Trail Guides


Trail Guides

While visiting Nevada to attend this year’s MAGIC Marketplace tradeshow and conference, I had the privilege of touring the Valley of Fire State Park.  Navigating through the Mojave Desert’s majestic labyrinth of red, yellow, purple and orange colored mountains, hills and rock formations, we spotted petroglyphs, ancient Native American rock art.



Deciphering the Desert

As we focused our attention on the petroglyphs, everyone began asking questions about the mystical images and guessing their meanings.  Our tour conductor, Cliff, shared his belief that the symbols depict a map — to find water.

During our drive to the valley, Cliff discussed the linkage between the scarcity of water in this desert and the evolution of local roads, stating “As ancient Native American tribes crossed the deserts in search of water, they mapped out the trails that led to springs.”  Passing down this information from generation to generation, for hundreds of years, allowed their members to follow the same routes and guide others to water.  As the trails became more and more visible, less instruction was needed and people could see the paths for themselves.  The local villages and cities that emerged were connected by those routes.  Thus, many modern roads developed from ancient trails because people helped each other to find water.


Peaceful Paths  

We left the desert and entered a conference room to meet a modern day trail guide, Sean Carasso.   Sean, Founder of Falling Whistles, inspired the audience with his passionate campaign to help end the war in the Congo, during Magic’s Seminar Impact your Fashion World: Action = Creativity.  He described how he visited the Congo a few years ago, wrote a journal of what he witnessed, spread the information to thousands of people and leveraged support to start, as he stated, “Turning tools of war into tools of peace.”  Sean’s organization brings attention to this conflict through the creative marketing/sales of whistles and uses the funds to support groups working for peace in the Congo (  He selected whistles, as a symbol of protest, because kids in the Congo are forced to become child soldiers; too young to carry arms, they enter battles with only whistles.  Sean said “Their sole duty is to make enough noise to scare the enemy and then receive – with their bodies – the first round of bullets.  Lines of boys fell as nothing more than a temporary barricade.”

The audience was very encouraged by his leadership and discussed the need for more people to get involved and help end conflicts in other areas of the world.  One young woman expressed her concern about the possible negative reaction that a company may receive if it’s associated with specific causes/organizations, which may not be popular with the general public.  Sean responded to her by advising that one has to weigh the risks of one’s fears with not doing anything at all.  He concluded his presentation, stating “Be a whistleblower for peace; now, in the present, the Individual has more power than any other time in history!”


Paving the Way

Corporations also have great power.  Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market shared his belief that companies and individuals “can change the force of business in the world,” as he discussed the four elements of Conscious Capitalism: Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership, Higher Purpose and Conscious Culture, during this year’s National Retail Federation Conference’s Conscious Capitalism panel.  He advised that great companies not only make a profit but also “deliver happiness; they have a greater purpose/deeper aspirations.”  While providing examples of the Whole Planet Foundation’s global projects, Walter stressed the importance of a company’s mission and values, adding “Core values represent stakes on the ground, a deeper purpose; it gives customers and employees a way forward as one navigates a turbulent world.”  Employees and customers support the Whole Planet Foundation’s work in over 50 countries; the ventures helped over one million people by empowering global entrepreneurs through microcredit projects (

“Helping each other is only limited by our imaginations!” declared Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, as he spoke with Walter on the Conscious Capitalism panel.  Kip talked about the importance of building sustainable relationships through the mutual respect and trust of employees, vendors and customers, adding “People value relationships and people do business with people they trust.”   He also stressed the importance of developing a mindful corporate culture, advising “Happy employees are productive employees; the true essence of the human spirit is to go to work with great people and accomplish wonderful things and one can feel it in the culture.”  Kip provided many examples of how The Container Store achieved and maintains its corporate culture (   He concluded with the following insight “A thoughtful approach to stakeholders in the business gives you a competitive advantage…the Universe conspires to assist you when a company functions this way.”


