An Interview with Melissa Stieber of More than Half

More Than Half is a fair trade clothing retailer started by Melissa Stieber in downtown Kitchener. Read more below to know about More Than Half and ethical fair trade clothing brands.

Melissa Stieber of More than Half interview with trusted clothes

More than Half summer 2016 collection

Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.

Well I grew up outside of Baden, Ontario and lived there until I was married in 2007. I then lived in Toronto for a couple years with my husband where I managed a Ten Thousand Villages. It was there that I started to think more about Fair Trade fashion and why I couldn’t find any stores selling it or if it even existed.

We had moved back to Kitchener and I worked at a wholesale bakery for three years as retail/office manager. I worked side by side the owner learning about all aspects of business. I knew I wanted to eventually work for myself but wasn’t quite sure what that looked like.

organic clothing more than half

Organic cotton top made in Nepal, 100% cotton skirt made in Nepal, necklace made in India of resin and brass and purse made of eco-leather in India.

With the knowledge, experience and confidence I gained at that job combined with my passion for fair trade and ethical fashion, I had my light bulb moment and opened up More Than Half in 2013.

What is the importance of ethical fashion to you?

It’s important because it’s the only right way to produce clothing. Exploiting people, mistreating animals and destroying to the environment is not worth it to just save a buck.

What is the importance of sustainable fashion to you?

The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. Not sure I need to say much more than that.

What is More than Half?

MTH is a Fair Trade and organic clothing boutique. We sell women’s and men’s clothing that has been produced ethically and sustainably from raw material to end product.

The name comes from part of a quote an MLK Jr. Sermon, “And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world.”

organic cotton dress more than half clothing

Perfect summer dresses! Both made by a women cooperative in India, 100% cotton

What makes More than Half unique?

We are unique because we focus more on the people that produce the clothing than gaining the highest profit from consumers. Fair Trade is no charity but it helps to create opportunity in developing countries and to alleviate poverty.

We try to educate consumers about who is making their clothes and the process the garment goes through. Once consumers understand how clothing is made, the work involved and the effects it has, they start to think differently about their purchases.

What is the greatest challenge in founding a business?

Retail is tough, especially right now. You see many large retailers shutting their doors. There are many factors in whether you will be successful in retail or not, but right now we find that the market for our clothing is too small in Kitchener-Waterloo and a lot of people are shopping online. Focusing online will help us to target our market better.

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

I currently leading a non-profit group, Fair Trade Kitchener. We are a small group of fair traders who wish to see Kitchener become recognized as a Fair Trade Town with Fair Trade Canada.

Involves a lot of education, promotions and support from the community as well as the Kitchener City Council. We have had a few events so far and hope to do much more this fall and for the holiday season.

cotton dress more than half clothing

Handmade 100% cotton dress made in Nepal

What meaning or personal fulfilment does this work bring for you?

I don’t do this to make myself feel good, I do it because I don’t know what else to do. Fair Trade, ethically living just makes sense to me, life shouldn’t be any other way. We shouldn’t be harming each other for profits and it makes me sick every time i think about how we have treated each other throughout the years. Slavery is more prominent now than ever, racism, environmentally damage, it’s all at an extreme high, but so also is our denial and selfishness.

If I’m not doing something to better this world, than the life God gave me is just wasted.

With regard to ethical and sustainable fashion companies, what’s the importance of them now?

They are the future of fashion. They need to be supported if the fashion industry is ever going to change.

Thank you for your time, Melissa.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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