We want to bring back the essence from all over the world, with handmade, fine ARTISANal collections that are made by local artisans in their traditions. We will not disguise those communities; we give them access to the windows of the world while they give us their most precious gift: their talent.
– Clémence Goudard, Good People
Good People is a French conscious brand of Eco-friendly handbags, handcrafted in Madagascar. The Good People brand is doing good deeds for a country that is ranked the last 10 poorest of the world. While enriching the livelihood of the community in Ambatolampy, Madagascar; implementing an indigenous sustainable supply chain; and offering an aesthetically desirable product with purpose; Clémence Goudard, founder and creative director of Good People, is finding a commercially viable business model that can be the future of fashion. It’s transparent, it’s true, it’s community empowered, culturally relevant with global reach, and ahhh, a story to tell!
RPHill: Clémence, you have your own story, which I find fascinating. How did a French woman get started producing handbags in Madagascar?
CG: Thank you Rhonda! It’s all a story of encounters and feelings.
After graduating with a Master’s in Fashion Business and 3 years in fashion design, I felt the urge to travel the world and discover my inner self by discovering different cultures. I decided to go backpacking on my own down the east coast of Africa, visited multiple countries and ended up joining a charity school in Madagascar called La Maison d’Aïna.
While I was working there, as a French and English teacher, the local women showed me their traditional crafts, such as the weaving of agave or raffia fibers to create doormats, decoration pieces, etc. I was astonished by their talents and thought it could not only be the opportunity to show it to the world but it could actually bring them a regular activity, a new hope, and financial independence.
I decided to put up our own workshop in Ambatolampy, in the high lands, and step by step we hired women of the area to produce the first Good People clutch: the “Aina”. Today, 19 women work regularly on our collections. They are the fruit of our inspiration and Good People would never be what it is today if it wasn’t for them.
Being based in Paris, how often do you travel to Madagascar?
I try to go 2 times a year at least, because it is my job now, of course. I also take it as an opportunity to visit the people I care about, the artisans, and share great memories with them. I care about the children of La Maison d’Aina. They grow so fast, and even if I’m still working as the general secretary for the charity in France, visiting them in person definitely has a bigger impact on them.
There is meaning, purpose, and artistic vision that go into your product, along with empowering the local artisans to embrace and take pride in their traditional craft. With your western sensibility, how have you adapted to the Malagasi culture, traditional methods, and the natural ecosystem?
From the beginning, the major point I wanted to give to the brand was to not disguise what is so indigenous and beautiful about the Malagasi crafts. In our case, because the fabric is so important, we put it at the center of our attention. We ask for new colors, weaving types, we research around different blends of fibers, but the conditions in which the products are made have to be as traditional as possible: Everything is done by hand from the cultivation of the plant, to the extraction of the fiber, to the dying and the weaving. The choice of using materials from the earth is difficult, because it requires a special knowledge to transform them into high fashion products that meet Occidental standards.
Good People will never take any of those steps to an industrial manufacturer. We don’t need any kind of machines to create beautiful and great quality products. Each woman works on one piece, from A to Z, as she would do as if she was at home and it was her own. We have the artisans for the talent, we have the earth that supplies the fabric, and we have a whole lot of hope and ambition to make it work all together.
You are philanthropic and an advocate for empowering, educating, and improving the livelihood of the community? Do you see the government involvement in building the necessary infrastructure to fuel this mission?
Not at all. We are constantly working on being supported by the government. Unfortunately, the political situation in Madagascar is terribly unstable. The country is ranked in the last 10 poorest of the world since 2014 and 35 % of the young generation between 15 to 25 are illiterate considering the 2015 Unicef report. There are a lot of charitable organizations that are already working in Madagascar for women, children, education, because there is so much to do, yet nobody gets any kind of support from the government to do so.
Brand exposure is an ongoing objective in any business, whether established or just starting out. It’s always a challenge making a creative vision a commercial reality. How effective and commercially viable is your brand exposure on the website, social media, and at retail stores? What works and what doesn’t?
We have permanent collections running through our website with new products coming out every summer season. Of course, we are very active on social media because there is so much to say about Good People. Either about the social impact we’re having on the local communities, the transparency about our all-handmade production, the importance given to the quality of each piece or the environmental engagement we took by working with specific materials. So this is something that we don’t have too much trouble with, and I think it’s paying off! Everybody likes to hear a nice story and we definitely have feed for that.
But in a commercial reality, it wouldn’t be possible for us to only have a digital presence. As we don’t own our own boutique (yet!) and because our fabrics are so authentic and raw, it is essential to us to be present in stores around the world to give an opportunity to the customer to actually touch it, and see it in real life. We have over 30 point of sales between the USA and Europe, and to build a true relationship with those retailers, we propose each month new versions of our bestseller, the “Aina” reference, in unique shades and patterns according to the season. Those “one piece editions” are exclusively reserved to our collaborators. This is a good way also to promote our presence, physically, around the world, while spreading our good word on the web.
Do you feel that there is a backlash from today’s digital world with a hunger for humanness? How do you connect to your audience in a natural, personal, and human way given today’s digital culture is quite the opposite?
I definitely feel that people need more and more authenticity, even in the digital world. Because there is a general trend for every consumer around the world to be more conscious about what they buy, what they eat and wear, where it comes from, they also care more and more about reading the right information only. We do not have time, today, to be filled with information that lacks deepness, intelligence, or even just emotions.
Having a brand, running a magazine, a blog, all of this is the testimony of someone’s heart. Enough bad is told on the media today because it’s just the world as it is, and nobody needs so much negative thoughts and energy in their life. I would just say that’s how I try to create my audience: speaking with my heart. But moreover, telling the truth.
What is the one thing that needs to change in the fashion industry?
One word: Mass production. It is the root of all the bad sides of the industry today.
First of all, the globalization of trends and styles are pushing everyone to wear the same thing with no distinction. Because multinationals and big brands saturate the market with their products, in such huge volumes, there is a real quelling of originality in the streets. Of course, the second point of this is the bad conditions in which people work for those brands, and their terrible wages. We cannot support this; we cannot pretend that buying a $20 all hand-embroidered dress is not a social responsibility towards those communities in those parts of the world.
I so agree!!
Couture still lives, and it is definitely preserved from all this! But it is inaccessible to 90% of the population. What we want is to combine the advantages of the luxury industry such as having 100 % beautiful artisanal products and a full transparency on our production, but always remain accessible to everyone. Good things are for everyone.
Your brand name, Good People, is very fitting. Clémence, congratulations for all that you do for bringing heartfelt purpose, compassion, and storytelling to fashion while uplifting the Madagascar community.
Images: Courtesy of Good People