This week's Producer Spotlight features Proud Mary, a sustainable design company that partners with artisans from around the globe to incorporate their unique forms of artistry. By mixing traditional craftsmanship with a modern design aesthetic, Proud Mary's line of accessories and housewares are coveted throughout the country. We're excited to share our conversation with Harper Poe, founder of Proud Mary and one of Lydali's closest collaborators.
In which countries does Proud Mary work? How did you choose those countries?
We are working with artisans from Guatemala, Ivory Coast, Mali, Peru and Morocco. My goal is for Proud Mary to be a global exploration of textiles, working in countries with strong textile traditions.
What are some challenges Proud Mary faces as a company? How do you see Proud Mary growing in the next few years?
Production capacity is and will continue to be an issue. Most of our producing groups are quite small and can only produce so many units per season. That is why we have decided to grow out to include more groups/countries. This will continue to be an issue that us and most companies like us will have to manage. Finding willing artisans to train is becoming more and more difficult as the younger generation chooses other fields, not necessarily a bad thing as they are more educated and choosing more "professional" careers but this does pose an issue for global handcrafts. I would love to have a Proud Mary specific workshop in Morocco in the next 5 years to produce our shoes. Our shoes have become our biggest sellers and it would be amazing to have a space that the women could come to weave the raffia uppers, as they are currently working from their homes...
More people are jumping in the online retail world with a focus on global artisan goods and ethical clothing. What do you think about this growing trend? Are you concerned about a possible "bubble effect"?
When I started Proud Mary in 2008 there were not many companies working in global handcrafts. The industry has grown TREMENDOUSLY and as a whole I think it's a good thing and healthy competition. Companies cannot rest on the laurels of just being artisan-made and fair trade. There has to be the same design input as in fast fashion companies. As more companies are entering this industry I'm hoping that the bleeding heart stories will start to diminish. I agree that it's important to share the makers story but in a positive way, not to exploit.
As far as a bubble is concerned I think those companies that are focusing strongly on design and establishing a unique aesthetic will survive any "bubble"/"bubble bursting" scenario. I do think there are way too many curated online global artisan and ethical fashion platforms, the ones that require their vendors to drop ship. If you want to start a site to sell product I think you should purchase the product outright from the vendor.
Do you have any recent anecdotes or stories that you would like to share the Lydali community?
I just returned from any awesome trip visiting shoe makers in Morocco. We are training some new ladies to add to our production team and plan on doubling our team in the next year! In addition to Proud Mary shoes we are working with a few other brands to produce a line for them.
How about some advice for someone who wants to start their own business, like Proud Mary, but is afraid to jump in?
When starting any business my biggest piece of advice is to keep going. It's not easy and takes time to establish a strong brand. You just have to keep plugging away and have passion so the grind is fun!
Many thanks to Harper for sharing such insightful words! Lydali is proud to carry Proud Mary's design-driven creations. Check them out below!