Behind the Label | Catrinka

Describe your brand.

Catrinka is bold, authentic, textile-inspired line of accessories that celebrates women?s work.


How did you start Catrinka?

I created Catrinka as a way to celebrate the beautiful work of women, and to leverage the power of women and girls to invest in each other. In 2012, after I had taken some time away from my previous career to spend with my children, I decided to marry my love of textiles, cultivated by living and working on four continents (and shopping them dry!), with a project to give back to the women who make them, and their daughters. We launched in 2013 with a collection inspired by the girls education film Girl Rising, and this year introduced our first collection from Mexico, as well as our first holiday capsule from Uzbekistan, and our first scarves, from Honduras. We are building long-term partnerships but also following the textiles wherever they lead.



Speak about your previous work experience.

I used to build power plants and airports for a living, so it?s quite a transition. But living and working on four continents ? including extended stays in India, Mexico, Honduras and Hong Kong ? provided me with the global inspiration and the local knowledge to be able to source and manage our production partnerships. It also helped me to see the power of women?s stories ? each one is unique, and yet we have so much in common. The world over, women work to provide a better life for their daughters, and that is how Catrinka works - every product employs a woman and educates a girl.


What are some of your endless inspirations?

The women weavers who create our extraordinary textiles endlessly inspire me. Each piece from the Mexican collection was woven by hand, by a woman sitting in her front yard on a backstrap loom. The exquisite ikat for our Fergana holiday capsule was made by dying threads ahead of time, and weaving them into complex and rich patterns. I am in awe of their work just as I am by the blankets woven by my grandmother, who was a master weaver in wool. I find endless inspiration in the places that I love. Bombay is a city of romance with a deep, soulful richness of color and culture - everything looks better when accessorized with marigolds! In Oaxaca, where I was married, indigenous traditions mixed with Spanish influence to produce glorious architecture, and a great variety of finely crafted folk arts that carry a rich meaning and soul, and the air often carries an aroma of gardenias. We included a tiny silver heart milagro in each of our Mexican bags to symbolize our gratitude to this region.


How does travel inspire your collection?

The collection would not exist without my travels. I have been lucky enough to visit more than 50 countries, from Kyrgyzstan to Cuba, and have traveled on everything from camels

to smoke-filled Chinese minibuses, from ferries down the Irrawaddy in Myanmar to one particularly memorable flight in the luggage storage area of a Yak-42 operated by Kyrgyz Airlines from Bishkek to Osh. Everywhere I have visited, I seek out the textiles, from the cheerful folk designs in wool and cotton to the richly detailed fine weaving and embroidery in silk and even water lotus. I soak in the colors, and the flowers, and always have to sample the fruit ? from Alphonso mangoes in India to longan in Thailand to the towers of raspberries in Central Asia. On one memorable drive through Trinidad, my taxi driver collected a mango from each stall we passed, and we stopped where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet to try them all. I am richer and more grateful for every experience I?ve had, especially the ones that have taken me the farthest.



Tell us about the process of working with women artisans.

Women artisans are central to what we do. In each country we?ve worked in, we use our global network to help identify the partners who meet our ethical criteria and have the skill and experience to produce one of our designs. We work with each group individually to identify the work they do best, and any areas that we need to design around. We are in constant contact as the product is sampled and then produced, and we work throughout to gather impact metrics and stories of the women involved in the project, so we can share them with our customers. While we have chosen some very challenging production environments, we have been fortunate to find such extraordinary partners all over the world ? we have been spoiled for choice.



Your collection continues to grow, what creative endeavors are on the horizon?

We are exploring new textile-based products, and finalizing our first weekender, and our new country capsule for 2015 from Myanmar. We are also working with the girls in our partner program in Guatemala to create a custom bracelet and hangtags to brand all of our bags. And now that we have offered a wide range of bag silhouettes and features, we are honing in on the ones that our customers love the most, to continue perfecting our offerings.


Can you speak about the social aspect of Catrinka. How has this evolved?

Catrinka is dedicated to leveraging the power of women and girls to pay it forward. Women invest twice as much of their income in their families as men. Educating a girl is the most effective way to reduce poverty because an educated girl will marry later, have fewer, healthier children, and increased economic opportunities for herself and her family. Every time you buy one of our products, you invest in a woman and in a girl who will invest in the next generation. This has always been our core mission, and we are working now on spreading the word. Please join us!


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