The Explorer Embodied: Carly Burson of Tribe Alive

tribe alive founder Carly Burson

The wave of ethical fashion and socially conscious companies continues to rise, which is something that we can’t encourage more. We love highlighting these brands, not only because we can feel good about spending wisely, but also because we get the opportunity to connect with the hearts of founders who have been so moved by experience that they’ve been willing to reorient their entire lives to improving the ones of others.

One such women is Carly Burson. After holding her adopted Ethiopian daughter in her arms, Carly was struck by how often circumstances prevented a woman from being able to care for a child. Carly has since made it her mission to create full-time jobs and to instill confidence and hope in women through Tribe Alive, a marketplace where jewelry, accessories, weekender bags (which we love) and more are made by artisan partners across the globe.

Below, we’re sharing more of Carly’s story and why she believes that women, in particular, hold the key to changing the world.

Darling Magazine: Can you explain what “ethical fashion” is and how we as consumers can participate?

Carly: Ethical fashion represents an approach to design, sourcing, and the manufacturing of clothing that maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment. For Tribe Alive, the meaning of ethical represents an approach that strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, and in minimizing and counteracting environmental concerns through the production of our goods while providing a safe work environment.

It is incredibly easy for the consumer to participate in ethical and responsible fashion. There are so many amazing companies out there utilizing their platform to produce in a way that takes care of people and the earth. Consumers just need to ask the hard questions when choosing to spend their money. “Who made this and how is it affecting our planet?” If a company can’t answer that question, then find one who can, because there are a lot of us committed to knowing and providing the answers. 

tribe alive clutch

DM: What’s behind the name “Tribe Alive”?

Carly: The name Tribe Alive came from my ambition to build more than just a company but rather from my desire to build a movement. Only a community can build a movement (which we like to call our Tribe), and we believe that fashion and ethical consumerism have the power to breathe life into the lives of women. Hence, the name Tribe Alive.

DM: What long term goals would you like to see achieved via Tribe Alive, for the company itself and its beneficiaries?

Carly: There’s so much I want to achieve with Tribe Alive but I hope that my main objective always remains solely rooted in the desire to empower women living in extreme poverty. It’s very easy to get lost in the noise of the industry and the intricate layers of a new brand. But, when I take a moment to sit still and dial back to why I started, the reason is very clear.  The amazing artisan women fuel each day and their success is what measures our success.

We started working with a handful of artisans in Honduras and Guatemala and in one year we’ve been able to employ hundreds of impoverished women and operate out of five developing countries. What I love most about running this type of company is that our victories are never enough. It always feels like we can be doing more and I hope the beautiful burden of bringing these women employment never leaves me. If I’m asked this question tomorrow or ten years from now, my answer will always be the same. We just want to employ more women.

If I’m asked this question tomorrow or ten years from now, my answer will always be the same. We just want to employ more women.

tribe alive artisans

DM: How do you source your products?

Carly: We design everything in house and then source each design through different non-profit production houses all over the world committed to empowering women through free-skill training and fair wage employment. Our women are trained in each design and our non-profit partners oversee the production and overall logistics.

We love working with our partners because their work goes far beyond production and includes educational opportunities, community building, micro-financing and emotional support of our artisans. Our production not only employs women in need, but it also supports non-profits working daily to make a difference in the lives of women

DM: Why did you choose to specifically center your brand around women?

Carly: We believe that women are the key to our future. Not only are women more apt to inspire and mentor, they are also statistically more inclined to spend their money in ways that benefit the whole. Women spend the majority of their money on food, healthcare, home improvement, and better schooling for their children and family. It’s called the ‘muti-plier effect.’

When we invest in women, then women will reinvest in the health and wellbeing of their communities. When you reach one woman, you reach one hundred more. We’re interested in positively affecting generations to come, which why we choose to invest in women. Women pay it forward.

tribe alive women

When you reach one woman, you reach one hundred more.

DM: Changing the course of your life to pursue this company and its mission is a big step. Was there a specific moment you felt validated in your quest?

Carly: It’s one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made and the fear of failure and the life I gave up still keeps me awake at night. What keeps me going, however, is the validation I receive daily from our artisan partners that our designs are empowering their lives.

There are so many stories I could share that ground me in my quest, but our Honduran artisan partner Eugenia’s story is one closest to my heart. Eugenia started working with us in January 2015 and was part of a small project. At the end of the production she told me she was going to use the money that she made to buy her daughter a computer for school. I remember in that moment seeing in her eyes the pride she felt. I returned to Honduras in July to check on a much larger production and was able to speak with Eugenia again. She asked me if I remembered when she said she was going to buy a computer with the money she made from the last job. When I told her I did, she said, “Well now I’m building my own house with the money from this job.”

Stories like Eugenia’s keep me going. If Tribe Alive existed only to give Eugenia an opportunity to put her children in a home of their own, then that alone would make my sacrifice even sweeter.

DM: Adopting your daughter played a big part in the launching of this company. What is one dream you have for her as she grows older?

Carly: My daughter inspires so much of what I do and what I want my life to mean. My dream for her is that she grows up knowing that women like her birth mother deeply matter and that it’s our job to take care of one another. I want her to grow up with a desire to make a difference, care for those in need and go out into the world with an open and loving heart. If my work can inspire that in her and show her that we are all connected, then I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Shop Tribe Alive’s latest goods here, and also stay connected to them on Twitter and Facebook.

Images via Amanda Marie Lackey



This post is brought to you by the Darling Team! To learn more about who we are, please visit our Meet Our Team page.

1 COMMENT
  • Laura @ Roam + Golightly September 25, 2015

    Carly, what a inspirational woman you are! I’ve been on the ethical travel train for some time, but finding a company that supports locals in the way that Tribe Alive does makes my heart so happy. Thank you for doing what you do so passionately.

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