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About the Humm

Why Fair Trade Clothing?

Fair Trade is a system of buying products from artisans that provides them with a fair wage to live by.  The goal is to provide artisans with a sustainable income so that they can thrive, support their families, and live decent and dignified lives.  Businesses selling fair trade goods are not trying to maximize profits, but, like the artisans they support, strive to earn a sustainable income while doing something they love to do.

We see a lot of fair trade coffee, chocolate, and other food products marketed in grocery stores, coffee bars, and other places.  There are even some specialty stores that sell fair trade knickknacks and accessories, such as Ten Thousand Villages.  However, most sources for buying fair trade clothing are found only online, and if there is anything that people would like to buy in the store, it’s clothing!  That’s why we decided to start a fair trade clothing store right here in the Shenandoah Valley. 

The purpose of this business is to sell clothing that is fairly made by artisans who are given a decent living wage, particularly those in poverty stricken areas.  This is one way that people in developed countries can help those in developing countries.  As consumers with consciences, we can help ensure that those who make our products are paid enough for their work to live sustainable lives and provide adequately for their families. 

We obtain our products from a number of national and international wholesalers who are in direct contact with the craftspeople.

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The story of the Green Hummingbird
The name Green Hummingbird comes from an African story, as told by the Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.  The story takes place in the middle of a forest.  One day the forest caught fire, and all the animals stood by, watching in horror as their homes slowly burned to ground, and feeling helpless.  But a little hummingbird started flying to a nearby stream, scooping some drops of water into her beak, flying back to the fire, and squirting out the drops in an effort to put out the flames.  She did this over and over again, until the other animals noticed what she was doing and chided her for it.  “What are you doing?” they asked.  “You are not doing any good, you are just a tiny hummingbird!” The hummingbird simply answered “I am doing the best that I can.”

This story is an inspiration and a reminder that we can all do our part to contribute to the welfare of the world.

Fair Trade Fashion: Downtown Boutique Works With Students to Organize Fashion Show

Posted in The Breeze: Sunday, April 12, 2015 9:34 am | Updated: 11:16 pm, Sun Apr 12, 2015.

By Rebecca Josephson | contributing writer

Multi-colored woven scarves, flowing vibrant skirts, patterned harem pants and delicate handmade jewelry stretched the lengths of long tables in the Madison Union Ballroom. Though this merchandise is usually found on racks in the downtown boutique The Green Hummingbird, selections from the store were both on sale and on models at The Green Hummingbird Fair Trade Fashion Show last Thursday night. 

The show, put on by six senior organizational communication studies majors, was to promote this new store and to educate JMU students about fair trade products. Serena Cersosimo, Rachel Cousins, Alyssa Herington, Alex Kriss, Steph Lummis and Gloria Pak teamed up in one of their classes and decided to address Eleanor Held, owner of the Green Hummingbird, about coordinating an event to promote her store. 

Held’s store, open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., is fairly new; it opened this past August. All the products within the store are fair trade, most being handmade items of clothing or accessories from around the world.

According to the official websites of Fair Trade International and the World Fair Trade Organization, “The term fair trade defines a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers — especially in developing countries.” 

To Held, this means buying items where she knows the artist or where there is only one middleman. 

“We make sure we can trace the product back to the source and that the artisans are being supported and treated and paid well,” Held said. 

The variety of unique clothing is the reason Kriss recommends shopping at the store.

“The Green Hummingbird has so many unique and beautiful products from countries around the world and from local artisans,” Kriss said. “Shopping here means you are directly having an influence on the lives of others and giving them a life with affordable wages and safe working conditions.” 

At the fashion show, Held also talked about her process and decision to start the store. With a lifelong passion for fair trade, she volunteered at popular fair trade chain Ten Thousand Villages. After noticing the scarcity of fair trade clothing stores, she realized that opening one is what she wanted to do. 

Though it took a while, Held finally turned her dream into reality when she opened her doors at 320 South Main St.

 “It was a long process and finally about a year after the idea first came to me I signed my lease and started my business,” she said.

Held said she also owes credit to her mother who has supported her through the opening and running of the store. 

Six models, including one male model wearing items from their smaller but equally unique men’s section, strutted across the stage in the clothing Held sells at the store. 

