Women in Fair Trade – Feng Ho

Our marketing manager – Feng Ho, is leaving Fairtrade at St Michaels (FTSM). Feng joined our team in August 2011 as a temporary shop Assistant Manager, then was employed as our Marketing & Publicity Manager.

She worked on rebranding our shop logo and redesigned our external signage (twice!), was involved with engaging the public through organising events, kept the shop’s website looking fresh & exciting, and introduced FTSM to the scary world of social media. 

‘You have been such an integral part of the team at FTSM – I’m not sure how we will manage without you! You have brought such style, such fabulous designs, such great social media posts, blogs, media input, such connections and networking, such creativity and passion, energy and ideas…. We will miss you HUGELY!’

Kate Goodacre, Shop Founder & Voluntary Director

Read on to discover her Fair Trade journey

Feng Ho

How it started

I was born in Oxford and spent my childhood growing up in Headington before moving to London to work & study. After returning to my home town in 2009, worked as a teaching assistant and ran my ethical fashion business. I created Womenswear fashion from sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton & bamboo, that were handmade by independent CMT units that paid their workers a living wage.

The last collection that I put into production was created by the Mayamiko Trust in Malawi, a charitable organisation that worked with training single mothers tailoring, pattern cutting & business skills.

It’s true to say that fair trade has always been important to me, and not only fights poverty but empowers communities.

Feng Ho showcasing at the Ethical Fashion Show, Paris. 2011

The journey into Fair Trade

In 2010 I started volunteering at Trading For Development, a Fair Trade business run by Judith Condor Vidal. It was fun but really chaotic, and I remember a road trip to Bonn, Germany, to put on a Fair Trade fashion show. I worked on packing design for a range of endangered animal finger puppets, it drove me mad! But it was amazing to see the finished product being sold around Oxford.

Judith was the catalyst behind the founding of Fairtrade at St Michaels. She introduced me to the shop, and the rest is history!

I remember my first visit to FTSM – the lovely smells greet you as you walk down the stairs, almost to prepare you for an explosion of colour! As I took a closer look, it felt as if I was peeling back layer upon layer of wonderful textures, patterns and aromas, with Equality and Justice at the core. 

My absolute favourite shop during my childhood was a fair trade shop – Tumi, on Little Clarendon Street, Oxford. Stepping into FTSM brought me right back! It was amazing to see some of the same items that I loved – like the Nepalese fabric rucksacks, still in production. 

On holiday in Malaysia in 1991 (aged 11), wearing my favourite Fairtrade hat!

Selling the Fair Trade Story

After a month of working as assistant manager at FTSM, I set up a Facebook account for the shop.

Visibility is a real issue being tucked away in the basement, so we needed to amplify our presence through the digital media.

I posted photos of the eclectic range of products that we had in the shop, focusing on their uniqueness and craftsmanship. As time went on, I wrote about producer stories and about the communities that Fair Trade projects had supported – because what makes Fair Trade so special are the hands of the people who have made them. 

It was always such an honour to meet Fairtrade farmers and artisans when they visited the shop!

Keeping up with the trend

I always struggled with taking good photos in the shop – especially with the artificial lighting! So I started bringing products home to create ‘Lifestyle’ and ‘Flat lay’ photographs – which were on the rise on Instagram at the time. Seeing a Fairtrade product within a home environment was a good way to visualise how to use a product.

However, many of the products I brought back with me never made it back to the shop, and I spent a large proportion of my wages on stunning craft objects and delicious food!

Since the pandemic, I delved into the world of video, and learnt how to shoot and edit simple films & animations. I am always thinking of new ways to bring fair trade to life and to strengthen the connection between consumer & producer. 

My Favourite Products 

Loving the product that you’re selling is so important – my passion for Fairtrade is genuine. I hope that you can see that authenticity reflected in my writing & images.

I also love trying out new products, because the best way to sell something is through experiencing it first hand.

I’ve sampled every new chocolate that’s hit the shelves, and worked my way through the chutneys, sauces & spreads. I’ve built up an impressive collection of Fair Trade crafts in every room of my home – and there is always space for more! My favourite item is a blue recycled glass tumbler that I use every day. I also love FTSM’s range of Fair Trade jewellery, especially from Just Trade UK.

Building a Fairtrade Community 

In my opinion, the best way to raise awareness of serious issues is through creativity and having fun! I’ve dressed up as a banana on many occasions during Fairtrade Fortnight.

I’ve curated a handful of exhibitions that took place in the shop during Oxfordshire Artweeks. And I helped organise a Fairtrade Festival at the Tap Social.

FTSM has given me opportunities to try new things (although my ambitious ideas for redecorating the courtyard & stairwell are still on hold!) 

Moving On

After all these years, It’s time for me to move on. I have developed so many new skills – but now it’s time for a new challenge.

I will miss the staff, volunteers and committee at FTSM – they have provided so much support and encouragement over the years. They have become good friends, and I often call them my ‘Fairtrade Family’.

I will miss the trade shows, which have always been a great opportunity to catch up with the producers – to find out more about their incredible work.

I will miss being part of the BAFTS community, a network of like-minded people trying their best to make a difference in the world.

And I will miss the customers in Oxford, who make everything that I do worthwhile. 

I often think about the disadvantaged communities that have been empowered by Fair Trade; and I feel proud to have contributed something to make their lives better.

Fairtrade is the way forwards – not only the way we consume but also in the way we live our lives.

Everything should have fairness at the heart. 

I would like to say a heartfelt Thank You to everyone who has been part of my Fairtrade journey.

Here’s to the next chapter! 

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