Wrapped in Fairness: Eau Claire’s Sari Bazaar aims to aid Indian women by selling fair-trade goods

Emily Kinzel, photos by Andrea Paulseth

HOW BAZAAR! Trent and Lexie Leonhard’s business The Sari Bazaar sells imported fair trade products from India, many made from recycled saris.
HOW BAZAAR! Trent and Lexie Leonhard’s business The Sari Bazaar sells imported fair trade products from India, many made from recycled saris.

Local entrepreneurs Trent and Lexie Leonhard are not only contributing to Eau Claire’s economy but are also crossing international borders to improve the lives of women and families in India. Their business mantra centers on fairness and equal opportunity. For many women around the world, making a living or supporting a family is made difficult because of social and cultural restrictions, stigmatizations, and at times, forms of abuse.

“We may be starting small, but small little things can make a huge difference.” – Trent Leonhard, The Sari Bazaar

However, with the support of the Leonhards, women and children are slowly regaining empowerment and worth through fair-trade operations. The Leonhards are joining forces with four organizations – ConneXions, Freeset, Kiran Social Enterprises, and Sari Barito – to uplift those living in poverty and give them the opportunity to create, be self-sufficient, and reform what it means to be a woman. Little do consumers know, but the home goods and accessories they purchase through The Sari Bazaar include a healthy dose of girl power.

Both Lexi and Trent focus their efforts on Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta). “Our time in India was really a rock to the senses,” Trent said of their two-month service trip to the city.

“Kolkata is one of the biggest cities in the world and one of the poorest cities in the world,” Lexie added. The trip inspired the two to really get involved in the Kolkata community and attempt to aid those living in extreme poverty.

How? The Sari Bazaar provides fair-trade products. Customers can feel good about what they’re buying and learn the stories behind the products. Many of the pieces are made of recycled saris, hand-stitched by Kolkata women who create beautiful, one-of-a-kind items. All of the proceeds earned are currently returning to the women through their fair-trade organizations. The Leonhards truly supply our Wisconsin city with the opportunity to shop mindfully. According to their website, “Through employment with these businesses, and with care and nurture like they’ve never known from an employer, women are given a second chance at freedom and dignity.”

Eventually, the Leonhards want to collaborate with local businesses to feature their products in storefronts. This is a part of their grand mission: to convince others to support and sell fair trade. “We are a global community, and we can affect lives around us,” Lexi said.

“We may be starting small, but small little things can make a huge difference,” Trent added. Currently, you can find The Sari Bazaar products at 200 Main Gallery in downtown Eau Claire. Products include blankets, scarves, purses, duffle bags, wine bags, and jewelry.  

To visit The Sari Bazaar in person, check out their open shopping day at The Center (3701 E. Clairemont Ave.) on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 1 to 5pm. To learn earn more about The Sari Bazaar and its owners, Trent and Lexi, visit their website thesaribazaar.wordpress.com or find them on Facebook.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.