Values and Vision = Fair Indigo

Fair Indigo co-founder

Submitted by Ava Janssen, sophomore

The SoHE Retail Leadership Symposium welcomed Robert Behnke, co-founder of the online retailer Fair Indigo to class on October 15.

During his presentation Behnke shared the story of how he connected his experience in retail with his passion for helping people, resulting in a new company. Behnke shared that during his time working at Macy’s and Land’s End, he noticed a distinct lack of fair trade clothing. He had heard of fair trade coffee, which inspired him to Google search: fair trade clothing. The search yielded little results, thus reinforcing that he had found a niche that had yet to be efficiently provided for. His idea was to create a kind of “green Land’s End” that provided products that were fair trade certified, organic, recycled, eco-friendly, or made in the USA. These standards that Fair Indigo adhere to, ensure that all the people who work for the company will :

  • earn fair wages
  • work in a safe environment, and
  • enjoy benefits by working for the company.

Another way the retailer supports people and their community is the Fair Indigo Foundation, a way that customers can donate to help support education in the locations where the company produces its goods. Before his dream became a reality, there were quite a few roadblocks to overcome, but most prevalent was sourcing. It was very hard to determine what clothing was considered “fair trade” and to have them certified as such, which is the reason why Fair Indigo began selling other items such as USA made, and recycled goods. By September 2006, Fair Indigo had set up shop in Hilldale Mall with roughly 150 items. In August of 2008, they had their first investor, marking a huge milestone within the company. Behnke expects Fair Indigo to continue to develop and expand in the coming years by using their three strengths:

  1. private label products
  2. great customer service, and
  3. their story

Fair Indigo statement: We’re all in this together. When fashion is done well, everyone profits: discerning consumers like you, farmers and workers, not to mention the Earth we share.

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