One year. One year since I hit “publish” and www.ara-collective.com went live. Since I wrapped, stamped, and mailed off Ara’s first order. Since the day I took a step out into the global marketplace and waited to see how people would respond. It was a terrifying step to take. I saw beauty and potential in places that were off the beaten track in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. I thought a few small design changes could connect worlds, generate income, and make a positive impact. But would other people see the quality, beauty, and potential also?
And then you said, “YES.”
This one has a story. There’s heart and soul behind it. This one has heritage, pride, and freedom from the cycle of poverty, shame, and oppression.
When I started Ara Collective, I wanted to do business differently. Not business with a non-profit model, and not even the standard fair trade business, but a for-profit business that funneled as much money as possible to the artisans – the people who are the real talent – and what keeps their rich culture alive. I wanted the business to be polished, with beautiful, high-quality products, and told stories of respect and equality instead of pity and shame. I wanted to partner with artisans and not employ them directly so they could continue to work from their homes (where their families and other roles are), pick up additional work if they wanted, and continue to stay organized, led, and united locally. I wanted our partnership to be a creative collaboration that honored and preserved their heritage while updating it for the modern home. And, selfishly, I wanted to design things that I loved, was passionate about, and wanted in my home.
Ara Collective is made up of the 887 artisans who skillfully craft their work with great pride, impeccable attention to detail, and age-old weaving techniques. Their level of professionalism, quality, and artistry can stand on the shelves next to any other product reproduced in China. But this one has a story. This one has a heart and a soul behind it. This one has heritage, pride, and freedom from the cycle of poverty, shame, and oppression.
Thank you for seeing what I saw in these artisans, their work, and the stories of their ancestors. Thank you for appreciating, rather than discounting, the imperfections of hand-crafted work by real people. Thank you for going on this adventure with me and voting “yes” to these incredible, isolated artisans with your dollars.
And thank you to every friend, family member, mentor, and contract worker who came alongside me to make what Ara Collective is today. From building a website to editing copy, setting up FedEx shipping to finding the boxes to ship in, helping me spread the word about Ara to giving me a pep talk when I felt like giving up forever. You’re my community that has held me together and built this company.
Today, in honor of our first birthday, we’re sharing a little more about the places we’ve traveled, the markets we’ve explored, and the culture we’ve encountered. We’ve put together a collection of my favorite vintage textiles that I’ve picked up in tucked away shops and open-air markets. These are the textiles that have served me as design inspiration for our first three collections of pillows, throws, and bags. They’re well-loved pieces that tell their own stories. These pieces are a little sampling of the unique creative process we have from the market to the local artisans to our Austin studio to your home. Check out our new Vintage Collection in the Shop.
It’s been a wild, glorious adventure. Happy 1st Birthday, Ara!
– xo, Sarah