We had the good fortune of connecting with Jen Lewis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jen, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
This summer, I read Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking & was inspired to reach out to the Purse & Clutch community. I took a deep breath & rather timidly shared in a newsletter how a few months prior I made a big donation to a national non-profit. In exchange we were allowed to sell our Embossed Leather Wristlets through their site for an upcoming event they were hosting. They promised lots of marketing & brand awareness and it seemed like a great opportunity. We ramped up production of our adorable wristlets just for them … and barely got any additional website traffic much less sales from the partnership. Then I said, “This feels really vulnerable, but I’m asking for your help” and I proceeded to ask our community to buy a Wristlet at a discount to help us offset the costs & keep our next round of production in Mexico on track. I was astounded at our community’s response. We hit our goal of selling 80 wristlets by the end of the week & the outflow of support and folks genuinely wanting to be more involved in the process of Purse & Clutch was pivotal for me. I’ve changed my whole marketing strategy to what my focus should have been in the first place : using social media as a way to truly connect with the amazing community that surrounds us!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I believe that good fashion is as much about the maker as it is about the finished product. By working directly with artisans in Mexico & Ethiopia, we’re producing thoughtfully designed & ethically made handbags to help end the cycle of poverty – to be a part of changing the fashion industry for good. At Purse & Clutch, every purchase contributes to our mission of supporting long-term employment for men & women in around the world with limited fair job opportunities. These handbags are truly one of kind, slowly handcrafted by our dedicated artisans. I started Purse & Clutch in 2011 to connect talented artisans with a market here in the States. I was amazed to learn about how these jobs were transforming the lives of the women & men we were partnering with & realized since I was based in the States I could help facilitate that connection to help them grow. We have the privilege of working directly with artisan groups in Ethiopia, Mexico & Guatemala, designing beautiful textiles & styles that are meant to stand the test of time. The design process is collaborative – I work with the artisans to see where they really shine & then bring my design interpretation to the drawing board. Adding in a pocket for a cell phone, playing with the scale of the classic Mexican embossed details or including a wristlet strap to increase functionality so that you can carry a bag that perfectly fits your lifestyle. Sometimes it’s me starting with a blank piece of paper, sketching a design based on a bag a customer has suggested they’re interested in. The final product is a beautiful & unique blend of cultures.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a sucker for my own neighborhood in East Austin. I’d start the day walking down the street to the Tillery Street Plant Company, then wander down the road to Flitch for some fresh coffee & tacos. We’d then walk over to the Boggy Creek Greenbelt and check out the new graffiti under the Pleasant Valley bridge and take in the quirky wooden art structures that my 3 year old loves to play in as we watch neighbors walk by with their dogs & kiddos. A lovely low key day! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Amanda Palmer & her book The Art of Asking The Purse & Clutch community for so quickly rallying around us & our artisans!
Amber Kissner Caly Rodriguiz