Purse & Clutch: Redefining sustainability
At Dressember, we’re into making powerful purchases, which is why we partner with companies that are changing the fashion game for good. Meet Purse & Clutch (P&C): an Austin-based company specializing in accessories with an impact. Through providing beautiful, ethically made handbags and other accessories, they are ending the cycle of poverty for artisans in Guatemala and Ethiopia.
P&C’s collection is an assortment of differently sized bags and accessories suitable for a variety of fashion senses. Their hand-crafted leather handbags, clutches, and wallets from Ethiopia have a sleek, minimalist style matching any outfit. Simultaneously, intricately woven bags and clutches from Guatemala provide a fun pop of pattern and color.
While their pieces are beautiful, they have a much deeper importance. P&C has a strict set of ethical principles. For example, no forced or child labor is allowed in the production of P&C goods. Artisans must be paid a living wage for their region to ensure sustainable working conditions.
For you sustainability lovers out there, I asked Founder Jen Lewis what exactly “sustainability” means to P&C. “We use sustainability to mean that we are creating jobs that pay well so that the women and men are able to provide for themselves & their families apart from aid.”
From an environmental standpoint, Lewis explained that within P&C, “we work to design products to get us to zero waste with both collections, use detailed data reports to try to predict how much to produce each season, and use botanical dyes in Guatemala to try to decrease our impact on the environment so that we don’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
Although they integrate pieces from two countries in one collection, P&C’s relationship with each group of suppliers is thoughtful and unique. Lewis described the differences between each production group in this way: “In Guatemala, we oversee all aspects of production - starting from the raw cotton…We have a woman on our team who lives in Guatemala and oversees day to day operations as well as tends to the social needs of the talented women on our team.”
In terms of Ethiopian production, Lewis said, “I sketch out a design and send it to the woman who oversees the leather workers we partner with. She has a sample made for approval before it goes into production. They work closely with two non-profits who address the community development aspect while our role is more focused on creating the demand to sustain employment for the artisans.”
While each group of producers is different, the overall impact made when purchasing a P&C piece is similar: breaking the cycle of generational poverty through sustainable work opportunities.
One striking statement from the P&C website states: “We know the names of the men and the women who are making our handbags.” Think about that. How often do you buy a product where the producer is known by their name and deeply cared for?
“We know the names of the men and the women who are making our handbags.”
P&C hopes that an increase in demand for fair trade and ethically sourced products will lead to the denormalization of buying from sweatshops with unethical working conditions.
“As I learned more about how things are made, I started to discover the unsafe and underpaid work conditions that are unfortunately the norm throughout the fashion industry at large. I found it really energizing that something as simple as being more conscious about what brands I’m purchasing from could make such a tangible difference,” says Lewis.
If you are looking for a new handbag or wallet, earrings, or even a wall decoration, and you want your purchase to make a tangible difference, P&C is a wonderful option. Deciding to empower fair, sustainable working conditions through companies like P&C is gradually shifting demand away from poor, unsafe labor practices. You can learn more about the inspiration driving P&C on their resources page.
Lewis encourages everyone interested in ethical fashion and wanting to know about their potential impact “to be bold (but kind!) in asking questions to companies about their practices. Most companies trying to do good will love to engage with people who want to know more.”
So, the next time you are looking for ethically sourced accessories making a real, lasting impact, check out Purse & Clutch’s Collection.
About the Author
Anna Stephens is a native Texan pursuing her Master's of Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science at Lund University in Sweden. She has participated in Dressember for 3 years, and plans to continue using fashion as a platform for awareness and eradication of human trafficking. In her spare time, you can find her drinking iced coffee, looking for dogs to pet, or exploring Swedish nature with her friends.