This gave the audience a chance to see some of this fun and interesting clothing on real people before they took the chance to shop from the display Held brought along.  

Yet, more than a new shirt, Kriss was hoping the audience would take something else home with them from the show.

 “The most significant thing that I have taken away … and what I hope for others to take away from the fashion show is the meaning and impact of fair trade,” Kriss said. “Since working with Eleanor I have been more conscious of where I shop ... and I have been motivated to research more about fair trade to see the kind of impact we can have around the world and locally.”

With the name of the store coming from a story by Kenyan political and environmental activist Wangari Maathai, The Green Hummingbird is doing what the little hummingbird was doing in the tale. In the words of the hummingbird, “I am doing the best that I can.”

People may tend to think that what Held is doing does not help the workers on a global scale, but Kriss would not agree. 

“Eleanor really is an incredible and very driven woman and I think she can definitely serve as a role model to many of us, proving that no matter how small, any contribution to fair trade helps tremendously,” Kriss said.

Check out this artice from the Daily News Record on the Green Hummingbird:

Green Hummingbird Clothing Store Supports Area, International Artisans
Posted: September 5, 2014
By Candace Sipos
Daily News-Record

Green Hummingbird, located at 320 S. Main St., retails local, domestic and international clothing and accessories. 

While volunteering at the Stony Point Center, a Presbyterian-based conference center just outside of New York City, Eleanor Held heard a story that stuck with her.

It’s an African tale about a group of animals watching as their homes are engulfed in flames. A tiny green hummingbird starts taking sips of water from a nearby stream and spitting them into the fire.

The moral of the story is that the hummingbird does what he can, though the effect may seem nil, Held explained.

She named her new retail clothing store after the bird in that story, as Held believes it speaks to the fair trade movement.

The store, Green Hummingbird Fair Trade Clothing, located at 320 S. Main St. where The Polished Lady was previously, opened Aug. 22. It retails local, domestic and international women’s clothing for all ages; many of the items are fair trade certified, while others are simply running reputable operations up to Held’s personal standards.

“My own criteria is, each company or each wholesale place, they’re stamped fair trade certified or they themselves are working directly [with the artisans],” she said.

She’s also selling local artist’s items, such as clothing created by Kelly Steller of K Steller Design, a custom-made women’s apparel business based in Harrisonburg.

“I’m really happy that we finally have something fair trade for clothing,” Steller said of Held’s shop.

The Birth Of An Idea
Held felt the same way when she realized fair trade certified clothing exists — again, during her time at Stony Point, where she worked in a fair trade shop similar to Artisans’ Hope, she said.

Held attended a workshop during her time there and saw a list of many online-based fair trade stores.

“It was like everything you need, from bed linens to clothing supplies,” she said.

“Of course, I zeroed in on the clothing section.”
She’s always loved clothes — not the mainstream, trendy pieces, but clothing that “is cute in any generation and also expresses a culture …  and not just what’s hot at the time,” she explained.

Though she was excited to be introduced to fair trade clothing retailers, she was aggravated that they were almost exclusively web-based.

Held wanted a place where she could go and try on fair trade clothing.  

“It just kind of …  started slowly congealing in my brain that that was something I could do,” she said.  

After her temporary duties at Stony Point came to an end, Held returned to her hometown to make that idea a reality.

“We decided, of all the places we know, Harrisonburg is a good area to start a business, and it’s growing,” she explained.

Since January, she’s been actively working on the shop. She signed a lease for the spot June 19, her 30th birthday.

Doing What She Can
Though Held acknowledges that fair trade may not be pulling entire countries out of poverty, it a system that’s set up to do what it can for whomever it can, just like the green hummingbird.

“There are small communities that benefit,” she said. “It’s a couple families here and there who are …  given dignity in their work.”

Her mother, the Rev. Ann Held, pointed out that the old adage about teaching people to fish — instead of simply giving them fish — applies here.

“I think, ethically, we’re required to help people learn to fish,” she said, adding that her daughter is doing her part to help others.

“Eleanor always had a sensitivity to those who are on the fringe of life,” she said.

For more information on Green Hummingbird, find the shop on Facebook or call 421-1441.  
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