Indigo, Niantic – A Purchase With a Purpose
by RONA MANN
Photos by Stephanie Sittnick
“The people who think they are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do.” …Steve Jobs
There’s been an awful lot of talk in the last few years about protecting our planet. About leaving it in better shape than we found it. About leaving a legacy of environmental sustainability for the next generation. And sometimes that’s all it is-talk-because well meaning people aren’t exactly sure what they can do to achieve this. But then along comes a business like Indigo and an owner like Tara Wyatt, and it all comes together in what appears to be the right direction, marching headlong toward a viable solution.
In a world where everything is connected, making responsible sourcing and buying decisions has catapulted itself to the forefront of conscious consumerism. The apparel industry in particular has a long and infamous history of labor abuse, particularly in factory settings. Low pay, long hours, poor working conditions, all contribute to high turnover, abject poverty, and an unusually high death rate among workers. Until recent years people were relatively unaware of this, then along came Fair Trade and Organic, Ethically Sourced goods, and it’s upon this that Tara Wyatt has chosen to hang her hat.
An admitted “real business person” with three active concerns in Niantic: Tumbleweeds, Indigo, and a digital marketing operation, Wyatt has always been on the cutting edge of whatever she chooses to do. And promoting and merchandising organic, ethically sourced goods has been her experience for the past 20 years.
Wyatt’s father was the original owner of Tumbleweeds, “a 1970s kind of store with everything from music to tapestries, clothing, and gifts.”Upon his death ten years ago Tara took the helm, hiring as her manager, Christa Weil, a woman with significant corporate retail experience. From the beginning, Christa was more than an employee…the two women seemed to create a certain kind of synergy that made them work well together. Not coincidentally, Tara had featured an organic clothing line from Nepal at Tumbleweeds, called Synergy. She and Christa often wore their clothes, garnering many compliments wherever they went. “On the way home from a trade show in 2013 we both started talking about opening a store that would strictly feature organic, ethically sourced items, but we desperately needed another space,” Wyatt said.
That took two years. In October 2015 Wyatt and Weil found exactly what they needed just a short distance down Main Street from Tumbleweeds. They did some remodeling to the existing space to suit their needs and proudly opened wide the doors to Indigo where they advertised “A purchase with a purpose.”
In less than a year, the local community has embraced Indigo, and new customers are becoming fans every day. “We have a lot of recurring business,” Christa boasts. “And the other merchants in town are so very supportive as well,” Tara adds.
Indigo is a brightly lit, well designed welcoming space where merchandise is not thrown together in a display, but showcased; so the eye is drawn to the clothing, the shoes, the bags, the jewelry; and most of all, to the purpose behind each designer’s contributions.
“People don’t realize that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world,” says Tara. The people with whom we work are actively doing something to change this; that’s why we’re so proud to partner with them.”
Those people include a Ugandan based company called Sseko which produces handbags, accessories, and leather sandals with interchangeable straps. It also produces college graduates, as it found a way to generate income for high potential women who wished to go on to a university and thus become educated. And it’s working. Dreams born out of poverty are now being realized, and valuable citizens are being made…all because someone somewhere in the world buys a product a Ugandan woman designed and made. Like the customers of Indigo. “The companies we work with give back,” Wyatt states proudly.
Successful at Tumbleweeds and now at Indigo is the aforementioned Synergy, a Nepal-based business that pays all their employees a living wage, offers bonuses, and thus gives a group of over 150 women an opportunity to work from home, rising above poverty while they support their families. Synergy’s clothing is strictly fashioned of Certified Organic Cotton and other eco-friendly fibers.
Christa and Tara love to show off the magnificent silk clothes made by Indie Ella. In India women only wear a sari once or face the prospect of being shunned. Rather than let such beautiful silk go to waste, Indie Ella upcycles the saris into one-of-a-kind dresses, blouses, shorts…all colorful, wearable, and delicious to the touch.
Ankara Goddess, which empowers women through sustainable and ethical practice, features handmade necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and bags. Tara and Christa are very particular with this and all their partners, demanding photos of factories where everything is made long before they accept their items into the shop.
Not everything at Indigo has been fashioned thousands of miles away. Local Connecticut artists and artisans are represented by Lisa Fatone, an artist who designs everything from antique chains and rock crystal to hand painted signs; Crunch Diva Designs with a line of jewelry not readily seen elsewhere; Groceries Apparel from Los Angeles with clothing for both men and women using non-toxic dyes, and the extremely popular all-organic facial and body products produced by With Love by Kate, made in small batches at the woman’s home and especially effective for those with sensitive skin.
Tara Wyatt named her shop Indigo and subtitles it “Threads With Integrity,” but it’s much more than just a shop. It’s a choice Wyatt made years ago to leave a legacy with every ethically sourced piece of apparel and jewelry displayed so that designers, producers, and customers can also do good in the world while wearing something beautiful, something wonderful, and something that makes you feel as good as you look. “Our customers never have to look at a label and wonder if it’s been made in a sweatshop.”
Crazy people indeed. They just might change the world.
Indigo is located at 413 Main Street in downtown Niantic (860) 691-1283
Their website, which features an online store open all year, may be found at: www.indigoniantic.com