Charlotte Bingham - Wallis - BELO

Finalist of the The Conscious Magazine Most Socially Responsible Handbag

Great Britain

2018 Finalist Charlotte Bingham - Wallis BELO

Charlotte Bingham - Wallis FINALIST'S PROFILE

What country are your bags manufactured?

Please explain how your bags are socially responsible?
Belo’s mission is to feed goodness into the world - inspired by natural beauty, the global community and the unstoppable modern woman. We maximise our positive impact by giving back to the communities where our products are made, ensuring fully transparency, ethical production and business practices and minimising any negative environmental impact by utilising recycled materials in our products. We also hope to be a source of inspiration, empowering women to achieve their goals and make a positive impact on the world around them.Our bags are handmade by local Brazilian artisans. We make sure they are appreciated, paid fairly and safe. Through Belo, they have a voice and an opportunity for a better life. It is important that our success is shared to support the communities that inspire us and try to make a difference at every step. Therefore, for each bag sold, we donate 6 plates of food to a Non-Profit Organisation called Casa De Maria, located in the slums of Belo Horizonte, Brazil where our artisan suppliers live. This NGO works with the homeless and those in need in the city, offering a place to learn (tutors volunteer their time to provide new educational opportunities), to wash and to eat. On average, they feed 250 people a day. Dona Nilza, the founder of organisation, has aspirations to build rooms for the homeless to help stop them from sleeping rough. And hopefully, one day, we will be able to help her fulfil her dreams.

Do you work with local/native artisans to design your bags?
The BELO bag design was developed by us, the co-founders – Maria, from Brazil, and Charlotte, from the UK, in collaboration with our very talented team of artisans – husband and wife, Wilson and Cida. They live in Maria’s home city, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Wilson used to work for one of the biggest shoe brands in Brazil, but with the “boom” in China and Paraguay the big brands stopped working with him as he couldn’t compete in price. This led to his factory being forced to shut down and left him struggling to afford the cost of living and support his family. When we met him, he was working in his small leather repair shop to make ends meet. He brings valuable production skills to our team and it’s important to us to pay him fairly and help him create new opportunities. We know with our vision and his expertise we can conquer the world! Inspired by our travels, we created the “Paths” Collection. We worked with Brazilian pattern designers to create four patterns that represent four of the most beautiful decorated pavements of our four favourite cities in Brazil. The bag entered for this competition represents a pavement in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Working Conditions. (Are the manufacturers/artisans that are being employed being treated humanely, of age, and working in safe and acceptable conditions? Please explain)
We launched in October, 2017, via Kickstarter. As a Startup brand the artisans and designers we work with are freelancers and they are hired according to demand. However, that doesn’t affect the high standards we carry when it comes to safe and decent working conditions and fair wages. We are not Fairtrade registered yet, but we pride ourselves in practising its principles. Our bags are a family affair, manufactured by Wilson, his wife, Cida and his son, Wesley. We contract their services and regularly inspected their factory throughout our production to ensure safe practise. We can confirm no children have been involved in the production of our bags, we know exactly who is involved in our chain of production, where our bags are made and how. We believe everyone involved in making our dreams become reality should be respected and empowered. We are all responsible for making the world better. In the future, BELO is planning on expanding and working with a woman’s co-operative as well. The cooperative is already established but as BELO grows, we want to be able to support other local businesses too. We are also very excitingly in the process of starting our application for Fairtrade certification.

Why did you choose this country to have your bags made and what made you decided to give back?
We – Maria, Brazil and Char, UK - have known each other since high school, when Maria came to England as an exchange student. Affected by the political crisis, Brazilian economy hit its worst in 2016 and since then, everyday there is more unemployment, poverty and people and animals in degrading conditions. When Char travelled and worked as a volunteer physiotherapist in South America in 2015/16, she was shocked by the living conditions and lack of opportunities for people in the poorer areas. She met with Maria who was already running a clothing company in Brazil, which helped cloth the children of the slums in her home city, Belo Horizonte. Meanwhile, on a personal quest to live more ethically, we found ourselves in search for the perfect handbag. We were looking for something that was beautiful, versatile enough to keep up with our busy lives, and most importantly, environmentally friendly and socially responsible. However, we found most brands didn’t fully consider all these needs. We decided to take matter into our own hands and turn our desire to make people’s lives better into triple threat accessories: beautiful, versatile and conscious – no compromise necessary. We believe in rising by lifting others and this is at the heart of our business ethos. Using our labour, vision and brand to give back opportunities to those in need is what we both always dreamed of. We started small by helping Maria’s community - which is something so close to our heart - not only by employing local artisans and designers but also giving back plates of food. Although a small gesture, it is the fuel to live and thrive. Our aim is as we grow, we can help other communities in Brazil, giving those in need better opportunities for a better life.

Bag Description
Brand: BELO, Style: Sao Paulo Mini covertable 2 in one bag. Coverts from handbag to backpack by sliding the handle through the hoop and splitting the handle into two straps using the zipper situated in the middle of the handle.About: The Sao Paulo is part of our "Paths" Collection. We chose 4 pavements of our favourite cities in Brazil. The mosaic pavement outside the Ipiriranga Palace in Sao Paulo inspires the embroidered pattern.Materials: Made from handpicked deadstock leathers and embroidered fabrics formed from woven recycled plastic bottles and recycled fabrics. Interior: Green lining with hummingbird embroidered below interior pocket. Hardwear: Gold - featuring YKK Zippers throughout. Features: Golden embroidered hummingbird logo on the front of the bag.YKK zipper along strap - making the bag easily convertible from handbag into a backpack.Price: £210, $293.60

See other finalists from the 2018 handbag awards