We are proud to have a mini-interview with Harper Poe (middle), cofounder of the recently launched Proud Mary. Harper and I met a few years ago volunteering for Stoked Mentoring with the program days and behind the scenes on marketing and graphics projects. She recently got hitched and moved down South and NYC misses her.
Proud Mary partners with local weavers from Guatemala as the artisans for the three distinct regional fabrics of their first release of accessories. They also partner with Nest, a microfinance not-for-profit that helps women build sustainable local jobs and partnerships in other countries. Below are examples (L to R) of the Diamante, Raya and El Sol fabrics in a few of their product types. Check out Proud Mary and see more and learn about promoting social responsibility through design.
Who is involved in Proud Mary and how did you meet?
Proud Mary is Harper Poe and Molly Purnell. Molly and I met through mutual friends while living in Brooklyn in 2006. I had just returned from a Habitat for Humanity build in Chile where I fell in love with the Latin American people and textiles. I wanted to find a way to combine these new loves into a business. Luckily Molly had the same dreams so after 6 months of “meetings” we had a business plan.
Why South America? Will you branch out into other continents and their regional styles?
We enlisted the help of Nest, a non-profit that works with women artisans in developing countries to source out the production of our fabrics and products. After seeing our designs it was clear that Guatemala would be a perfect fit for our first line. Guatemala has an amazing pool of talented weavers and since we both know some Spanish we thought it would be a good place to start.
We definitely want to branch out to other countries; we would love to work with potato printing in Africa and Alpaca in Bolivia and Peru.
How do you balance being both profitable and socially responsible?
In this economic culture less people are buying and when they do buy they are being much more selective. It’s important for new businesses to move forward in a more conscious way because the market has really become more aware of production methods and materials used. Our goal is to provide consistent work and income for all of the artisans with whom we work but to also be a sustainable, profitable business.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Unlike screen printing, weaving has limitations. I think our biggest challenge has been learning the technical aspects of weaving and how to design within those parameters. Limiting may be the wrong term because once the design is worked out we realize it’s exactly how it should be.
Which of Proud Mary’s goals are you most proud of achieving or look forward to achieving?
I think we’re most proud of actually getting to this point. We made a vow at the beginning of this process that we would keep going no matter how slow we were moving or how many obstacles we came across until our “doors” were open. We’re looking forward to working with more artisans and strengthening the relationships with our current weavers and sewers.