Global Streams

During the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Talking Trade @ FIT Guest Lecture Creating Sustainable Futures: Women’s Empowerment through the International Fashion Industry, students and guests heard stories from more leaders that are using their power and influence to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.  Panelists included Richa Agarwal, Design Management Consultant and Project Manager with BRAC USA; Ben Stone, President and CEO, Indego Africa; Craig Leavitt, CEO, Kate Spade New York and Deborah Lloyd, President and Chief Creative Officer, Kate Spade New York.  All of these speakers are serving as trail guides by improving the lives of women from Africa to Bangladesh, from Europe to Afghanistan.

For example, Craig Leavitt talked about Kate Spade’s partnership with Women for Women International, stating “It fits with our firm’s DNA and resonates with our customers and staff.” His company’s Hand-in-Hand program offers a sustainable form of employment for hundreds of victims of global wars and conflicts in countries such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Afghanistan, utilizing the women’s indigenous skills and local materials to produce exclusive products.  The program also provides health and educational benefits to the women and their children (  Craig advised that his business is guiding these women by “creating self-sufficiency through economic power.”

Likewise, Indego Africa empowers women through fashion.  Ben Stone explained how his organization assisted in the significant improvements of the lives of hundreds of Rwandan women artisans and their families by connecting them to export markets and education.  Indego Africa maps out a path for artisans to produce and market fair trade products through co-design collaboration with major fashion brands, such as Nicole Miller and Anthropology.  Ben’s ultimate goal is to create empowered independent businesswomen who can work directly with fashion brands (  He described his operations as having extreme transparency, stating “All financial documents are online and the public can visit our website to learn about the artisans and verify social impact.”

In addition, Richa Agarwal explained how her organization, BRAC, contributes to poverty alleviation by creating job opportunities for rural women in Bangladesh.  BRAC supports over 65,000 rural artisans, most are women working in the apparel industry, in over two thousand villages across the country; the services offered include microfinancing, legal support, educational opportunities, community empowerment and water/sanitation assistance (   During her presentation, she shared photos and many success stories of these women.  Richa concluded by addressing the students with the following plea “Think about the people that make our clothing…keep these women in mind when you get jobs because each one of you can make a difference; you will be in decision making roles that could affect the lives workers all over the world.”


Spring for Hydration

While returning to NYC from Nevada, I had an amazing view of our Southwest topography.  Flying over 30,000 feet, I observed the curves of current flowing rivers and dried-up riverbeds and recalled a story that Cliff told us about the common occurrence of people getting lost in the desert, never finding water or the way out and dehydrating.  Viewing life from different levels, it’s clear to see that world society lives in both physical and nonphysical deserts, is in need of and deserves water and has infinite potential to imagine, inspire and create countless trail guides.




Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York



18 thoughts on “Trail Guides

  1. First off, great pictures! I knew Whole Foods Market was pretty good with the environment in terms of being “Green” but after clicking the link in “Paving the Way” I was really amazed with their global campaign “Whole Planet Foundation’s” mission to alleviate poverty through microcredit (which is providing grants to microfinance insitutions who in turn develop and offer microenterprise) loan programs, training and other financial serivces to the self-employed poor of Asia, South America, and Africa. After reading the stories featured on their homepage on how some of these people took out loans and essentially started up their own little businesses because of this program, I was really touched and impressed by Whole Food’s efforts. Whole Planet Foundation desires to give something back to those who have helped them succeed “while focusing on the persistent problem of world poverty and hunger”
    It is a noble effort to “ignite the tiny economic engines of the rejected underclass of society” because “Once a large number of tiny engines start working, the stage can be set for bigger things.” I applaud this grassroots strategy to help all these people.

