We here at CollegeFashionista love being on the pulse on all things new—whether it be trends, silhouettes and especially designers!
Meet Kimberly Hartman. After working in fashion for a while, Kimberly took a break to see the world. On a solo trip to Laos, she discovered a weaving village that sparked an idea. Kimberly employed this village to create exclusive colors and patterns that became the foundation of the JADEtribe handbag collection. Talk about conscious fashion!
We caught up with JADEtribe’s designer, CEO and all around do-gooder as discussed her vision, inspiration and what’s next for this emerging brand.
CollegeFashionista: Can you tell us a little bit about the “aha” moment you had when you came across a weaving village in Laos?
Kimberly Hartman: My aha moment came during a four month solo trip throughout India and Southeast Asia where I had just spent a day taking a course on organic dyes and handweaving in Laos. I was in awe at local raw materials use to create the organic dyes and the beautiful art of hand weaving. It took me an entire day to weave a placemat!
The following day I visited remote weaving villages and in the middle of all the natural beauty surrounded by incredible female artisans I had an idea. I knew that If I could find someone to sew my designs from these gorgeous textiles that I could present them to enough boutique owners from around the world. I felt these buyers would love the bags AND resonate with the story. My initial goal was to sell enough bags to be able to help these women preserve their beautiful tradition and achieve financial independence to take care of their families. At the same time I would be able to combine my experience in fashion with my love to travel and desire to be of service to a larger cause. In that moment, standing in a remote village in Laos my idea for JADEtribe was born.
CF: What has been the most influential moment you came across during your travels?
KH: There have been so many but one of the most rewarding aspects of what I have created is to return to Thailand and Laos and see how the lives of the women employed by JADEtribe and their families have improved. It’s so beautiful to see the empowerment and happiness in their spirits.
CF: You studied Fashion Marketing in college—how do you think this has helped you to create your own brand?
KH: I have a BA in Business Administration – and yes I majored in Fashion Marketing, so that was an important foundation to understand business. My entire career I worked in Sales – eventually VP of Sales for contemporary clothing designers. I was never a “designer” but I was always on the front line of presenting the designers vision and collection to buyers of boutiques and department stores.
At the end of the day – it’s all about sales. A business cannot exist without sales, so I played an important merchandising role to the designer / brand I worked for. I made certain there were key items within the collection that would drive sales – and keep the buyers returning and growing our business.
I applied all of my business, sales and merchandising skills to dream of doing something on my own. My big leap of faith was trusting in myself that I could also be creative and design a collection. That I personally have a point of view that people would not only respond to, love and buy. I am grateful for that.
CF: What advice would you give to someone hoping to start up his or her own brand or product?
KH: Go for your dream! Set goals but be realistic that you need to study, learn, absorb from mentors and people that you admire. Gain practical work experience. Intern when you begin so you can know what you like and your strengths are and have patience. Rome was not created in a day and neither is a business, but take steps every day toward your end goal….And surround yourself with people that believe in your dream!
CF: Where do you find inspiration for new JADEtribe handbags and jewelry?
KH: I find inspiration everywhere when I travel it could be the Cobalt Blue color of the Majorelle Gardens; the style of bag I need carry all of my beach essentials in; the pom poms decorating my camel on safari in Jaisalmer India. Inspiration is everywhere, just pay attention!
CF: Your handbags have been featured on the pages of Vogue and Lucky—what went through your head when you first saw your handbags in these magazines?
KH: I must admit purchasing a Vogue UK from a stand while in London and seeing my photo and an article on JADEtribe….. well that was a pretty big deal to a girl from Texas.
CF: What do you carry in your JADEtribe handbag?
KH: I carry everything I think I could possibly need for the day – I usually have a JADEtribe wristlet as my wallet – along with a JADEtribe cosmetic bag to hold make up all inside a larger day bag that also fits my laptop. I often carry our Samui Stripe beach bag as it is great for yoga clothes and it makes for a great Whole Foods shopping bag. If I Ieave home without both hands full, then I probably have forgotten something.
CF: What are a few of your must-have items for summer 2015?
KH: Gladiator sandals. Linda Farrow gold frame sunglasses. An adorable snake print bikini with metallic trim. Straw fedora to cover my fresh blonde highlights. Tom Ford Coral lipstick.
CF: Are there any exciting future plans/collaborations in store that you can tell us about?
KH: I am off to Ibiza next week to recharge my batteries and to be inspired for my summer 2016 collection. I am working on a JADEtribe tee collection that will launch for spring/summer so be on the look out for that. The perfect summer tee with the JADEtribe vibe coming you way soon.