Craft Link – Fair Trade and Craft in Hanoi
Craft Link is a Fair Trade organisation based in Hanoi, Vietnam. They are perhaps Vietnam’s most well know Fair Trade project and work with 32 ethnic minority groups throughout the country to produce beautiful handcrafted items using both traditional and contemporary techniques and design.
Started in 1996, they have been helping the ethnic groups and disadvantaged people sell their craft throughout the world.
We met with Lan, a Hanoi resident at their head office who talked us through the history and future of the company. She was the first non-Western person in senior management and looks after the day to day management of the operation. She started off in the tourist sector, taking visitors to the region on handicraft tours but soon became disillusioned with the for profit nature of the industry and sought employment with a not for profit organisation which would benefit the makers in the long term. Craft Link offers training in book keeping, marketing, pricing and product development, enabling them to improve their yield and quality while still retaining the traditional aspects of design and manufacture.
An example of this is the introduction of gas fired kilns instead of charcoal in the old sector of Bat Trang, Vietnam’s most famous ‘pottery village’ on the outskirts of Hanoi.
Only when there are environmental benefits will they encourage the use of materials other then those traditionally used. For example, products which might have been made from hard woods logged in the forests are now made from Jack Fruit wood, a far more sustainable material.
Today Craft Link have a presence at Trade Fairs worldwide and sell throughout Europe the USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as in Hanoi. We are very proud to count them among our suppliers and look forward to helping them introduce Vietnamese craft to the UK.
Regardless of the fair trade emphasis of Craft Link and the fact that the quality of the products is so much greater than the tourist trinkets touted elsewhere in Hanoi, Lan mentions that the Fair Trade industry overseas is still focused on price, with buyers still looking for the cheapest price, a practise that …in a strange land actively avoids.
As a non-profit organisation, all profits are put back into the communities which make their products and they introduce 2 new projects every year. We had the great opportunity to visit the sites of three of these projects on our trip. Thanh Ha pottery village and Kim Bong Wood carving villages just outside Hoi An and Bat Trang near Hanoi.
Craft Link Goals
- To help ethnic minority and Vietnamese artisans utilise traditional skills to earn income
- To expand the market for traditional craft
- To preserve and perpetuate valuable craft skills
- To raise knowledge and understanding about the cultures of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities