But that may be about to change. Ethical Fashion Guatemala, a new website spearheaded by a couple of gringos named James Dillon and Kara Goebel who have been living in Guatemala for seven years and operating a local travel service, hopes to give the power back to the makers.

“The artisans have limited Internet access, but they follow the U.S. every day online,” explains James Dillon. “They have no website development skills or even the cash to have a website of their own; no Paypal, no credit cards and the Guatemalan postal service — the only means they did have to ship products — collapsed two years ago.”

It’s this gap that Ethical Fashion Guatemala hopes to fill, by providing the artisans with a platform of their own where they can shape their narrative, gain access to a global market, and receive a fair cut of the final sale price of their products.

Though it’s in the early stages now, the finalized version of the website will feature 2,000 copyrighted and trademarked products from 43 weaving co-operatives in addition to leather products, jewelry, ceramics, and art made by over 1,000 Guatemalan artisans. Unlike many American-run e-commerce sites, which take the lion’s share of profits for themselves, Ethical Fashion Guatemala takes only a 10 percent cut to cover the costs of running the website, credit card fees, and shipping.

The rest goes to the artisans who made the goods.

Using bots to scan for keywords and specific types of images, Dillon locates products on Etsy, Google and Shopify that seem suspect and then reaches out to individual sellers to ask what percentage of profits are passed back to the artisans, what their transparency policies are and more. Sellers who can’t prove that they have legitimate relationships with Guatemalan artisans are then reported to their hosting sites to be removed. So far, this process has led to the identification of over 64,000 products on Etsy alone that infringe on artisan copyrights, and communication with Etsy’s legal team has led Dillon to believe the company will be cooperative with Ethical Fashion Guatemala’s requests for infringing product removal. Similar conversations have taken place with teams at Google and Shopify.

James Dillon notes that knowledge of the unique features of Guatemalan craftsmanship — like the fact that genuine weavings don’t contain the color black, as all the dyes are natural and a dark black isn’t achievable — helps identify possible fakes. Knowledge of the artisans’ preferences, like the fact that many have asked that they not be displayed in pictures that show them sitting on the ground weaving on e-commerce sites, helps him identify retailers that may be selling genuine products without maintaining an ethical relationship with the weavers.

“This is about making money for the artisans by providing them with the technology tools to sell products,” James Dillon says. “They are a proud people who want income, not charity.” With the right platform to sell their already-in-demand goods, hopefully, they will receive just that.

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