into fashion, seeing it as an industry meant to empower and equip women to conquer their dreams with confidence. Thus, Velé (derived from the Latin root of the word wanted) was born, with a mission “to redefine industry practices to empower, rather than exploit,” as demonstrated through Velé’s partnership with Not For Sale, a nonprofit aimed at ending human trafficking and exploitation. Velé generously donates 10 percent of each purchase to Not For Sale.
Velé also maintains ethical labor practices, as its artisans, based in Ubrique, Spain, are not only treated with dignity but also paid more than three times the local minimum wage.
“We view paying a higher premium for someone’s work as a way of voting for the worth and value of their expertise,” Wong says. “Through investing in traditional craftsmanship, we are able to invest in the quality that comes from artisans whose art form has been passed on through generations. We’re proud to say that with every Velé travel essential you purchase, you are voting for the worth of women by supporting artisans treated with dignity.”
The current product line includes the cheekily named “simple wallet” and a crossbody clutch hybrid. Both leather pieces are functional and stylish, ideal for any occasion.
“Travel has always played an integral role in how we see, process, and are inspired by the world and people around us,” Wong says. “When we were on the go, we wanted functional travel accessories without having to sacrifice style. As we talked with our friends, we found that many of our fellow ‘women on the go’ were looking for timeless pieces that equipped us to seamlessly transition through our day.
“For example,” Wong continues, “the crossbody clutch was created to transform from a hands-free crossbody as you run through TSA to a classic clutch for evening drinks.”