Launched in 2009, Blue Caravan is a unique online design marketplace showcasing the wares of independent artists, designers and artisans from Australia and overseas. Setting it apart from similar online markets is the fact that the site’s founder, Jen Djula, consciously handpicks wares only from sellers who meet Blue Caravan’s strict ethical guidelines – think organic, eco-sustainable, handmade, up-cycled, fair trade, sweat-free and most importantly, beautiful.
“First and foremost, the selection process comes down to beautiful design,” she says. “Regardless of the ethics behind a piece, we’re primarily looking for a unique design aesthetic.”
A seasoned traveller to the third world with a background studying sustainable design, politics and community development, Djula is well versed in concepts of eco-sustainability, fair trade and sweat-free manufacturing practices. She’s passionately dedicated to supporting designers and artisans from all corners of the globe, each of whom shares her commitment to responsible production values.
“The term ‘ethical’ can tend to be pretty vague, so we have very clear expectations in terms of ethical production practices,” says Djula. While elsewhere you might find ‘eco’ clothing made with sustainable organic cotton, there are no guarantees that designer hasn’t sent the fabric off to a developing nation for some cut-priced, sweatshop manufacturing. Not so with Blue Caravan.
Fans of the site flock to the ‘One Offs’ and ‘Limited Runs’ pages, where talented independent designers exhibit one-of-a-kind clothing, jewellery, homewares, artwork and stationery. One week might see you swooning over a handmade beach stone necklace from coastal New South Wales, only to fall in love with cute felted house slippers from Lithuania the next.
Another plus is that the site allows buyers to form a direct relationship with the designers – be they local or international – and little touches like gift wrapping and personalised notes render the experience a whole lot more intimate than the average online shopping trip.
As the Australian consumer conscience shifts ever closer towards embracing eco-sustainable goods, the site has enjoyed justifiably steady growth. With thousands of products to browse, Blue Caravan is now the largest online marketplace of its kind and offers a retail space where style, sustainability and principles come together in a whole new way.