top of page

Fashion against human trafficking and forced prostitution

Global Goals & Global Society
Fashion against human trafficking and forced prostitution

With her work, Nathalie Schaller wants to make the world a little better. The fashion designer supports women in India who have been freed from forced prostitution and human trafficking. The majority of the collection with the brand called “[eyd]”are produced fairly. Schaller thinks: No one should be indifferent when it comes to human rights.

“Injustice," Nathalie Schaller says when asked what makes her angry. "Our standard of living here is only possible because other people in the world are doing badly. That's not fair." The 37-year-old is sitting in the eat-in kitchen of the fashion company [eyd]. The décor is simple, with mannequins of clothing in many of the rooms. The studio is filled with racks of patterns and designs. This is where the ideas for [eyd]'s pants, tops or dresses are born. This name is the phonetic spelling of the English "aid" - "help". The letters of the label also stand for "Empower your Dressmaker," which means "Strengthen and encourage those who make your clothes."

Justice is Schaller's heartfelt issue. She has all of her clothing produced at the social enterprise "Chaiim humanitarian Clothing" in Mumbai, India. About 20 women currently work there as seamstresses. They were affected by human trafficking and forced prostitution. Chaiim offers them permanent employment, a protected working environment and fair wages, so that they can not only live well but also save something for the future. The women receive help to help themselves, pastoral care and instruction in everyday things, such as how to handle finances. Things they have never come into contact with before because they have often been abused as forced prostitutes since childhood.

Also [eyd] itself is a so-called "social business". The ultimate goal is not financial profit, but the fulfillment of a specific social or ecological task. In the case of [eyd], this is the fight against human trafficking. Schaller's company's collaboration with Chaiim has enabled more than two dozen of the women in India to build their own livelihoods since 2013. The orders from Stuttgart have enabled Chaiim to really expand its textile production. Other clients also use the partner in India to produce fair textiles.

Schaller's path to success was not easy, however. She had to show a lot of courage and stamina. "My father still says he never thought it could work to produce fair fashion in India," says the petite woman. Laugh lines line her eyes. Of course, she wears her fashion herself, today, for example, a black patterned oversize dress. The fashion from [eyd] shows that fair doesn't have to look "eco." The women's and men's clothing is based on current trends, the cuts are simple, and the fabrics for women's dresses or tops are often flowing. The summer collection is cheerfully colorful and Indian-inspired with shades like "lapis blue" or "grapefruit".

Turning point in Cambodia

Schaller was originally supposed to become a lawyer, and later take over her father's law firm. She bowed to her parents' wish to study law. But it was more out of fear of taking the wrong path. She went through with it, passing both state exams, although her heart was never in it. "I've always been about the people, not the legal component."

An assignment with the Christian organization "Youth with a Mission," which works in social hot spots around the world, turned Schaller's life upside down. It took her to Cambodia, where she first encountered "sex trafficking": modern-day slavery, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The team visited shelters for women rescued from forced prostitution. As occupational therapy, they made postcards. Schaller thought to himself, "That doesn't help in the long term. And besides, the cards aren't even pretty." Suddenly, she knew, "I want to help women like that." She returned to Germany with a fixed idea in her parents' eyes: a vision for a social enterprise. Fair fashion was an obvious choice. Ever since she saw in documentaries as a young woman the conditions under which production takes place in the textile industry, she could no longer shop with a clear conscience in fast-fashion stores like H&M. "I have such a sense of justice that I can't get it out of my head," she says.

Entrepreneurship with obstacles

That was in 2008. The road to [eyd] was still long. It led via the fashion start-up Glimpse, which Schaller founded with her husband Simon and a designer. After several years, it dissolved. A new start followed in 2017 with the current label [eyd]. It currently employs five people plus several interns. Schaller is the managing director. One of her employees develops and designs the fashion. The beginnings of her entrepreneurship were not always easy. Not only once did German ideals and the conditions in India diverge. But the "why" always kept Schaller going. She says it is moving to see what the work means to women in India. Schaller's eyes light up when she talks about it. Also a miracle for the 37-year-old is the relationship she has with her parents today. "They have gone from being the biggest opponents to the biggest supporters." The Corona crisis shook [eyd] up violently. For the past year and a half, it has been engaged in crisis management, Schaller says. Deliveries are delayed, production is limited. But giving up is not an option for her. On the edge of the Black Forest, the company has been able to acquire a small socially committed factory. Soon, production will also start in Germany. The mother of two is sustained by her faith. "I know that I don't have to do everything alone."

Schaller has never regretted her commitment or the extra mile that a social enterprise has to go to be authentic, such as choosing an ethical bank or making pricing more difficult so that wages remain fair. A top costs from 40 euros, pants from 90 euros. She would like to see more commitment to fair trade and human rights in society. "You can't ignore it," she thinks. Even if you can't do everything right, she says, it's important to "go on the journey."

Chaiim humanitarian clothing reintegrates traumatized women and girls into society through a self-sustaining social business model.

The Indian Chaiim Foundation works with women and girls who have been freed from forced prostitution and supports them holistically in their reintegration. A central pillar is its own social business, which produces sustainably processed textiles and sells them through the social fashion label eyd - humanitarian clothing. In this way, the work of the organization can be financed in part and at the same time attention can be created for the so important topic.

The world can only expect to put an end to the atrocity of human trafficking through a concerted effort by governments, private businesses, non-governmental organizations, and above all, communities and a global society.

People are speaking out, communities are growing, international networks are forming, and governments are reacting to the common message that human trafficking must end, to raise awareness and to facilitate a way out for millions of victims. This generates a big development of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.


bottom of page