By Carolyn Tamler
Fair Trade Outfitters. located in the heart of downtown Langley at 112 Anthes, offers a wide selection of “fair trade” women’s clothing and accessories. Store owners, Barry and Lilly van Gerbig, believe “We need to be more connected to what we buy.” “Fair Trade” means the products are made by workers who have jobs with reasonable hours, receive fair, “living wages” and work in clean, safe environments.
Barry says, "The companies that we do business with are often organically connected to the village and people where they are located, which means they invest profits back into the community to help start clinics, subsidize childhood education, and organize "micro-loans" to further strengthen and build struggling communities and economies."
Barry was born in Florida and grew up in Vermont, but his mom has lived on Whidbey Island for more than 18 years. Lilly grew up in New Orleans and met Barry on a blind date in Florida where they were married in 1996. Several visits to Whidbey over the ensuing years to visit Barry’s mom convinced them that this is where they wanted to live.
IN 2000 they created Govango, a wholesale line of women’s printed resort clothing that was sold to boutique stores on the East coast, from the Bahamas to Maine. It featured Barry’s whimsical, tropical-themed artwork. By 2008 they had licensed their names (Lilly & Van) to a line that was to sell on QVC for 2 years.
With each visit to Whidbey, they stayed longer and developed a stronger feeling of wanting to live here. Nearly four years ago, they moved to the island where each did a series of jobs. Barry sold his art and apparel print designs, while Lilly worked for the Chocolate Flower Farm and the Star Store.
In March of 2015, after attending the Whidbey Institute's "Thriving Communities" weekend and participating in a WILL (Whidbey Island Local Lending) Mash-up, they got feedback that a fair trade clothing store would do well on South Whidbey.
A short time later they saw that the former Joe’s Music location in Langley was for rent. They met the new owners and realized it was a great match. Barry comments, “The new landlords, Sarah and Thomas, went above and beyond to get as much done as they could to get the space ready for the summer season.”
In addition to their extensive line of fair trade women’s clothing, accessories & gifts, the store displays some of Barry’s whimsical artwork. Besides his life as a clothing wholesaler, Barry was a behavioral specialist working with children. Out of this work came a series of paintings for children and the young at heart, which he still continues to create in addition to running the store.
Fair Trade Outfitters is open Sunday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check out Fair Trade Outfitters on Facebook.