An Inspiring Look at the Retailers Who Dare to Change the World Through the Art of Design
As those ardent about color and design, we discover power in the possibility of every new project. Because with each new project, the aim is to have an impact. Whether aesthetically, functionally, emotionally, or otherwise, the difference we can make is a tangible one. We can feel the noticeable vibe created by a reimagined space or a new prized piece. We can sense the friendly feeling of a fresh coat of paint or the innovative arrangement of cherished heirlooms. And above all, we can create an atmosphere of familiarity and ease with a space that will be truly embraced. While that sense of well-being can often be achieved on the surface, to truly make a positive impact that exceeds the boundaries of a current project, metropolitan area, and the entire nation, we need to discover the source. Where do our furnishings and accessories come from? Where can we go to detect new inspiration? And how can we inspire others to bring more elegance to the world?
The Design in Color team has asked these important questions, and we’ve discovered some socially and environmentally conscious companies that are working hard to give answers. We firmly believe that the spirit and power of design can extend around the world and bring artisans, families, and even entire colorful cultures together. So we’re showcasing a few companies that try to produce with purpose, and whose products can enliven your next interior design project and enrich the lives of the people who take part in every part of the process. We have looked into each organization to find out more about what they do and why they do it. Their all-important mission statements find us inspired and anxious to learn more about our part in the conscious-consumer movement.
Where they’re located: Louisville, Kentucky, with partner Vatsalya, in Ajmer, India.
What they do: Eco-friendly and artisan-made home goods and accessories.
Why they do it: Anchal creates employment opportunities in the textiles and design industries for exploited women worldwide.
Why we love it: The name means the edge of a sari in Hindi, which is synonymous with protection and well-being in Indian culture. The scarves, quilts, pillow shams, and bags Anchal artisans produce are vibrant and beautiful—and they are made from hand-selected vintage materials, organic fibers, and low-impact dyes. The artisans themselves come from impoverished areas where women frequently are left with no choice but to resort to prostitution to provide for themselves and their families. Through Anchal’s mission, these women are given the skills and opportunities to break out of that vicious cycle and establish themselves as makers of first-rate goods, starting their families on a path to a better life.
“The journey of Anchal’s designs has been heavily influenced by its artisans,” said Maggie Clines, Anchal’s creative director. “Joining the program with limited to no skills, each artisan has improved over years of work, allowing Anchal’s product offering to expand and diversify. Anchal’s current collections offer a socially conscious alternative in both home décor and personal accessories.”
We love that Anchal has made a commitment to empowering women the world over, and its endeavors inspire us to lend our support. And with products so chic and striking, it’s not a stretch to imagine Anchal helping us add an accent of global color to our next project (or our next outfit)!
We asked Clines to tell us about the nonprofit’s color story, and we love her response: “Working with vintage sari material provides an ever-changing color experience. Anchal strives to provide a variety of color offerings, ranging from the Living in Color collection that enhances the subtle patterns by overdyeing the material with dyes like indigo and fuchsia to the traditional collections that showcase every intricate sari design. Anchal’s Narrative Collection works to create a restrained alternative, focusing on the craft, patterning, and the individual stitch. India is synonymous with color—Anchal believes in finding adventure within each color.”
This sounds like an adventure in which we’d like to take part. If you feel the same, you can find out more about volunteering at Anchal or its sister company, dyeScape, in Louisville, Kentucky. Shop Anchal’s breathtaking products online and discover more about the techniques used to make them.
The Little Market
Where they’re located: Santa Monica, California.
What they do: Fair-trade and artisan-made home décor, accessories, candles, and baskets.
Why they do it: By showcasing traditional skills and the unique cultural influences of its many international partners, the Little Market enriches its artisans’ communities through education, business training, and health programs.
Why we love it: There is something for everyone at the Little Market, and the online platform makes it a snap to find one-of-a-kind items from all over the world, suiting an assortment of design styles and lending support to a worthwhile cause all the while. The online fair-trade shop was founded by fashion designer and television personality Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla to better the lives of artisans in rural and disadvantaged communities in over 20 countries around the world.
Through their purchases, conscious buyers are able to provide resources, many of which involve enhancements to healthcare programs and easier access to education for children and adults in these communities. The Little Market’s Amulya Uppalapati shared with us one of the many reasons to shop fair trade: “Our collective efforts generate meaningful opportunities that change lives and transform communities worldwide.”
Of the wide variety of artisan-made products offered by the Little Market, we are particularly fond of the Mayan-influenced pieces, with their bright colors and vivid patterns. Using discarded huipils (pronounced wee-peels), which are traditional Guatemalan blouses, and cortes (Mayan skirts), artisans create beautiful bags and pillows that are as unique as the Mayan women who painstakingly create each one. The fabrics are strong and tough, and the detailed patterns are the result of memorizing complex designs and passing down long-standing traditions.
According to Uppalapati, “Artisans tell stories by weaving patterns into cloth that have great significance for the Mayan culture; the patterns represent the weaver’s heritage, marital status, religion, personality, and the village she is from.” Not only will these pieces liven an interior with their silent storytelling, but they will also aid and lift up the women and the communities from which they come.
