Proud Mary: Beautiful, Handmade Textiles that Give Back

This summer, I discovered a super cool company that not only creates beautiful handcrafted textiles, but also takes great measures to make sure that this beauty extends all the way back through its supply chain as well. Charleston based, socially-conscious Proud Mary makes gorgeous, brightly colored textiles: pillows, clutches, bags, napkins and more...In 2008, founder Harper Poe returned from a Habitat for Humanity project in South America and was determined to create a sustainable design business that would create social change by empowering artisans living in poverty. To this end, Proud Mary partners with artisans, mostly women, in Guatemala and South Africa to produce their unique collections.

Many if not all of these artisans live in impoverished communities where the economic opportunities are extremely limited. For this latest collection, Proud Mary worked with three weaving cooperatives and two sewing workshops and provided critical, sustainable income and access to market for the women who work there. Proud Mary's business model also allows long-lived traditional weaving practices that might have otherwise disappeared to continue to thrive within these partner communities.

According to Harper, "All of the artisans are paid at least double minimum wage for their work (a fair, living wage) and the women will usually set their own pricing, per yard or per piece sewn." The prices are high-end, but reflect the fine quality and lengthy production time behind each piece. (Everything is 100% handmade and many of the fabrics are quite time consuming to produce.) In addition to running her nonprofit, Harper also writes a fantastic blog called Lloso which publishes her thoughts about fashion, art, design, crafts, textiles, travel, international development, women's issues, and Proud Mary happenings.

I originally discovered Proud Mary through the socially-conscious flash sale site Pure Citizen -- a great site for fashionable, ethically sourced clothing, jewelry, home accessories and more. I bought the Diamante Tote on sale and frequently get compliments on its unique fabric and soft leather straps. I love to tell the story about where it came from, the social impact of the great company that brought it to market, and the story behind the weavers who made it by hand. Right now I'm eyeing the Quill pillow for my sofa. Not cheap, but I have a feeling that if and when I pull the trigger, I will feel quite proud about where the money went.

Images: via Proud Mary

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