About

About Fair Trade Handbags

We are online based boutique that partners with artisans in developing countries who create their products with an emphasis on design & quality. These artisans are treated with respect & are paid a living wage for their region. Our mission is to help support sustainable, long-term employment for men & women with limited opportunities. 

Empowering through Employment in Ethiopia

Everything you purchase in our shop helps employ & empower the artisans who made it!

Well Designed

Our handbags are made with high quality, handwoven cotton fabrics & strong, sturdy leather. We love partnering with smaller artisan groups where we can get to know the names of the men & women making the bags because we believe that we are connected to the people who make the items we wear and we want to find ways to strengthen that connection.  

We just launched our own collection this season in partnership with artisans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia & El Rosario, Guatemala, and are continuing to expand our own designs. 

Affordable

While we're strong advocates of investing in a quality handbag that will last season after season, we don't believe it should cost you half your paycheck!

We purchase the items we have available in our shop directly from artisan groups typically with existing products & have chosen to sell mainly online to keep our overhead low -  thus able to deliver to you beautiful artisanal items at an incredible price. 

Ethically Made

We can tell you firsthand that making purchases that are ethically made really does make a difference in the lives of the men & women we're partnering with. And we're so glad that you've decided to care how things are made with us!

As far as our artisan partnerships go, we work with artisans who create their products with an emphasis on quality and are committed to this set of ethical principles in their workplace.  

Raw Guatemalan CottonInterested in learning more about the artisan groups we partner with? 
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Ethical Fashion Team

 

Jen Lewis of Purse & Clutch

Executive Director

As far back as I can remember, I've wanted to spend my time focusing on long-term, sustainable solutions for men & women living in poverty in developing countries with limited opportunities. I am drawn to the beauty of international cultures and want to help in the fight against the systems that keep people in poverty generation after generation. 

From summers spent in Mexico & Bolivia to longer stints in Guatemala & Honduras, I've seen the need for sustainable job opportunities first hand. (You can read more in this blog post.) 

Purse & Clutch was started to connect amazingly talented artisans in India with a market here in the States. I was amazed to learn about how these jobs were transforming the lives of the men & women making the gorgeous block printed handbags and realized since I was based in the States I could help facilitate that connection to help grow their organization's reach.  We've since expanded to working with several other groups around the world, curating the most beautiful textiles & patterns available. 

Jen received her Master's in Leadership & Ethics from John Brown University's Donald G. Soderquist School of Business in 2009, & launched Purse & Clutch in 2011. Contact Jen directly at jen@purseandclutch.com. 

Currently loving: the Asymmetric Clutches from Ethiopia

 


 

Janelle Whitehead

Ethical Style Director, Central Texas

I've always loved being a part of organizations that "do good" for others. But when I was in college, I started a degree in Non-Profit management and really started digging into the idea of what "doing good" was. As I fell more in love with sustainable development, I began to learn more and more about the other side- the side that non fair trade brands don't talk about.

It hurt my heart like crazy to know that the $10 top I bought was as cheap as it was because it was made by underpaid, overworked women, men, and children. 

So last year, after doing a massive purge of clothes I didn't wear, I decided to make sure all future purchases were from brands I knew had a transparent labor policy and paid their workers a living wage. I want men and women to take pride in the work they do and to be able to use it to support their families long term and I know the only way to change the policies of brands I like that *don't* meet ethical standards is to create more demands for those that do.

Contact Janelle directly at janelle@purseandclutch.com

 

 

 

 

Dinusha Wijesinghe

Product Development Manager

I've always been intrigued by the connection between fashion and culture. Whether it is a silk scarf from the alleyways of Turkey, a pair of bracelets made by a Burmese refugee, or a hand-woven clutch from a small village in South Africa, I love buying pieces that tell a story.

As I learn that the story behind many of the things I buy is not always rooted in the principles of fair trade, I know that I want to be part of the narrative that is. Although the production of many of the products we purchase is often harried with exploitation of human capital, ethical practice in the textile & apparel industry truly has the ability to empower communities by providing a platform for fair-wages and responsible manufacturing.

My passion for fair trade has led me to explore this practice around the world –  to Sri Lanka where I examined a niche market in socially responsible apparel that the country should develop to foster economic growth; to Laos where I witnessed the power of a responsible textile industry to afford women social mobility; and now to Austin, Texas where I get to partner with artisan groups from around the world to curate collections of skillfully crafted fair trade products for you! 

Contact Dinusha directly at dinusha@purseandclutch.com

 

 

Sarah Dickard

Content Strategist

After traveling to places like India, Belize, and Japan, and having lived in Africa for about six months, I felt an instant connection to the tragedy of the Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013. What began as my 2014 New Year’s Resolution to shop ethically for clothing and accessories soon became a full blown lifestyle. That year changed the way I viewed my money, resources, and my relationship to the people who made my clothes. I realized their reality was created by my spending habits, and making little changes on my end could dramatically change theirs.

I love living in Austin, TX where I can live out my passion for change, join others in entrepreneurship, and shop at so many ethical boutiques or thrift stores!

Contact Sarah directly at sarah@purseandclutch.com

 

Jordan Ring

Ethical Style Director, Northwest Louisiana

My love of fashion was inspired by my grandmother who was nothing short of a fashionista. Oh, how I loved watching her arrive dressed to the nines no matter the occasion.

