I have a commitment problem with bags. I have lugged the same two ripped smelly bags for at least three years.
Then I met Jen Lewis of Purse & Clutch, and within two weeks I bid adieu to my two holey purse warriors, and traded them in for some shiny upgrades.
Jen was kind enough to answer a few questions about creating practical, ethical, affordable bags.
Tell me about Purse & Clutch!
Purse & Clutch is an ethical handbag and accessories boutique. We curate the most beautiful items we can find from artisan groups in developing countries with limited opportunities to help create sustainable jobs. We’re passionate about making Fair Trade and ethically made products super easy to access in the hopes that we can change the fashion industry as more and more people can choose to care how things are made.
What was most striking thing you have learned in creating Purse & Clutch?
I've learned (and am in the process of learning) that we have the power to create the kind of world we want to live in. I mean this both as a business owner creating my own job and managing my own workday as well as creating a world where we take responsibility for how the things we purchase are made and how it affects the person who made it.
When I first started Purse & Clutch, most things were reactionary. I would simply respond to who was reaching out to me with opportunities and I was waiting for something to happen instead of choosing what direction I wanted to take the business and what type of projects I wanted to spend my day doing.
Purse & Clutch gave me an inside look at the lives that can be transformed simply by choosing to care how things are made. I started out feeling really powerless because the problem seemed too big to make a dent in, but as I've seen the changes that happen in the lives of the artisans we work with, now I feel like I can really make a difference because of who I purchase from. I want to live in a world where people matter – and I believe that the companies I buy from can bring me closer or further to that desire.
What has been the most difficult day/part/experience you have had in starting your business?
I think the transition from working a full time job while I was getting P&C off the ground to doing P&C full time was pretty difficult. Lack of finances aside, going from a traditional work environment to one where it’s just you and the success and failures of the company are your own personal successes and failures was tough. It’s a ton of hustling and you don’t see many results very quickly. For me, there was also this identity piece that I struggled with – I had a hard time identifying as a business owner because the business owners I’d met in the past had been typically men in their mid 40s running huge companies. Now, I’m so grateful to have a really amazing community of women start-up business owners in my life.
I think as small as it may sound, having someone I had never met tell me they’d heard of Purse & Clutch upon introduction. It made me feel like my hard work was paying off!
How has this endeavor changed the way you consume?
In almost every way! I do research on brands before I make a purchase and I buy nicer quality items that will last longer in an attempt to slow down the fashion cycle. Most of my clothing purchases are from second hand stores and I’m much more thoughtful on styles I buy that I know will fit with other items in my wardrobe.
Why do you care about conscious apparel?
Just because I can’t directly see what goes into making what I buy doesn't mean that I’m not responsible for the lives that it affects. I take that responsibility very seriously.
Show me your favorite “Purse & Clutch” pick!
It’s so hard to choose!! I’m currently loving the Black Crossbody made from seriously THE softest leather I've ever felt. And I love that it has a detachable strap to convert it from a clutch to a purse!
I bought this bag, and I am IN LOVE. The leather is so insanely soft, that I was scared it would scratch easily. So, I put it to the test! I traipsed around some vineyards (vine nubs) this weekend and not a scratch in sight!
My roommate said it best, "Did the cow that made this bag live in a spa?!"
Bags: Purse & Clutch
Vineyard Dress: Synergy
Gold Necklace: Olive
Black Necklace: Iacoli & Mcallister
Jeans: Old Navy
Grey Sweater: Madewell
Black Shoes: Aerosoles
Learn more about Purse & Clutch here