PURSE & CLUTCH
FOUNDER: JEN LEWIS
WHY DOES PURSE & CLUTCH CALL AUSTIN HOME
I moved to Austin after grad school in 2009, to be closer to family - my parents are in East Texas & my brother is in North Houston. Besides being eager to return to Texas, I’d always equated Austin as the place to pursue a more non-conventional approach to a career connecting needs & resources – which I knew I wanted, but didn’t have any idea what that would be. It’s turned out to be such a perfect city for P&C!
GO TO MID-DAY SNACK or ROUTINE FOR CREATIVE FUEL
Walking over to Central Market from our Flagship Storefront over on S. Lamar & creating my own smoothie: currently loving Almond Milk, Kale, & Mango, but sometimes I’ll mix it up & be bold with a Carrot Juice base – yum!
WHERE DO YOU CREATE FOR PURSE & CLUTCH BEST? EX: HOME, STUDIO, NATURE, ETC.
My backyard is my favorite place to create. We have a small back patio with a ramp down to the yard that I like to perch on with a Sparkling Water. It’s shaded by 100-year-old pecan trees & backs up to Boggy Creek (which is really just a drainage ditch, but open-ish space nevertheless!) I leave my phone inside the house, grab some graph paper & start sketching / brainstorming.
THE GUATEMALA AND ETHIOPIA COLLECTIONS ARE BOTH BUILT ON STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH ARTISANS, DO YOU SEE PURSE & CLUTCH EXPANDING AND BUILDING SIMILAR NEW COLLECTIONS IN THE FUTURE
I do! I’m always cultivating relationships with new connections with the hopes of being able to partner on future collections when it makes sense for everyone involved. Our next group will most likely be a cotton canvas screen printing group based in India who works with women who have been rescued from the rampant sex trafficking industry.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING MOMENT SO FAR OF PURSE & CLUTCH
Expanding from being a boutique to launching our own brand has been thrilling! We first connected with the Ethiopian leather workers when their founder was in Austin last April & it was so energizing to see how our needs & resources perfectly aligned! Then a few months later beginning to oversee operations for an existing brand out of Guatemala & optimizing their production as we’ve shifted to having them produce our own label was a whole new level for us as a company. Knowing the names & the stories of each & every person in the multiples processes it takes to make one items is everything for me!
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOUR BRAND’S MESSAGE STANDS OUT
We like to focus on the simplicity of a classic style, then add a unique design element to keep things fun & fresh. Because we value transparency, we try to share stories in a straightforward, to the point way that reflects in our photography as well: lots of white negative space to give room for the items themselves & how beautifully they’re made really shine!
WHO/WHAT HAS HAD THE MOST CREATIVE INFLUENCE ON PURSE & CLUTCH
Ever since I was little I’ve always liked to take something ordinary & find a way to bring out it’s natural beauty – I don’t know where that comes from. Maybe the belief that there’s beauty in unexpected places? I tend to draw inspiration from the cultures that we work with in Ethiopia & in Guatemala – bringing to life the beauty that I see there.
HOW HAS SOCIAL HELPED YOUR BUSINESS, IF ANY
Social Media, especially Instagram, has given us a chance to really tell the story of the Purse & Clutch brand – we’re able to show our community exactly what we mean when we say “botanical dyes” or “hand spun cotton” & put a face to the women & men making our products.
WHAT OTHER ARTISTS HAVE YOU LOVED COLLABORATING WITH
A few years ago we partnered with the incredibly talents Becky Simpson of Chipper Things – she illustrated a super fun “Austin is for Huggers” tote that we had screen printed by an artisan group in India. This collaboration allowed us to show that just because we’re working with some heavy topics – poverty, human trafficking, etc – doesn’t mean that the final product has to feel that weight, & that it can be a celebration of all that these artisans have overcome to get to where they are today!
WOULD PURSE & CLUTCH BE OPEN TO COLLABORATING WITH A LOCAL AUSTIN ARTIST
Yes, yes, yes! We’re testing out a few new products later this Fall or perhaps early Spring that lend themselves well to artist collaboration & we would love to explore this space more!
