Socially conscious lifestyle brand Proud Mary focuses on the mantra “Pride not Pity.” After volunteering in South America for Habitat for Humanity, owner Harper Poe was moved to create positive impact in indigenous communities through design. Proud Mary is the brainchild of Harper’s deep love of textiles and desire to support and strengthen local artisans and their communities.
Although Proud Mary offers aid to indigenous communities, Harper tells Ecouterre that the word “aid” does not mean handouts, but aid through providing fair wages and greater market access for Proud Mary’s artisan partners. “It’s always been important to one, keep the conversation positive, no sob stories here, two, be honest about our impact, and three, never leave a producing group high and dry.”
When asked how Proud Mary has maintained the bridge between a successful business and spurring economic growth in the communities Proud Mary works with, Harper admits to the difficult road requiring some major strategic business planning. “Because of this, we rely on volume. Reaching the higher volume orders has taken time but it’s so important to be to be structured in this way because regardless of whether we sell a product online or wholesale, our artisans get paid the same.”
Proud Mary found local communities to work with through various non-profits. Nest, a micro-finance organization that benefits female owned craft, believed in Proud Mary’s vision and connected Harper to communities in Guatemala. From there, Proud Mary expanded to Africa through the West African Trade Hub. Gradual expansion has led to Proud Mary working in Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Mali, Morocco, and the Ivory Coast.
Harper admits that creating products practical for her customers while simultaneously preserving and maintaining the art of the communities creating Proud Mary products can be difficult. “This is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Some people think that altering artisans’ traditional craft is destroying it. My experience is that these artisans are artists and they prefer to learn and grow their art and their craft.”
Harper dreams of further expansion to other regions of the world including Asia, developing a line a bedding in India, and expanding the existing Proud Mary clothing line.