@meliadesignsfairtrade // Cambodia
We are, as we like to say, “Designed to Carry a Cause.” Malia Designs is a socially responsible fair trade brand that designs and sells handbags and accessories.
Our products are handcrafted in Cambodia and every purchase helps to fight Human Trafficking. Malia Designs was formed to increase economic opportunity for women in Cambodia and to support organizations that fight human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
While traveling through SE Asia, after serving in the Peace Corps, founder Lia Valerio fell in love with Cambodia. During her initial trip to the region in 2000, she was introduced to several fair trade organizations that worked with marginalized populations to expand their access to sustainable income.
She also witnessed and became aware of human trafficking for the first time, and though it was another 5 years before Malia Designs was born, the seed was planted and Malia conceived in the belief that one way to counteract this global issue is to increase access to economic opportunity in the most affected areas.
Though it’s hard for us to believe, 2018 marks our 13th year in business! We are really proud of our sustainable business model. Over these 13 years we have provided grants and loans that have enabled our artisan groups to purchase new equipment, implement new training programs and expand and open new workshops. As our business has grown, so has theirs! We have also donated over $160K to organizations in Cambodia and the US that are working to fight human trafficking.
While we work primarily with recycled or upcycled materials, a lot of our design inspiration comes from the natural (and manmade) beauty of Cambodia. From the botanical prints to the more geometrically inspired, much of our print design originates directly from the streets of Phnom Penh.
We also work with handwoven silks and cottons. Silk weaving especially, is an artform and traditional handicraft that has struggled to survive, but has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years. The time, effort and talent involved in creating a single piece is just mind blowing. It’s really amazing to be able to use some of these traditional artforms to create our products and to help preserve these traditions.