Are you guys ready for the most amazing studio feature ever? Get ready to go behind the scenes of Dallas-based, socially conscious home décor company The Citizenry. Not only are their products amazing (but, seriously, go shop their collections right now) the company has the most amazing heart behind it. Founders, Carly & Rachel, take us to the back of the shop, show us what being socially conscious yet design forward means to them, how to turn your passion into a full-time job, and some stellar advice.
If this doesn’t get you inspired on a variety of levels, we’ve got to check that pulse. Pour yourself a cup of coffee (or wine, no judgement), scroll down, and get ready to meet your new favorite girl bosses.
Carly Nance & Rachel Bentley, Co-founders of The Citizenry
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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR WORK:
RACHEL: The Citizenry is a socially conscious home décor company that partners with artisans around the globe to bring their stories and artistry to the modern home. The idea behind the company really came from our own frustrations trying to find beautifully crafted items for our own homes. We were looking for high quality, handcrafted pieces, from a company serious about social impact and sustainability, at prices that didn’t break the bank. That’s a tough combination to find. We started researching and realized there was an opportunity in the market to create this home décor brand we wished already existed.
CARLY: When we thought about the items we treasured most in our homes, they all had a story behind them – either the story of the maker or the place where it was from. We decided to build a site and design products that give people the next-best experience to traveling the world and meeting these master craftsmen face-to-face. Our model is a little different from other brands that source artisanal goods. Every item on our site is an exclusive design that we develop in partnership with artisans around the world. We also sell all these pieces directly to consumers online, so people can get luxury-quality items at the fairest prices possible (no unnecessary middlemen or additional retail markups). We also take a different approach to our artisan partnerships. We work under fair trade standards and invest in long-term sustainable partnerships. In addition, we invest 10% of proceeds back into the artisan communities we work with.
TALK TO US ABOUT INSPIRATION – WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU MOST?
CARLY: Each season we design a new collection inspired by and crafted in another corner of the world. We built that into our model because we’re both so inspired by other cultures and their crafts. We now work with over 300 artisans across 4 countries, and interactions with each artisan group usually light huge creative sparks during the development process. That’s why we insist on traveling to every artisan workshop and visiting our partners in person.
There’s something really inspiring about watching our partners execute techniques and designs they’ve been making for centuries. My design inspiration always comes from a traditional pattern or technique to start, and then we work to put a modern spin on the design.
RACHEL: I’d say that I draw inspiration from the beautiful, natural materials. I’m obsessed with quality – and we pick geographies for new collections based on the quality of a particular natural resource, like leather or rare fibers, and then we highlight that material in our designs.
For instance, in Argentina, we work exclusively with the most premium leathers sourced from the rich grasslands of the “pampas” and use vegetable- based tannins to soften and enrich its natural beauty. In Peru, alpaca is the star. For our throws, we selected weaves that make the alpaca material as soft as it can be and the result is just brilliant.
WE ARE CURIOUS, WHAT DOES BEING CREATIVE MEAN TO YOU TWO?
RACHEL: Whether it be art, furniture, or ideas, creativity is bringing disparate things together in a way that’s uniquely your own.
CARLY: Solving problems in new ways or with a unique point of view.
WE ARE SO INSPIRED YOU TWO ARE ABLE TO STAY SO CREATIVE. WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION IN THE EVERY DAY?
CARLY: I do my best to surround myself with inspiring people who challenge me to continue to think differently. I constantly have email threads going with my creative circle of friends and former colleague. The brief: send something that’s really beautiful, really inspiring, or really useful. That’s it. The ideas, imagery, and thoughts in my inbox tend to light little creative fires.
RACHEL: Inspiration starts at home for me. Because my primary focus is on managing the operations and finances of The Citizenry, by the time the weekend comes, I’m desperate to do something more creative and hands-on. On Saturday mornings, I typically recharge by spending a few hours baking, planting succulents, or flipping through design books.
TELL US ABOUT THE START OF THE CITIZENRY. HOW DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO TURN YOUR PASSION INTO A BUSINESS?
CARLY: I spent my career working in consumer insights and brand strategy at different advertising agencies, and it felt like it was time to put my money where my mouth was and try to build a brand of my own. The Citizenry is a combination of all my personal passions: travel, design, and doing a bit of good in the world. I really believe the things you’re passionate about are not random. Somehow they are your calling, and you should pursue them. I decided to take the leap way before I was officially “ready,” but it’s been an incredible adventure ever since.
RACHEL: During my time at Bain, I sought out projects that focused on consumer goods and building incredible retail experiences. Once we did the research to prove there was an opportunity for The Citizenry to marry consumer demand with building market access for talented artisans around the world – well, I wasn’t turning back. I believe what we accomplish with our artisan partners everyday is profoundly important, even though it’s deeply challenging. That combination keeps me motivated to keep pushing forward.
WE ARE CURIOUS, WHEN YOU ARE IN A CREATIVE RUT HOW DO YOU GET UN-STUCK?
CARLY: I pour a cup of coffee or glass of wine (depending on time of day) and peruse old travel photos and notes from past artisan visits. I always find something inspiring – an image, a moment, or feeling – when I look back at glimmers of adventures past.
If that doesn’t work, a trip to the local art museum or any well-designed space tends to get the wheels turning.
RACHEL: Walk the streets of whatever city I’m in at the moment. Running in Central Park never fails. Or get outdoors into some beautiful countryside.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING CREATIVES?
RACHEL: As a woman, you’re always quicker to doubt yourself and your own capabilities and experiences than you should. Some fraction of those concerns may be valid, but the majority aren’t. So, ignore all of them.
CARLY: Trust your gut. Be a ruthless editor of your own work. And always be prepared to fail. If you’re not walking on that scary ledge, you’ll never create anything truly original.
Oh and above all, forgive yourself. That’s a big one. Everything you create won’t be insanely amazing, and that’s ok. Be grateful for who you are today but keep fighting for what you want to create and what you want to eventually become.
WHERE CAN WE GO TO FIND MORE GOODIES FROM THE CITIZENRY?
Head to www.the-citizenry.com or follow along on Instagram. There’s a lot more about our behind the scenes process on the blog.