Being confined to our spaces like never before has shed light on every facet of our homes: the look, the function, the comforts— and with renewed potency, the intentions behind the items we live with. While consumer activism gained fresh credence in 2020, a rising tide of young design brands have been defining a new model of ethical production at scale for years.
Unable to find fine, handmade rugs that aligned with their value set, Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst founded Armadillo with community enrichment and fair- trade practices as key DNA pillars. Not a decade into business, the duo established The Armadillo Foundation, which supports free medical clinics and funds an elementary school in their weaver village in India. “We have a team on the ground and our artisans know that if they have a financial or medical need, they can come to us,” says Fried.
For Los Angeles-based Block Shop, kinship was a similarly integral principal. Helmed by sisters Hopie and Lily Stockman, the cult favorite design studio was born on relationships Lily had developed with a family of next-generation block printers while studying overseas. Recognizing kindred spirits in these artistic entrepreneurs, the sisters hatched plans for a graphic block print brand whose success champions wages two to three times higher than the national average and dedicates 5% of proceeds toward health care initiatives in the Jaipur artisan community. “A familial sense of decency has always been our core ethos,” says Hopie.
Like the Stockman sisters, Christina Bryant too found the spark for St. Frank, her luxury home goods brand, while abroad. Living in rural Rwanda, Bryant became enamored with the exquisite Agaseke baskets made in her village. So spurred a business model that works with artisans in under-resourced communities to design and produce product lines. (To date, St. Frank supports jobs in more than two dozen countries.) “We showcase traditional craft as art form,” says Bryant, adding that her Oaxacan embroidered tablecloths take four women an entire month to create. “Our model is the opposite of exploitative. We make a premium product that the handiwork deserves.”
As with anything shown affection, the impact is palpable. Notes Hopie, “When human care and thoughtfulness flow from creator to object, you sense that intention when you hold it in your hand.”