WITH SUCH A GLOBAL MISSION, HOW IMPORTANT IS SHOPPING LOCAL TO YOU
While our mission is definitely globally focused on the production side, we’re really passionate about being a locally owned Austin business. Shopping local means fighting for unique businesses who typically pour a lot of care into their companies.
HOW HAS THE AUSTIN COMMUNITY SUPPORTED PURSE & CLUTCH
Austin has been such a great place for Purse & Clutch to call home. As we’ve just opened our first flagship storefront, it’s been amazing to watch the Austin creative community & ethical fashion community celebrate with us! We have a monthly after hours meeting in the shop with other local social business owners to help support each other in the good work we’re doing around the world that has been so encouraging!
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH AUSTIN KNEW ABOUT PURSE & CLUTCH’S DESIGNS
That they’re really a beautiful, cross-cultural collaboration. I work with the founder & previous owner of our Guatemala artisan group to dream up colorways & to mix & match traditional Guatemalan weaving techniques with a modern twist. Then we hand off the color suggestions to a team of Mayan women in Guatemala to figure out the botanical dyes needed to achieve the colors. Some are spot on. Others are super hard to capture & we go in a different direction. The weaving sketches are handed to one weaver from each of the co-ops we work with to give us their interpretation. We make tweaks to get just the right look to pair with the colors that we were able to get made.
We also make design decisions based on the needs of the women on the production teams. For example, one of our seamstress’s daughters starting hand-making leather tassels for us for our Fold Over Clutches. We learned she was saving up to be able to continue her education & that coupled with working to get to zero waste led us to develop a line of small batch leather earrings to further support her work!
WHERE CAN SUPPORTERS FIND PURSE & CLUTCH’S CREATIONS
We just launched a flagship storefront in South Austin in June: 4477 S. Lamar Blvd Suite 590 & we’re also available online at www.purseandclutch.com
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY THE AUSTIN COMMUNITY CAN HELP THE MISSION OF PURSE & CLUTCH
Helping us get the word out about what we’re doing! A purchase at Purse & Clutch really does make a difference in the lives of single mothers in Guatemala & leatherworkers in Ethiopia.
BIGGEST DEBATE OF ALL: COFFEE or TEA, BE SPECIFIC ;)
Coffee! I’m an Americano gal with a splash of Almond Milk
FAVORITE SONG/ARTIST/ALBUM FOR A SPARK OF CREATIVITY
Okay, no judgement here, right?! I know it’s SO not a cool answer, but my go to is Damien Rice’s album O from 2003.
AUSTIN LOCAL INSIDER RECOMMENDATIONS
WHO DO YOU FOLLOW FOR INSTAGRAM INSPIRATION
@ohhhchelsea – local Austin photographer Chelsea Francis’s feed is both beautiful & authentic. A tough balance to find, but she finds that line so well!
@kasimartin – Kasi is the brilliant brain behind the blog The Peahen. I can’t get enough of her thoughtful take on style + ethics!
FAVORITE LOCAL COFFEE SHOP(S)
Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors – not only an easy bike ride from my house, but I find the environment to be a breath of fresh air.
Vintage Heart Coffee – I almost always run into a friend there!
MUST-SEE RECOMMENDATION FOR THOSE TRAVELING TO AUSTIN
I love exploring different neighborhoods in a new city – grab a bike or your sneakers & wander through Hyde Park, North Loop, Allendale Travis Heights. And of course, we have several great Ethical Fashion Brands to discover with shops or showrooms: Fortress of Inca, Raven + Lily, & Strive Green to name a few!
FAVORITE LOCAL CURATED BOUTIQUE(S)
Olive has some really lovely ethical brands that I adore (Ace & Jig!) & their space is so pleasant to wander through.
FAVORITE LOCAL FOOD TRUCK(S)
Paperboy – toast!
Peru Sabor & Pacion – I could eat their Fajita Chicken Tacos every night for dinner.