Through her international humanitarian work, soon-to-be mother, Harper Poe, fell in love with the indigenous textiles in the countries she visited. This passion combined with her love of interiors was the foundation for her first “baby”, her global textile company, Proud Mary. In six weeks, Poe will welcome her actual first baby – Poe is based in Charleston, South Carolina, but travels often checking in our her various artisans producing Proud Mary’s gorgeous fair trade textiles. After our conversation with Poe, we are positive her sweet baby boy will be surrounded by creative energy, a desire to empower others, and a real love for discovering exotic locales.
What’s Proud Mary all about?
Proud Mary started out of my love of travel. I knew I had to incorporate that into my work life. Proud Mary is a lifestyle brand. We work with global crafts artisan in developing countries to create our line of ‘ethnic-modern’ home decor, clothing and accessories. All of our artisans are paid a fair wage and we are committed to providing them with consistent income and access to greater markets. We focus on impact through job creation, craft preservation, and generally sharing beauty from around the world!
Where are you based? Are you traveling often?
I’m based in Charleston, SC which is both a blessing and a curse as it’s a small town away from LA and NY energies, but a nice place to regroup when not traveling. I usually travel to visit our producer’s 2-3 times per year…once to Africa, once or twice to Latin America plus NY-LA trips for sales/pr.
How do you source the artisans for the products you sell?
We’ve connected with our artisan groups through various channels but generally through non-profits and NGO’s who work on the ground and can identify groups that are export ready. We are a small company so we don’t really have the capacity to do on the ground training and prepping to work with international buyers. We were initially connected to our West African producer’s through the West African Trade Hub which was a USAID funded project with a division focused on handcraft production in the region. Through this organization we identified agents on the ground which we continue to work with today. In Mexico we work with a non profit called Aid to Artisans. They are a pioneer organization in this sector working globally to build up and support the artisan sector. And in Morocco I have a dear friend living in Marrakech that I’ve teamed up with to produce our raffia shoes. A lot of my relationships have evolved organically…it’s a pretty small world once you start working in this field.
And you wholesale too?
Yes, about 75% of our sales are from our wholesale clients.
How much did your experience in interior design and textiles help with this venture?
I think it mostly helped to direct and focus my attention. I’m not a very technical person and cannot make a thing with my hands but knew that I had creative energies that needed to get out. I really fell in love with textiles and surface design working in the interior design field and when I started to travel and do volunteer/humanitarian work the handcrafted textiles caught my eye and I realized that through this medium there were economic development opportunities and the wheels started to turn.
How excited are you to become a mother? Nervous at all?
I’m really excited! I have about 6 weeks left so I’m starting to get a bit anxious, but at the same time really trying to enjoy these last few weeks spending a lot of time alone and in general doing exactly what I want to do. Sure I’m a bit nervous but have a lot of faith in my ability as a woman to instinctively know what to do (hopefully)!
What do you hope to impart on your new baby based on Proud Mary’s ethos and values?
I want him (it’s a boy!) to experience the world from a very young age. I feel like my life really started when I started traveling and discovering different cultures. It would be awesome to give him the gift of growing up as a global citizen!
Do you anticipate Proud Mary expanding product for new mothers and children?
I think that will happen. I’m already adding a few things for SS16 and have some adorable baby slippers from Lesotho that will be available in a few weeks. I want to live with being a mom for a bit to see what I really think is useful and/or desirable.
You have the most incredible name – is it your given name?
Thanks! My full name is Mary Harper Poe. I was named after my great-grandmother on my mom’s side, Mary Harper. My parent’s named me that knowing they would call me Harper (using the middle name as a first name is very common in the South). A lot of people ask if I was named after Harper Lee which I’m not BUT I am related to Edgar Allan Poe, he’s a cousin.
What’s your personal style like? Any favorite designers?
My personal style is pretty casual (jeans and tees) and I guess bohemian to the extent that I wear a lot of things I buy on my travels; caftans, sandals, tunics, bags, etc. As far as designers go, I don’t wear a lot of designer clothes but love and appreciate Ace & Jig, Loup Charmant, Daniela Gregis, Black Crane, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, All Hands, Maki Oh, and Brother Vellies to name a few.