Brandnü was founded by La Pietra Coalition member Nathan Zhang to provide rural women with a “brand new” life by developing an ethical trade network for rural Chinese artisans to sell traditional handicrafts. Established in 2009, this is the first project of its kind to have its own retail space in Beijing, also the first in China to promote the 3Rs – Reduce, Recycle and Reuse by reselling clothing and book donations.
In July 2010, Brandnü put together Beijing’s first ever ethical trade show with the intention of promoting sustainable livelihoods for rural Chinese women. As Brandnü Founder Nathan Zhang explains, “the Brandnü Project works to bridge the gap between the East and West, rural and urban, traditional and modern, and local and international worlds.” Brandnü has built a strong social network and is working on projects that will create a new model to ensure each step of the production process benefits the individual and their society.
Another substantial part of Brandnu is its collaboration with rural women’s cooperatives in China which seek to promote women’s representation in the community and increase women’s access to the supply chain. One vivid example of these collaborations:
Femmes du Ningxia – the only non-agricultural women’s cooperative in the region. Focused on embroidery to propel economic development, around 20 women participants. The women have learned to recognize the necessity of diversifying their line of products in order to open up to new markets.
Other partners include Sichuang Mianzhu Rural Women Cooperative and Guizhu Liupanshui Rural Women Cooperative which work with around 15 and 45 women, respectively. In collaboration with the cooperatives, Brandnu’s investment in women is increasing women’s access to domestic and international markets in a way that has not been done before in China.