However, my love affair with fashion changed after watching The True Cost documentary. I began to see how the fashion industry itself was riddled with oppression and disregard for the environment. I also saw how I was complicit in both. 

I joined the Purse & Clutch team because I wanted to take responsibility for my fashion choices and their implications. I wanted to be part of community of people who cared how things are made. 

We by no means have all the answers figured out, but we’re committed to challenging ourselves and the industry on the way we do business (and consume fashion). Hope you will come along for the ride!

Contact Jordan directly at jordan@purseandclutch.com
Currently loving these Mayan Clutches from Guatemala

 

 

Lauren Hines

Blogger Relations & Bridal Services Manager

In high school I saw an ad for a fair trade business and I thought to myself, “Wow there are actually businesses like that out there??! How CRAZY, I’ve never seen anything like that.” I became fascinated and obsessed with companies that partnered with at-risk people groups. I couldn’t believe there were people out there that got to make a living through “doing good” and being social advocates all while creating beautiful jewelry or purses. I was a business major in college where I had marketing internships for several fair trade companies. In my time in the internships, I grew more in love with the mission and heart of fair trade fashion.

I’ve seen the impact and ripple effect in communities that a simple jewelry-making job for a group of people can offer. Women are empowered and celebrated. Children are given educational and health opportunities that they might have never dreamed of. Men are better fathers. Communities see a cultural change because of the dignity and respect given to artisans. How amazing is that?!

I love Austin, Texas and the fair trade community here! I’m so grateful to work with Purse & Clutch and see all of the beauty in the products and the people!

Contact Lauren directly at lauren@purseandclutch.com

 

Silvia Chinchilla

Guatemala Head Seamstress

I was born in Chimaltenango, but have lived in El Rosario, Guatemala for 18 years.  I am the mother of three girls & a boy.

When I have free time I like to take my kids out because I never do that. That is my best wish.

I never want to leave Guatemala, but I’d like to see more of my country. The most important dream for my family is that they are always by my side. That they are good people and that they get a good education.

I have a dream in the future of having my own room built with the money I am earning. To have a little freedom and space to breathe.

Opportunity means to have value. To not be afraid to do things and give your best effort with what you’ve been given.

My love for sewing is represent in every Guatemalan product. Did I mention that I LOVE to sew? Sewing sharpens my mind and relaxes my body.

Currently loving making these Geometric Wristlets.

 

 

Catalina Cos

Guatemala Seamstress

I was born in El Rosario, Guatemala. I have six children: Evelin Carolina, Yeltzin, Jacqueline, Antony, Marlene, & Brandon. When I have extra time I like to take my kids out because we never have time to just hang.

I am a hard worker & if I don’t know how to do something I will learn!

My dream for the future is that now that God has given me a job I’m dreaming of having money to put in a concrete floor in our house so it isn’t always muddy when it rains.

I always ask God that I can give my kids an education so they can get a good job. Two of my kids are graduating from primary and I pray we have enough money to send them to high school.

Currently loving making these Woven Pillows.

 

 

 

 

Lindsey Owens

Guatemala Quality Control Manager

I'm a NW Arkansas native with a love for travel & adventure. I moved to Guatemala right after graduating from John Brown University in 2010. I, along with my husband, David, fell in love with the beautiful country and people of Guate and have since called it home. We strive to aid in the spiritual and physical needs of God's people through community development, intentional discipleship, and sharing about the love of Christ. We currently live in Chimaltenango with our first son, Cooper.

I believe that job opportunities create generational change in families and bring positive development to the individual and the community. I hire local artisans and oversee their work in rural villages. I am passionate about intentionally caring for each woman we partner with. Being a part of life change for these ladies as they become empowered to provide for their children is amazing. Not only are they earning a fair wage, but through employment they are gaining confidence, self respect, and a sweet community of friends.

Currently loving the Rugged Leather Handbag from Ethiopia. 






Melissa Gresham

Guatemala Director of Production

I have been exposed to arts & crafts since I was a child. I was raised in Northwest Arkansas by parents who spent many weekends as vendors at craft fairs. They were always creating new products out of wood and fabrics. They were “Pinterest” before Pinterest existed. My parents taught me everything from wood working to sewing. Over time, my skills developed into more than just a lifestyle but a love to discover how to make new things.

My husband & I ran a non-profit organization for at risk teens for six years. During this time, I learned about networking, grant writing, marketing, fundraising, event planning, team development, and mentorship. I'm also passionate about helping people in developing countries and I spend much of my time being an advocate for ministries in Africa and Guatemala. Now, I'm excited to use me talents to help develop quality products and come alongside women in Guatemala who are in need of sustainable income for their families.

I live in NW Arkansas with my amazing husband, Jay and our two incredible children. 

Currently loving these Geometric Wristlets from Guatemala. 






Angela Story

Guatemala Designer

I've had a passion for art since I could hold a pen. I was born in Texas & raised in Arkansas, and then pursued my passion at the University of Arkansas, graduating with a degree in Apparel Studies in 2007.

Coupled with a deep sense of concern over a growing population of single Guatemalan mothers who had no way to provide consistent income for their children, I knew I'd had found my calling. After seeing the beautiful hand-woven crafts created by these women on looms in their homes I knew I wanted to be involved in helping to provide jobs for single mothers & artisans through creating an international market for their beautiful fabrics & native techniques.


Interested in getting involved? Learn about opportunities here