  2. I attended the FIT’s Talking Trade @ FIT Guest Lecture Creating Sustainable Futures: Women’s Empowerment through the International Fashion Industry. The lecture taught me a lot about different ways firms, organizations, and individuals can support and help women to live better lives. According to Mary Ellen Iskenderian, the President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, some of the reasons why they focus especially on women are because women are poorer than men and seen as a more efficient way to alleviate poverty such as spending their money on educating their children, health care of their family, and housing. Therefore, it is more influential and even in a business perspective, the return assets are higher.
    I strongly agree with Sean Carasso’s statement, “Be a whistleblower for peace; now, in the present, the Individual has more power than any other time in history!” These days, individual is very strong, powerful, and influential. An individual can affect his or her friends, the community, the society, and the world. Today, we live in a globalized world. Everyday the world is getting smaller and smaller. Globalization can mean become a one big family. Therefore, I believe that each individual should care, support, and help each others to make a better world.

  3. Fashion industry has often been thought of as if it had nothing to do with such words like “sustainability.” Rather,it used to be associated with words like sweatshops and many people criticized the fast-changing and commercial nature of fashion for that. However it has been changing that assumption in a variety of different ways since many fashion businesses are now working at the center as the “whistle blower for peace”. And I strongly believe that this is the result from the power of individual and group of companies, which keep a strong belief in their infinite potential to impact and influence the world. Just like what Kip Tindell said, “Helping each other is only limited by our imaginations!”, we never knew that there would be so many ways that fashion could be involved in helping others. What this article impresses me the most is its metaphoric use between the “trail guides” and the efforts of both individual and corporations. Even though it seems like a small step that we take even to become more conscious and aspirational, we shouldn’t forget that it could be another step to create the trail guides for the people who deserve “water”.

  4. I think its great what companies are doing to give back now. This is a trend we have started to see and will continue to see much more frequently. As globalization expands/strengthens, the issues regarding sustainability/global sourcing too become a concern. And in all honesty, because there are SO many companies and initiatives implementing programs offering aid to struggling populations and economies now, the transparency of each is a very important factor (as Indego Africa & Whole Foods shows). Sean Carasso, Founder of Falling Whistles, statement regarding being a “whistleblower for peace; now, in the present, the Individual has more power than any other time in history!” is especially relevant as we see in the media these days. America has been able to market/brand certain issues in a way that we gain access and awareness; thus, are able to offer a voice to those who don’t have that privilege. I really admire companies like Whole Foods especially because they go to such great lengths to make sure their company, products, and programs give back to the world in several ways (directly and indirectly.) But again, I think as this becomes more prevalent, we must to ensure its effective and making the difference which was intended.

  5. I was really inspired by your article. Falling Whistles, in particular, caught my attention in regards to its cause. The story of the boys who have to sacrifice their lives is so sad. Sean Carasso is building a company that has people talking and taking action about the war in the Congo by donating and supporting the cause by purchasing the whistle as a newfound tool of peace.

    Whole Foods and The Container Store are two leading companies who participate in sustainability. Both strongly believe in the foundation setting the stage for their end product. The corporate culture and the companies’ mission and values are clearly positive toward a greener global market and are proud to stand by their core beliefs. They understand that the company needs to genuinely abide by these statements in order for the consumer to equally and effectively agree, resulting in a community that is bounded by these aspirations and attainable goals.

    The Women Empowerment lecture is in line with my interest in improving the lives of women from around the world. My internship with Same Sky had brought my awareness of this cause to great heights. Our company is very similar in our passion that drives our business as Indego Africa and BRAC by empowering Rwandan women. They are provided a fair wage from their beautifully handcrafted bracelets and necklaces that are sold online and in retail stores in the U.S. I think these two companies contribute to the empowerment of women equally.

  6. This article has been extremely insightful and inspiring. This is one of the best reading I’ve had in years! The companies featured have given me a great way to use my experience and education, I can’t wait to formulate my plan with the factories I worked with throughout the world.
    The companies featured are truly giving a voice to those who anonymously contribute to our lives on various levels. The efforts of Fallen Whistles is bringing awareness to a conflict that most are unaware of or have a sense of disconnect to. In fact the future of these children and the conflict in their country does effect us all. By bringing awareness they are also empowering the children and their families. Replacing education, enterprise and purpose to them helps to bridge the planet.
    I was also very impressed with the Whole Foods cooperative efforts. As a customer I was happy to know that the products they sell are being manufactured in a way that helps the people in the countries thrive. By providing education, care and a living wage they are able to help uplift their families.
    The Container Store has also built a work culture that promotes a healthy happy work environment as well as development of their personnel. We all know that the best work environment is one in which you are happy to go to work and gives you a sense of purpose.
    The Hand and Hand, Indego and BRAC truly illustrate the use of global sourcing, they each have empowered women throughout the world to build a strong network of fair trade. The product that is being manufactured is saleable throughout the world and opens the door for manufacturers to see the skill level and work ethic of these women.

