Patrice’s label offers ethically created products by disadvantaged artisans from developing nations.
We interviewed Patrice about the inspirational women she works with, the greatest lessons she’s learnt and the future of ethical fashion.
#1 What inspired you to create Zurii?
I was in Uganda several years ago and met an incredible group of women making jewellery from recycled paper.
They were talented and their products were beautiful, but they had no marketplace. No opportunity to make an income. Something about that didn’t sit well with me.
I came home wearing a lot of the jewellery and gifted it to friends. Suddenly people started asking me where I got my necklace, earrings or bangle. And then it dawned on me… I could create the marketplace to help empower these women. In that moment, Zurii was born.
#2 Which passion came first, fashion or charity?
Definitely fashion. I’ve always loved style, lines and colour. Even as a little girl I would insist on dressing myself because I loved the process of putting an outfit together. While I’ve always had a socially conscious bent, it’s only in the last two years that these two passions have collided.
#3 Why do you work with women in Uganda and Indonesia specifically?
Uganda was the starting point for Zurii because it was where I first met the women who inspired the label. Their strength, resilience and passion for life embodies everything we stand for and it’s how I want women to feel when they use or wear a Zurii piece.
Indonesia became our second focus when we looked to expand the collection beyond jewellery and handbags, wallets and scarves. The proximity to Australia also enables us to empower women closer to home, which is a nice balance.
#4 Which other countries would you like to partner with in the future and why?
Our ultimate goal is to work with disadvantaged communities in all developing nations across the globe. There are so many talented women and artisans out there who just need an opportunity.
In terms of the top three, Mexico, Cambodia and Ethiopia are next on my list. All three have high quality products, unique designs and significant challenges for those trying to make their mark in the world.
#5 Do you feel that ethics is playing a larger role in fashion now and why?
Yes, absolutely. As consumers our awareness is increasing when it comes to the impact our purchases can have.
By that I mean people are starting to realise that a $10 t-shirt may look like a bargain, but a quick calculation factoring in materials, production costs, shipping costs, mark up etc, means the person making it was most likely paid below the minimum living wage. More and more people are now uncomfortable about that.
#6 How do you see the future of ethics in fashion?
I believe the level of awareness will continue to increase and as consumers we will start asking more questions of the brands we love – about sourcing of fabrics, fair wages and staff working conditions.
These issues are starting to matter more, and the brands that respond well, thrive.
#7 What is the best thing you’ve learnt from your experience of founding Zurii?
That we alone can be the greatest obstacle in achieving our dreams. We need to believe that anything is possible, because it is!
This lesson came from watching the women in Uganda thrive and succeed against the greatest odds. Odds I saw as insurmountable. But they saw them simply as road blocks to work around.
Watching them achieve so much with so little made me realise I have no excuse not to be the best version of myself I can.
The Carousel would like to thank Patrice Gibbons for this interview. Find out more at zurii.com.au.