My mission with Dear Survivor is to empower people and planet through good design. I’m trying to create positive social change through the use of sustainable materials, donating to Generate Hope, and now...my transition to manufacturing on a larger level.
Since starting in 2015, I’ve made every single one of my products, literally thousands.
I’ve needed help for years - but finding it has been ROUGH.
Since January I’ve been on the hunt for a manufacturer. Lot’s of back and forth with factories all over the US. Many emails, many rounds of sending materials and samples back and forth - and lots of disappointment. I have a very high standard for my products, and was so discouraged by the disregard I felt like my product was receiving. Scratches on the leather, wire bent incorrectly, loosely assembled components. Again, I was starting to think that my product couldn’t scale.
Until I found the amazing women at Refugee Artisan Initiative - a 501(c)(3) in Seattle that connects refugee women who have a history of artisanship in their home countries, with designers like me.
I connected with them in late May, and somewhat fearfully sent the first round of sampling. I was nervous because I wanted this to work so bad, since my mission is to uplift survivors of all types, but was so afraid of another round of disappointment.
But a couple weeks later I received the samples - and they were PERFECT. I actually cried when I opened the box. Finally, someone else who cared enough about my product to give it the care and attention that I did.
It’s a scary thing to let go of a part of the process - but also essential for growth. I’m so excited about this partnership because it allows these women to work from home - which is huge because it allows them to stay home with their kids and still make an income. A couple of the artisans working on my product are Noi from Vietnam, and Tutu from Ethiopia - and I couldn’t be happier with the work they’ve done. Hoping to make a trip up to the PNW soon to meet the team in person and share more about their lives in another blog post.
But full disclosure, RAI was not ready to take on my full production load as they are still growing their network of artisans. So in early August I had to scramble to find supplemental help. Thankfully, the next factory I reached out to was also a major win - an ethical factory in Los Angeles that has also been incredible to work with.
BUT GET THIS (I still am processing this myself), my LA factory was robbed mid-production and over half my earrings were STOLEN in this big jewelry heist (5 factories in LA were hit and the robbers vanished without a trace). And, predictably, the factory’s insurance agency said they don’t cover “this type” of robbery, whatever that means. Thankfully, they refunded me for the labor, so I’m only out my material costs. A bummer - but not detrimental.
If anything, I just find this ironic and sort of laughable. I’ve been trying for months and months to get my product made perfectly by someone else - and when I finally do - they get stolen! So thankful that RAI is double teaming, so I will have enough product to kick off my Fall collection.
In many ways this expansion season has been the biggest challenge of running Dear Survivor, but as I overcome all the obstacles I am very excited about the potential that manufacturing will bring!