In case you haven’t noticed, the arts and crafts movement is big, HUGE, right now. Attention to how things are made combined with a passion for traditional crafts and artisan techniques was the inspiration behind Proud Mary, a socially conscious textile and design company. The brainchild of Harper Poe, Proud Mary works with global textile artisans to create "ethnic-modern" home, personal accessories, and wearables. Artisans receive a fair wage for their work and the company is committed to creating long-lasting, sustainable relationships with these talented men and women.
This is our first season working with the brand; for summer we stocked the brand’s signature raffia shoes, in addition to some of their woven accessories. I was able to catch Harper between trips to Moroccan to find out a little more about the incredible work that she’s doing.
What was your inspiration for starting a socially conscious brand?
I started Proud Mary after doing volunteer work in South America. I fell in love with the traditional textiles there and returned wanting to combine my love for textiles and design with my desire to come up with practical economic development projects. I also love to travel and I knew that to be satisfied, I had to incorporate that into my work life.
Customers are in love with your raffia shoes. Can you tell me a little more about the design?
The uppers (raffia parts) are woven by women in their homes (in Morocco). The soles are done by a cobbler in Marrakech. The design is based off a traditional Moroccan babouche shape. We have altered the shape, though, taking out the drastic point to make them more wearable and more comfortable.
How many artisans to you work with?
10 or so women in Marrakech weave the raffia uppers and a small team of cobblers apply the soles.
You’re based in Charleston, SC, so how does this collaboration work?
I have a dear friend that acts as our facilitator in Morocco. I will work with her sampling new shapes and color combinations and then she manages the daily production of the shoes.
What are some of the challenges, if any, that you've encountered since launching your business?
The biggest challenge is capacity. It takes one woman one day to weave the raffia upper for one shoe. As of now, we have 8-12 women that are working with us and keeping up with demand has been difficult!