New to the Neighborhood: Meet Two Women-Led Brands Rooted in Art
Having the moxie to build a business and drastically rearrange the industry’s playing field requires a level of intuition and determination that can’t be taught in school. We took a dive into two female-led brands that just moved into the Neighborhood, Raven + Lily and Ordinary Habit, to discover their textured background. From the evolution of an ordinary puzzle game to the conscious shift from fast fashion into staples that support entire communities, we’re loving these two companies that have taken an artisanal and mission based approach to their design.
Teresa and Echo, Co-founders of Ordinary Habit
Teresa and Echo are the Mother-daughter duo, behind puzzle brand, Ordinary Habit. They found a way for their passion for mindfulness and art to coalesce in puzzles that support emerging artists and encourage a focused, centered body. Piece by piece, they hope that the worry and stress that you carried before beginning one of their puzzles will melt away as your brain concentrates on problem solving. They spoke to us about how their bond translates into their business and Echo use of her background in art history to inform their visuals.
What is it like being a mother-daughter founding duo?
It's the best! Seriously, though. At such a crazy moment in time, it's been amazing to start a business with someone you truly trust implicitly. Echo was a competitive figure skater growing up, so we spent a lot of time together (all day long!) while she trained. We had 10 years of practice during those wonderful teenage phases of how to problem solve. Plus, at the end of the day, even in the rare moments when we disagree, we know we'll still wake up and love each other.
“At the end of the day, even in the rare moments when we disagree, we know we'll still wake up and love each other.”
“Finding calm through intense focus” is a different way to approach winding down, can you tell us more about that?
We're both guilty of having overactive brains, and while we both practice meditation, we found that tedious tasks are often what slows down those racing thoughts most effectively. From cooking, to crosswords, to puzzles — finding something that encourages single pointed focus and forces you to slow down is often so helpful. With puzzles, we love that you can do them for 5 minutes or 5 hours, and no matter what amount of time just getting one piece, feels like an accomplishment.
Your puzzles stand out from the rest because of the artists you feature. How does art play into the mindfulness you are sowing into the act of puzzle-making?
Our company was built around the idea that working on a puzzle didn't have to mean you were tied to having something in your space that wasn't visually appealing. Echo comes from a background in art history – having worked in museums and art foundations, and receiving a Master's degree from the Courtauld Institute — so putting artists at the forefront of our collections was almost second nature. We loved the idea that we could work with artists for the puzzles, and not only make that art more accessible to customers, but also tell the artists' stories and have them be a huge part of our brand's identity. Artwork is everywhere around us, and as people who can lose hours staring into a beautiful painting, we loved the idea that you could lose yourself in that same way while completing a puzzle.
An assortment of Ordinary Habit puzzles.
“We loved the idea that we could work with artists for the puzzles, and not only make that art more accessible to customers, but also tell the artists' stories and have them be a huge part of our brand's identity.”
What do you fall back on when you hit bumps in the road?
Honestly, the thought hasn't even crossed our minds not to keep moving forward! It's been an incredible launch, and having the support of each other, and our family, has made such a huge difference. When we were brainstorming names for our company, we wanted something that spoke to being humble – ordinary – as well as encompassing the idea of simple practices. We wanted, from the get-go, to be able to expand beyond our first product and into an array of other ideas that hearken back to that idea of everyday ritual.
Shop Ordinary Habit:
Why We Love It: Made from recycled materials and artwork by Marleigh Culver, who let’s her intuition guide her as she creates. Read more about Marleigh here.
Kristen Caron, Creative Director at Raven + Lily.
The creatives behind Raven + Lily, are passionate about the quality and integrity of the accessories in their collections, as well as the earth-friendly manufacturing procedures and humane treatment of everyone involved- from the drafting table to the sewing machine. We spoke with Kristen Caron, their Creative Director, about the beauty of working with a global team and where she draws inspiration from for new collections
How do you incorporate modern design into the traditional techniques of your partner artisans?
I always start every collection with a color palette. It could come from a museum, a park I’ve visited with my kids, a building – all of that visual information comes into it. Our Fall 2020 collection was inspired by Austin’s vibrant cityscape and the colors are very earthy with flashes of sunset oranges, reds, and lilacs. We also create our own custom colors. Our tie dye Estelle Totes are made in Lomé using an ancient technique that uses natural dyes and every single one is unique in color and pattern.
Attention to detail is very important too – we contrast traditional artisan techniques with modern accents: our Mara bag is a good example of this. Instead of concealing the edges of the bag, we’ve left them exposed and our artisans have hand-stitched them in bright colors using a stitch called Kantha, which is typically used on fabric. It gives the bag an eye-catching zigzag accent that really stands out; I love it.
Mara Pouch - $108
You are a women-led organization- that’s super cool! What are some of the benefits of having a business composed mostly of women and working moms?
Working moms have multiple priorities that are all important and are used to organizing and being efficient, as well as problem solving on the fly. Our team has shared values – we care about social impact, the environment and diversity – we have an unspoken understanding, which means we can move forward and act quickly because we already know where we want to go.
“Working moms have multiple priorities that are all important and are used to organizing and being efficient, as well as problem solving on the fly.”
Why is being a certified Fair Trade and B Corporation important to Raven + Lily?
Our brand values consider the wellbeing of the environment and the wellbeing of the people that make up our wider community at home and abroad. Both B Corporation and the Fair Trade Federation are aligned with our principals and we like being a part of those communities. They understand the difficulty of doing things in a non-traditional way and that feels very supportive.
Yami Backpack - $168
What, in this job, inspires you to keep going?
I love the freedom we have. I work with so many talented creatives around the world from different backgrounds, cultures, and communities. I have had incredible opportunities to meet and strike up collaborative relationships with people doing great work. My day can include a call to discuss Instagram images with a photographer I met through my son’s art class, a meeting with the artist that creates our tie dyes to review new colors, a phone call with our copywriter in Edinburgh just before she takes her son to the park, a WhatsApp chat with the studio that makes our handbags in Addis Ababa, and a Facetime with a surfer in Florida who has a non-profit we are working with on something really special. All of these conversations really keep me energized, inspired and excited.
“I love the freedom we have. I work with so many talented creatives around the world from different backgrounds, cultures, and communities.”
Shop Raven + Lily:
Why We Love It: Upcycled brass and aquamarine - a stunning duo.