For me, Proud Mary is just one of those brands.
One of those brands that you come across and say yes, that's exactly it. That's exactly how it's supposed to be. The colors are right, the product is right, the styling is right. It's all exactly, exactly right.
I've said this before about a handful of other brands and I'll probably say it again, but that's how I felt when I first came across Proud Mary – that if I was going to start a line, this is what I would want it to look like.
Southern gal Harper Poe of Charleston, South Carolina is behind Proud Mary – a line of homeware, clothing, and accessories that flawlessly combines modern design with products like pillows, shoes, and bags – all of which are made using traditional methods of production.
Harper, sweet gal that she is, agreed to take me Behind The Scenes where she explained the process of building Proud Mary – a line that values ethical production methods as much as it values design.
You began working with artisans in the developing world in 2008. What made you want to start Proud Mary?
HARPER POE: I went to school to study Construction Management because I wanted to build houses (Editors Note: Um, awesome) and textile design is something I stumbled into because it could facilitate me working in the developing world.
After traveling, I realized that sourcing traditional craft (which is my thing) that focused on textiles would be the perfect way to fuse my passions for travel, international development, and design. Eventually, Proud Mary was born.
What does Proud Mary's message of "pride not pity" mean to you?
HP: I want Proud Mary to be a source of sustainable income for our artisan partners. Giving hand outs and accepting subpar work doesn’t do anyone any good. Demanding quality goods, on time, in exchange for fair wages and access to greater markets creates sustainable income for our partners.
I imagine your work with Proud Mary involves periods of travel, followed by periods of time at home. What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
HP: The balance of travel to being home in Charleston works really well for me. I get antsy if I’m not moving around, so as soon as I feel that way, it’s usually time to go again. The travel, discovering new cultures, and meeting people is the best part of the job. I love the relationships I’ve formed with our artisan partners and colleagues along the way.
Let's talk Charleston. Have you always lived there?
HP: Yes – I'm very lucky to live in this charming little city! I moved here 6.5 years ago after stints in New York, Los Angeles, Colorado, France, and Costa Rica. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, though, so the South is in my blood.
You’ve recently began working with some big retail partners – specficially Urban Outfitters and Madewell. Landing a partnership like this would be a dream for many young brands. Do you have any inspiring words for upcoming designers?
HP: Have a unique and authentic voice. Stick to what you do and do it well.
What's one thing you want people to walk away knowing about Proud Mary?
HP: That we collaborate with global artisans to create our lifestyle products and provide impact through job creation.
And just for fun...
What's one book everyone should read?
HP: The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
If you weren't living in Charleston, where would you live?
HP: Mexico City