There is a sumptuousness to each of the items offered by the Little Market, and much of that richness comes from the message that is revealed when an item is designed using eons of tradition and is expertly crafted by hand. Machine-made versions can’t compare and are unable to make nearly the positive impact that Little Market products try to make. The positive change that they’ve affected across the continents shows that their trade practices are better than fair—they’re making a real difference.
To find out about the Little Market’s Design Trade Program, click here.
Where they’re located: Launched in Kenya, expanded across East Africa, Central America, and North America.
What they do: Artisan-made home goods, jewelry, and accessories.
Why they do it: BADALA provides opportunities and employment programs for women around the world who are eager for the chance to change their circumstances.
Why we love it: The jewelry alone is enough to take our breath away, but the success of founder Joelle McNamara’s passionate mission has led to expansion into the realm of elegant housewares. We adore BADALA’s kitchenware, made from locally sourced olive wood, and its gorgeous hand-woven baskets, all of which celebrate the combination of simple design and exotic materials. It’s astounding to see such simplistic, refined products that were born of such a fiery passion to lend a hand to those in need.
McNamara established BADALA as a fundraising opportunity when she was still a high school student, driven by the realization that so many people around the world are underprivileged, suffering, and unable to do much to change their circumstances. McNamara became an advocate for these disadvantaged people, determined to bring hope and opportunities to the hardworking individuals she encountered when she traveled to Africa for the first time, in 2008.
There, she witnessed the depth of the desperation brought about by extreme poverty, and she made friends with children and women who had neither homes nor meaningful sources of income. In order to help lift these people out of the depths of poverty, McNamara’s mission had to gain momentum, and as the product offerings grew, so did the number of artisans and families that were able to benefit from BADALA’s endeavors. McNamara’s chief aim is to improve the quality and extent of education in impoverished regions of Africa. She cited studies that have shown marked downturns in poverty and disease rates when better education is introduced. And training single mothers to create fair-trade items for sustainable income exponentially betters their circumstances and the circumstances of their children.
You can shop BADALA’s products or make a donation.
Rose & Fitzgerald
Where they’re located: Kampala, Uganda.
What they do: Artisan-made kitchenware and barware, chairs, and home décor.
Why they do it: Husband-and-wife cofounders and California natives Courtney and Laren Poole joined their love of the indigenous people and practices of Africa with their appreciation of fine heirloom items to bring their new home in the middle of Uganda into the homes of people around the world.
Why we love it: The pair’s driving force is a powerful combination of humanitarian activism and high-end design sensibilities. “The brand endeavors to preserve traditions and create unexpected, beautiful pieces [by] mixing age-old craft with a simplistic, contemporary aesthetic,” Courtney told us. “Each piece in Rose & Fitzgerald’s collection is designed for those who find value in the imperfections of the creator’s hand.”
Both Courtney and Laren recognized a need to champion working with indigenous materials and to sustain the integrity of the Ugandan workers religiously supporting themselves and their impoverished communities. More than that, the couple found a void in the global market for these unusual handmade objects, and knew at their core that they could improve the lives of everyone influenced by this project, if only they could get it started.
And get it started they did. Rose & Fitzgerald is now operating out of a stunning studio space in bustling Kampala, Uganda, employing a team of full-time artisans on-site. These expert craftspeople enliven each of their finished objects with soul, and we can’t stop staring at Rose & Fitzgerald’s extensive collection of brass, wood, and Ankole-horn products for the home. Ancient techniques get the modern-design treatment in Rose & Fitzgerald’s line of housewares and in its stylish jewelry offerings, too. Geometric shapes, pristine lines, and a black, brown, ivory, white, and gold palette command the R&F aesthetic, and they are as pure and simple as the company’s honorable aims.
Authentic is perhaps the word that best summarizes the Rose & Fitzgerald brand. Each piece is a perfect reflection of the Ugandan landscape of its origin, all untouched grandeur and eternal beauty. Courtney spoke of what the design process within their unique community is like: “Designing goods that these artisans so intimately create lends itself to a natural collaboration; their own personal style and methods merge with our more contemporary designs, and when they bring the pieces to life with their handicraft, it results in products even better than we could have imagined.” And the simple designs and neutral color palettes used in the brand’s goods accomplish so much visually with so little effort. Every Rose & Fitzgerald product wonderfully represents the key elements of the couple’s new life in Africa: a life with nature, adventure, and exploration at its core.
Shop the collections and learn more about Rose & Fitzgerald’s beautiful story.
These four retailers are doing their part to close the distance between their artisans and customers by designing an array of pragmatic products that are as extraordinary as the various vibrant cultures from which they spring. The crucial element of these goods and the methods by which they are crafted is the same: quality. At their heart, these organizations seek to improve the quality of life and the quality of the fixtures and furnishings surrounding us as we live it.
A Growing Trend
We love that living a life of purpose has become a burgeoning trend, and these retailers aren’t the only ones aiming to make a difference. Pratt & Lambert offers yet another way to bring intentional living into the home, with its, aptly named Purpose color-trend story. This serene, mindful palette uplifts with its quiet coolness and refreshing optimism, inspired as it is by all things handmade, artisanal, and grounded. Check out the colors, and the story behind them, here.
In the meantime, what other ethical or fair-trade home-goods companies would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!