Spotlight On Africa’s First Fair Trade Clothing Company

Spotlight On Africa’s First Fair Trade Clothing Company

The son of a Liberian diplomat, Chid Liberty left Liberia at a young age, grew up in the U.S., then returned to his homeland to start Africa’s first fair trade clothing company, according to OneGreenPlanet.org.

Liberty left Liberia when his father became the country’s first ambassador to Germany. They lived in Bonn, later moving to the U.S., where their social circle was mostly other wealthy African diplomats, OneGreenPlanet.org reports.

Liberty said that this gave him an inaccurate view of African life and culture: “I thought Africans drove Benzes and dressed up every day and went to the best schools … I just kind of grew up thinking that Africans were at the top of the food chain.”

It was only later in life, when he learned about the actual conditions of life in his former homeland, that he began to understand how exceptional his own family circumstances were.

Inspired by the groundbreaking work of Leymah Gbowee, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement – which helped end the Second Liberian Civil War – Liberty returned to Liberia with colleague, Adam Butlein, in 2009, with the intention of providing economic opportunities for women.

They started Liberty and Justice clothing company in 2010. The company describes itself as Africa’s leading fair trade-certified apparel manufacturing company that specializes in value chain management for high-volume, time-sensitive, duty-free goods for leading American clothing brands, trading companies, and other importers.

Despite “knowing nothing” about the textile industry when they first started out, Butlein and Liberty’s efforts paid off. Liberty and Justice now supplies brands like PranaFEED Projects, and Haggar.

Workers at their two factories in Liberia and Ghana are 90 percent female, and earn 20 percent higher wages than their peers. They also own a 49 percent of the business, with profits from the remaining 51 percent going back into community development.

Liberty, who won a Social Venture Network Innovation award in 2011 for his work with Liberty and Justice, said his workers, who are age 30 to 60, come to work an hour early – “we never asked them to do that – they pray and sing together before they get on the machines (and) they’re very serious about the details of how your uniform should look.”