Fair Trade Fashion

by Sandra Ramani

As owners of a sustainable manufacturing company, Marissa and Adam Goldstein spent much of the last decade in Vietnam, overseeing their factories and production. They fell so in love with the country that, in 2016, they began to split the year between Saigon and their home outside of Boston. As their family grew—the couple now has two sets of twins, ages five and three—they realized how Saigon was a great launching pad for exploring Asia. “Before our first set of twins were potty trained, they had 20 stamps in their passports,” laughs Marissa.

It was on a trip to northern Vietnam that the family met women from the Hmong tribe and were introduced to their intricate handmade textiles. “Their designs were so beautiful, we wanted to be part of helping to preserve these traditions and give back to the communities we came to love,” says Marissa. So the Goldsteins married their expertise in manufacturing with their passion for family travel—and Rafi Nova was born.

An amalgam of their childrens’ names, Rafi Nova is a Fair Trade fashion brand focused on accessories that help families go on “everyday adventures.” While Marissa designed backpacks and cross-body bags to feature everything she’d want as an on-the-go mom (durability, storage, a hands-free style), they are chic, versatile and high-quality enough that they work for all travelers, with vegan leather exteriors, ethically produced hardware and easy-to-clean interiors lined with fiber from recycled water bottles.

The core collection—launched in early 2020—features panels made from recycled Hmong skirts and dresses, which often take up to six months to weave. Rafi Nova purchases them at Fair Trade prices directly from the women, and is transparent about how their work will be repurposed.

The new Passa Paa collection, launched this March, is accented with silk-screened and appliquéd natural hemp from a women’s collective in Laos where the designs put a modern twist on the traditional craft. Plans are in place to expand this year with product-packed travel kits, travel mats and more.

Given that respect and empowerment are at the core of the company, Rafi Nova is dedicated to giving back in many ways. From donating masks, school supplies and other necessities to villages in Vietnam and Laos to donating a portion of proceeds to nonprofits Stop AAIP Hate, Deaf Women of Color, the ACLU and more, the company is committed to protecting and reconnecting communities—all while encouraging people to get out and (safely and stylishly) enjoy the world. rafinova.com

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