An Inspiring Look at the Retailers Who Dare to Change the World Through the Art of Design
As those passionate about color and design, we love to find power in the potential of each new project. Because with each new project, the mission is to create something that matters. Whether aesthetically, functionally, emotionally, or otherwise, the difference we can make is a tangible one. We can sense the singular vibe created by a reimagined space or a new prized piece. We can sense the welcoming mood of a freshly applied coat of paint or the unique placement of much-loved heirlooms. And above all, we can create a feeling of comfort and ease with a space that will be truly loved. While that sense of well-being can almost always be achieved on the surface, to truly make a positive impact that goes beyond the boundaries of a current project, metropolitan area, and the entire nation, we need to go to the source. Where do our furnishings and accessories spring from? Where can we go to discover new inspiration? And how can we motivate others to bring more beauty to the world?
The Design in Color team has been curious about this, and we’ve discovered some socially and environmentally conscious companies that are diligently working to provide answers. We 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 endeavor to produce with purpose, and whose products can invigorate your next interior design project and enrich the lives of the people who take part in every aspect of the process. We have looked into each organization to find out more about what they do and why they do it. Their core mission statements leave 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 company’s name means the edge of a sari in Hindi, which is synonymous with protection and comfort in Indian culture. The scarves, quilts, pillow shams, and bags Anchal artisans produce are colorful and lovely—and they are made from hand-selected vintage materials, organic fibers, and low-impact dyes. The artisans themselves are from poverty-stricken areas where women often have no choice but to succumb to prostitution to support themselves and their families. Through Anchal’s mission, these women are given the skills and opportunities to escape 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 everywhere, and its work inspires us to lend our support. And with products so chic and striking, it’s easy to imagine Anchal adding 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 gorgeous 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, fitting many different design styles and supporting a noble cause all the while. The online fair-trade shop was begun by fashion designer and television personality Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla to improve the well-being of artisans in rural and disadvantaged communities in over 20 countries around the world.
Through their purchases, conscious shoppers can provide resources, the bulk of which involve enhancements to healthcare programs and easier access to education for both children and adults in these communities. The Little Market’s Amulya Uppalapati offered 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 drawn to 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 brighten an interior with their silent storytelling, but they will also support and boost the women and the communities from which they come.
There is a lavishness to each of the items offered by the Little Market, and much of that richness comes from the story that is told when an item is designed using eons of tradition and is crafted with care by hand. Machine-made counterparts can’t compare and can’t make nearly the positive impact that Little Market products hope 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 impress us, 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 melding 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, spurred by the realization that so many people around the world are underprivileged, suffering, and unable to do anything to change their circumstances. McNamara became a supporter of these disadvantaged people, determined to deliver hope and opportunities to the hardworking individuals she came to know 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 catch on, 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 main 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 becomes available. And training single mothers to produce fair-trade items for sustainable income exponentially improves 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 melded their love of the indigenous people and practices of Africa with their appreciation of fine heirloom items to bring their new home in the heart of Uganda into the homes of people around the world.
Why we love it: The pair’s primary motivation 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 tirelessly supporting themselves and their impoverished communities. More than that, the couple found a void in the global market for these unique handmade objects, and knew at their core that they could improve the lives of everyone touched by this project, if only they could get it launched.
And get it started they did. Rose & Fitzgerald is now operating out of a phenomenal studio space in bustling Kampala, Uganda, employing a team of full-time artisans on-site. These expert craftspeople imbue each of their finished objects with soul, and we can’t stop staring at Rose & Fitzgerald’s top-notch 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 dominate the R&F aesthetic, and they are as pure and simple as the company’s honorable aims.
Authentic is perhaps the word that best sums up the Rose & Fitzgerald brand. Each piece perfectly reflects the Ugandan landscape of its origin, all untouched grandeur and everlasting 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 minimal effort. Every Rose & Fitzgerald product wonderfully illustrates the key components 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 a multitude of useful products that are as extraordinary as the various vibrant cultures from which they spring. The essential element of these goods and the methods by which they are made is the same: quality. At their heart, these organizations seek to improve the quality of life and the quality of the fixtures and furnishings that surround us as we live it.
A Growing Trend
We love that living a life of purpose has become a promising 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 soothing, mindful palette uplifts with its unobtrusive 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 put on this list? Let us know in the comments!