  7. What a great post. What I get from these stories is the fact that there is something powerful about doing things that are bigger then ourselves. Helping and serving others so they can too have the things such as water, safety and jobs which we ourselves might take for granted. It’s inspiring to read how these large companies such as The Container Store and Whole Foods have a mission that is deeper then just profits. I also love what the CEO of The Container Store said, “Happy employees are productive employees; the true essence of the human spirit is to go to work with great people and accomplish wonderful things and one can feel it in the culture.”. In life I think all humanity wants to be apart of a bigger plan and story that impacts the world and helps others for the good. If working in a company that contributes to that cause is how we accomplish that inner desire then so be it. I’m all for these companies large or small, profit or non profit to reach out to humanity and give back.

  8. BRAC is a non-profit organization that provides women and men in third-world countries with the support to become self-reliant and fight against poverty. Some of BRAC’s programs include providing women with gender justice and diversity training, legal aid assistance, and health care centers, just to name a few. I believe that BRAC is a powerful non-profit organization that offers assistance to human beings in need. These programs provide sustainability to countries that are less fortunate because, without education or training programs, it can be extremely difficult to progress in life. Something that Americans may take for granted, such as schooling and health care, create a ripple effect for generations for come.

    I find this organization to be worthy of their causes and crucial for countries that are in desperate need of help. As a consumer it is crucial for us to investigate where our purchases are being made and if the workers who are making these items are being treated fairly. Without the support of the consumers, big organizations will continue to neglect the needs of third-world countries. From reading this article it made me realize how I can make a change as well when I enter the work force. Richa Agarwal stated: “Think about the people that make our clothing…keep these women in mind when you get jobs because each one of you can make a difference; you will be in decision making roles that could affect the lives of workers all over the world.” I connected with this quote and realized that as the upcoming generation entering the workforce, we will be the ones that can make changes.

  9. I always enjoy reading about companies who have taken on inspiring roles in their community or the world. I feel that while there are many self proclaimed “green” companies today because of the social sustainability trend, but it is nice to see that there are also many companies who are actually impacting and improving various causes throughout the world. Whole Foods I feel has a very strong program which I was unaware about, and I am proud to know that they are in over 50 countries and have active volunteer services. Likewise, The Container Store is also interesting because they support “Conscious Capitalism” and focus on their own corporate culture, which does projects throughout the year such as making Easter Baskets for children in the Child Protective Services. Kate Spade’s partnership with Women for Women International, Indego Africa and BRAC are also great examples of foundations whose sole focus is improving the lives and empowering women. I feel that the world needs more organizations like those mentioned above because much like the Indians who used to lead their ancestors to water, we too need to help out other humans while we are here on this planet because we have the resources to do so.

  10. I’m really glad I took five minutes out of my day to read this article. Specifically, I was very inspired by the Peaceful Paths segment. Sean’s quote at the end “Be a whistle-blower for peace; now, in the present, the Individual has more power than any other time in history!” holds so much truth to it. One person, with the use of social media as a form of social connectivity serves as an imminent power, and a voice for the voiceless. The perfect example is the Arab Spring uprising which originated as a Facebook group. The power of the individual voice, now, is more powerful than ever, and I for one am thrilled to be a part of it.

  11. As a previous employer of Kate Spade, I loved the “Hand in Hand” program they had to help the women victim of global wars in Africa. These women are given jobs by Kate Spade making everything from woven straw bags to beaded bracelets all hand-crafted. When clients would show interest in these products, I loved explaining to them the entire program and received positive feedback from the clients that purchased them as well. This was inspiring as well as informative for my interest in future programs I would like to help organize.

