Purse & Clutch is an Austin based Fair Trade Handbag Boutique that partners with artisans around the world who create their products with an emphasis on craft & quality. Purse & Clutch is committed to a set of ethical principles. Their artisans are treated with respect and are paid a living wage for their region.
ADORABLE – All of their handbags are made of high quality, handmade organic fabrics & recycled materials when possible.
AFFORDABLE – Everything in their shop is under $150.
RESPONSIBLE – On average, every $200 spent in their shop employs an artisan full time for a month!
We are so happy to have Jen Lewis on the blog today to answer some questions about Purse & Clutch! Thank you for joining us today.
Tell us how Purse & Clutch was born.
About 4 years ago, I was working at a local non-profit trying to create sustainable jobs for the homeless community of Austin. I kept wanting to make the “non-profit” model fit into my business brain. And it just didn’t. I had the mindset that to help others with my vocation, it had to be non-profit work.
At the same time, a good friend of mine from grad school had just moved to India and told me about the organization she was working with that was creating jobs for talented artisans groups by designing and creating textiles and women’s accessories and selling them in the States. The business side really drew me in – I loved the idea that I could use the way my brain naturally worked to help connect resources with needs.
I asked how I could help and she said she would send me a box of handbags for me to sell online since they didn’t have anyone selling online at the time. I figured that if it didn’t go well, at least my $500 investment was going towards a good cause!
I snagged a website and a name and was up and running in a few months when the first shipment arrived. And then I proceeded to frantically read every article I could find online on how to run an e-commerce business!
I quickly realized that there was a niche for my product – that people did want to shop ethically and didn’t want to sacrifice their personal sense of style to do so. At the time, the term “fair trade fashion” didn’t really exist! There was either Fair Trade or Fashion.
As I learned more about supply chains management, I realized that I needed to carry more than just products from one artisan group both to offer more variety to shoppers and to make sure that I had products in stock even if a shipment was delayed in route from India.
Now, we’re currently working with about 10 artisan groups from all over the world and work to curate seasonal collections of handbags that are set apart by their sense of design. We carry hand woven cotton that is block printed by hand and stitched together at a center for abused women in India, raw organically tanned goal leather bags from Afghanistan that are designed in Germany, and recycled Mayan blouses repurposed into stunning clutches from Guatemala to name a few.
How do you locate artisans to work with that meet your company’s set of ethical principles?
We always work with existing artisan groups, usually that are under the umbrella of an organization that can guarantee that our set of ethical principles are being met. Some are larger Fair Trade Certified groups while others are a small wing of developmental Non-Profit groups with a heart for sustainable development. I have a robust network here in Austin of travelers who are always looking to connect P&C with new artisan groups they discover who are doing good work.
What drew you to selling purses over other wares?
My initial reason to sell handbags was that it feels like more of a necessity to me than other things that many artisan groups have the existing skillset to make. While an extra throw pillow or table runner may be lovely, I know I’m always going to want something to carry my wallet & keys around in everyday!
What are your long term goals for Purse & Clutch?
We’ve actually just launched a new Ethical Style Ambassador program to get more people involved in telling the stories of the fair side of fashion! We’re looking to add 2 – 3 part time, flexible people to the team in the Austin and Denver areas. This program came out of our Apprenticeship Program that I facilitate twice a year and I hope to continue to empower Apprentices to create a job for themselves at Purse & Clutch.
Our reallllly long term vision for Purse & Clutch is to change the culture around fast fashion and to eradicate the use of sweatshops entirely!
What is your favorite styling tip?
This summer I’m obsessed with mixing neutrals with tons of textural details. Think interesting pleats, loose knits, and embroidered hems in a similar color story. Having 4 or 5 pieces that you absolutely love that can be interchanged makes getting ready in the morning so easy!
We are so glad to have you here today Jen! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
We are super excited to be giving away this Indigo Clutch from Purse & Clutch’s newest line! We think it adds a geometric pop of interest to any outfit.
Please enter to win the Indigo Clutch by using the giveaway interface below. You can enter once a day with the Facebook and Twitter entry options, so come back and enter again to raise your chances of winning! Contest ends at Midnight CST on Sunday, July 26th. Good luck!
Giveaway ends July 26th at 11:59 PM CST. Open to Residents of the US only. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. Our opinions are our own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to thinkliz.com and thinkliz.com alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.