We were given the opportunity to interview Nicole and Connor Humphreys, co-founders of BANDITS this last week.
Born in Bali, BANDITS features independent and upcoming artists. BANDITS also gives back to the artist’s community with 10% of the sales proceeds are donated the charity of their choice. BANDITS are handmade in India and are made from sustainably-sourced, 100% Organic Cotton. Please enjoy our interview with Nicole and Conner Humphreys.
BANDITS can be purchased HERE.
Q: Is there that one artist you have been after to collaborate with? If so, who and why?
Yes – we love the work of LA based illustrator/designer Steve Harington! His funky colors and characters perfectly capture the modern California vibe and we think he’d create an unbelievable bandana design.
Q: What drew you to the farm in Kolkata, India? How many farmers contribute to Bandits?
We discovered our farm through our partner supplier in India. They source their cotton through an organization called Chetna Organic, that helps to improve the lives of rural farmers in the Southeastern rain fed region of India. They work with more than 38,000 predominately tribal farmers to help implement sustainable agricultural practices and provide access to global demand for organic goods.
Q: How has COVID19 pandemic affected the farmers and craftsmen/women in India?
We mainly work with our Fair Trade certified partner facility in Kolkata, India who facilitates the sustainable cotton sourcing from the farms. In the beginning of the pandemic, they were hit doubly hard when on top of government mandated lockdowns and factory closure, the West Bengal region (where our partner facility is) was hit with a major cyclone in May of 2020. In the midst of a rising global pandemic, many of the folks that work at our facility were without power or running water for several days.
In response to COVID and the cyclone, the leadership of our facility established an emergency fund for their workers, which we were proud to assist with. They also offered up approved factory space as safe shelter for any workers that could still access it (many couldn’t because of flooding and downed trees blocking roadways). The fund helped to supplement workers’ income while the factory operations were closed, and allowed our partners to retain nearly all of their workforce upon re-opening.
In the ensuing months, a comprehensive new set of safety protocols was implemented to allow workers to return to the facility. Mandatory mask wearing, testing, social distancing, alternating shift days, and limited capacity all helped to keep the factory open throughout the second half of 2020 and into this year.
We and our partner facility are very proud of their Fair Trade distinction, a certification that requires passing multiple inspections per year to ensure safe and ethical treatment of employees, including fair pay. More than just a certificate though, the actions of our partners throughout the past year are evident of a fundamental commitment to the well-being of the people that help to build our bandanas (among many other products they create). We’re glad to have found such an incredible partner, and we look forward to growing with them into the future.
Now, as India faces an alarming new surge in the virus, we and our partners are monitoring the situation closely. We’re re-contributing to the emergency fund already, and we’ll both be ready to act in the best interest of workers if and when new lockdowns are put in place.
Q: I see Bandits are available at Uncommon Goods, are you looking to get into the locally owned Co-Ops and possibly Whole Foods across the nation?
While we haven’t necessarily targeted Whole Foods as a retail partner, our goal is to continue aligning with national, regional, and local retailers that share similar core values.
We’re grateful to have already achieved a dream partnership with REI, a retailer that was always at the very top of our list since we started. We’re incredibly proud to have developed 10 exclusive artist-created bandana designs with REI that have raised over $8,500 (and counting) for environmental causes.
Additionally, our bandanas are sold in 200+ small and independently-owned boutiques across the US, Mexico, Canada, and the UK. We’re always excited to see our products featured at these amazing small businesses, and we love being able to play a small role in helping these businesses thrive.
Q: Bandits are a statement piece, allowing the wearer to express views and beliefs. What are your favorite prints and why?
Oh man, we love each and every one of our designs so it’s hard to pick any “favorites,” per se. We do have a few that hold some extra personal meaning to us though:
“Juxtaposition Arts x BANDITS” designed by Odis Turner III – This project is one that still moves us to this day. Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) is the only Black-led art and design organization in North Minneapolis and a pillar in the Twin Cities creative economy. JXTA empowers young people in their community by preparing them for careers in art and design, and helping them to create pathways to self-sufficiency.
This bandana is a variation on the first-ever JXTA flag, which Odis designed and which flies over JXTA’s campus. Created by Odis along with other youth apprentices and teaching artists in the Tactical and Textiles & Screen Printing labs, it was proudly raised above the campus shortly after the police killing of George Floyd. In the subsequent unrest that rocked the North Minneapolis neighborhood after news of the killing spread, JXTA’s building was broken into and sustained significant damage. In their words, the team behind the flag explained that it came to represent “the community standing together in solidarity, strength, historic resilience, and resistance to oppressive systems.”
100% of sales proceeds from this bandana go directly to JXTA’s capital campaign, ensuring that they can continue inspiring the youth in their community for generations to come.
“Life in Flight” & “Deep In Nature” designed by Real Fun, Wow! (Daren Magee) – In addition to being an incredibly talented artist, Daren is also our neighbor in our little town of Ojai, CA. Both of these designs were inspired by the beautiful valley where Ojai is located, and both give back to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. OVLC is the local organization that manages public and protected lands around Ojai that we use for hiking, walking, running, and exploring almost everyday. Being able to see and feel the impact of these donations fist-hand really drives home the connection to what we do, and inspires us to keep growing our impact.
Q: Where was your favorite place to travel to with your Bandit? Why does it make a great travel piece?
We have so many places we love, but the answer has to be Bali – because it’s the place where the idea for BANDITS was born!
From covering our faces riding motorbikes around Indonesia, to wiping off sweat while touring Angkor Wat in Cambodia, to dipping in cold streams in National Parks across the US, it’s versatility is what makes the bandana the ultimate travel accessory. You can make it functional, fashionable, or just fun, it’s whatever you want it to be!
Q: When the world opens up again and you are ready to travel, what is first on your list?
It’s a LONG list now, but first would probably be Japan. In addition to the renowned history, landscape, and of course food, Japan also has a huge bandana collector culture and is known for some of the finest cotton in the world. For bandana enthusiasts like ourselves, it’s long been a dream destination.