    It is of utmost importance that large corporations give back any way they can to local communities whether it is domestic or foreign. Not only does it help the communities, but it also gives a sense of purpose for the company to succeed in philanthropy. A company’s goal should not be to only make money but to also leave a lasting reputable impression by making a difference in the world.

  12. First and foremost, I am extremely glad that I took the time out to read the article. I was deeply touched by the “Falling Whistles” campaign, and then realized I have come across the campaign whistles in stores within New York City and never even bothered looking into the meaning behind it. I am so glad I have the chance to learn now.

    Giant, global companies make a great example when they give back. It gives a great incentive to the employees that work for these companies and the consumer who either shops within the store or the advocate who supports causes such as these.

    It is very empowering that Sean Carasso sends out the message of how important it is for one individual to speak up for what they believe in. One voice can usually be the voice of millions, as he used Facebook (social media) as a means of bringing together a society of ones who believe in peace in the congo.

    I cannot wait to read more of the articles that are attached to this subject and continue to educate myself about the good that comes out of some of the most largest and powerful companies within the retail market.

  13. This is a great essay that brings awareness to such important topics as sustainability and “Conscious Capitalism”. Being privileged to live in the US and never having to encounter so many devastating issues described above makes me both grateful and humbled but also guilty and saddened that life can be so hard and cruel for some. I am very glad to see that so many companies do a lot of work to help out those less fortunate and make the world a better place.

    I love the pictures as well and they reminded me of the the important issue of decreasing clean water supply. Although it wasn’t mentioned in this article, this issue remains a very serious concern for many people around the world. After watching the documentary “Tapped” I was so angry at all these bottled water companies and now every time I buy a bottle of water I think twice, and I try to do it as little as possible. Ever since seeing that movie I bought a filter and now I don’t need to buy as much bottled water, therefore I try not to contribute to polluting the waters of the world with the plastic even more than it already is and not to being a part of the bottled water scheme.

    Watching that movie and also hearing about many other incidents regarding pollution as well as the numbness of the big corporations to the issues of sustainability and poor living conditions in many countries left me with the feeling that all these companies are just money making machines that don’t care about anyone or anything else. This article is reassuring that there are many others who care, those who are not all about the money and profits at any costs. I believe there is a hope to save and preserve the world for our children and for their children and if other companies follow the examples of these wonderful people and the tremendous work they do, we will make the world a better place!

  14. I was pleasantly surprised these different companies have such a passion for sustainability and philanthropy. There are unspeakable horrors in conflict countries such as Bosnia and Afghanistan and Kate Spade reaching out to women with career opportunities will further establish a strong partnership between our countries but also revive and invigorate areas devastated by loss. Learning Whole Foods commitment to giving back to those in third world countries is so inspiring. Providing microcredits to help home based businesses in struggling communities ensures a long term progress in areas that would otherwise not see such opportunities. Kip Tindell, the CEO of The Container Store, captures rare idealism with his Foundation Principles to “treating employees, customers, and vendors with respect and dignity,” and the loyalty of millions along with it. Humanity is often overlooked when one starts a multi million dollar company but it’s reassuring to know that there are many corporations that use their positions of power to raise awareness and continue to pursue their global initiatives for a greener world and a promise of a better future.

  15. I think that it is nice that big companies like Whole Foods are doing these positive initiatives and setting the standards for the industry. On one part its business to them but they are also serious about the industry standards and regulations for quality products. In the recent issue of Inc magazine, there is a feature about Dr. Bronner’s soap and how they strive to have as much as possible of natural ingredients in their soap without compromising the quality. In the same article, Dr. Bronner’s president said that there are many “semi-fair” companies out there that put only just enough of natural and fair ingredients as required by weak industry standards. This practice poses a competitive disadvantage to companies like Dr. Bronner’s, who only strives to deliver best products to customers without cost-quality savings. Dr. Bronner’s soap voiced their issue to Whole Foods that ultimately mandated to their vendors that “they have to clean up their act within 12 months or they will be out of Whole Foods store”. I think that industry-wide practices like these are great for competition and for consumers. For competition it will be good in a way that it will promote the use of fair and quality ingredients, and that the marketing statements will now be backed-up with facts. For consumers it will be good in a way that the product will be quality because of the standards and the choice of goods will be more solid, because the tricky manufacturers will be forced to leave and potential deceit will have no way to happen.
    I also think that helping the vendors with micro credits and with capitals is a good idea, if it is backed-up with solid facts. But for most companies these practices and initiatives are mostly about marketing and spreading the word that they are “good and caring” about the environment. When I used to work for Macy’s, there was this “positive” initiative about helping one of the African (I think it was Ghana) communities with orders for woven baskets and vases with lids. This project was limited to small number of doors (less than 20) in the Eastern Division of Macy’s and average sales per door were 8-12 units per week. I think that for Macy’s this was more of a marketing move than a reason to help the needy community, because this initiative was widely “advertised” around Macy’s on all kinds of pamphlets and posters, and rarely on occasion in Macy’s circulars. In the end, a lot of the vases were put on for clearance at $8.00-$10.00 prices. I think that what Whole Foods is doing with the micro lending is much better because it offers funding for broader range of needy people (50 countries) and it has committed more than $26,000,000. Facts like these is what make the efforts worthy rather than a vague statement that says “we are a good company and we have some kind of positive initiative in the works, so please buy our products”. It’s good that even small companies contribute as much as they can even if it is a little, but motives play a big role behind the actions.
    I just did a follow-up on the Macy’s African baskets and they still have this initiative ongoing. It’s called Rwanda: Path to Peace. Currently they sell 1 type of 12-inch bowls in many variations for $46.00 (way overpriced). You can see it here*&Keyword=rwanda&KEYWORD_GO_BUTTON.x=0&KEYWORD_GO_BUTTON.y=0

  16. This post was really inspiring! I wish I was there to hear all of these people speak so whole heart-idly about what they stand for and believe in. In particular the Women’s Empowerment through the International Fashion Industry was most interesting to me. The Kate Spade hand in hand is such a nice way to help these women in need. They are very skilled and when you give them the opportunity to be employed. The educational give back is also awesome. This makes me want to get involved. I went to the website and saw that hand in hand created 400 jobs In the past year and are now expanding to Afghanistan to create even more!

    Your last sentence has changed my whole mindset for the day. I am going to think more positively and straighten out my goals for the long run so that one day I can be involved in a company that helps others.

    “Viewing life from different levels, it’s clear to see that world society lives in both physical and nonphysical deserts, is in need of and deserves water and has infinite potential to imagine, inspire and create countless trail guides.”

  17. The going green concept has been on my mind lately more so than ever. Not because it is Earth week, or because everyone claims to be green, but because there is so much going on in our environment that has made me think twice about my contribution to the disconnect that people exercise towards the earth. In my classes I have learned of ink rivers, made possible by companies that pollute the rivers with the die used to color their clothes. I often think of plastics which have contributed to a great deal of pollution because we demand more than can be recycled.
    I recently walked by H&M and noticed that they have joined the green movement. They have started to work with organic cotton. A move I praise because it means that the materials that they are using are contributing less to the environmental disparities that manufacturing companies create.

  18. After attending the seminar on Global Sustainable Design and Marketing, I learned that we could do a lot about the after used materials to make clothes. Also, after the panelists talked about Eco-efficiently/doing right things, writing about Eco Magazine, or talking about Red Carpet Green Dress, I learned that the global sustainability is an activity that we all should participate and support.

    The amazing thing that we did after the seminar was that we had a valuable chance to get together with the panelists to share our feelings and exchange our ideas. I also happened to give out my resume to two panelists and hope that they will have an opportunity to link me to the global sustainable market in the near future.

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