Any brand that is sustainable or ethically made has our attention from the get-go. So, when home textile outfitter, MINNA (which falls into both of the aforementioned categories) came onto our radar, we knew this was one to watch.
Designer Sara Berks draws inspiration for her work from feminist art, the Bauhaus, traditional craft, and vintage textiles, so these aren't your average designs. Her collection includes everything from blankets and beach towels to rugs and pillows (we love the shag ones!). Not only is each piece in the line super unique, MINNA's backstory is just as rad, and serves as a reminder of the amazing things that can happen when we follow our passions.
We chatted with the founder about her own passions—travel, creative outlet, sustainability, and ultimately, the brand and what led her to start it. Read below to see what she had to say.
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Three years ago, Berks was unhappy in her corporate job and decided to do something about it. "I worked in the digital design world for many years and was feeling pretty burnt out" she revealed. "I left without any real plan but to focus on myself, my art, and freelance. I fell into weaving and realized I really loved it, especially being able to work with my hands."
After taking that up and trying her hand at freelancing (she made some one-of-a-kind pieces for brands like Need Supply, One Kings Lane, and Nasty Gal), she still didn't feel like she was working under the most sustainable business model. "I dreamed of being able to travel the world and work with artisans to make functional wares," she explained. "I knew I wanted to work with people, not factories, and focus on connections and tangible things—something I was greatly lacking in the digital design world. At the time I spoke a little Spanish and knew about the amazing textiles in the villages of Mexico and Guatemala, so they seemed like the best places to go."
So, Berks took a leap of faith and embarked on a trip to Mexico and Guatemala, where she began working with local artisans there, and ultimately brought MINNA to life. "I collaborate closely with small, often family-run artisan cooperatives in Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay," the designer told us. "There are two families in particular that I've been working super closely with for the past two years. Our design process is fun and highly collaborative, and these two families have become more than just collaborators now—they are also close friends."
One of the most notable things about the brand is that it's ethically made, in that the artisans are paid a living wage. MINNA is dedicated to "creating stable business partnerships, prohibiting child labor, promoting fairness and equality, and using materials that are gentle on the earth," Berks explained. "Every product we make is handmade by an artisan who is paid fairly and with materials that are sourced sustainably. I always trust the artisans to set their own wages since they know what their work and time is worth best." So, you can feel good about every MINNA purchase knowing exactly where it comes from and how it's made.
They also train each artisan, and it's been a positive learning experience for everyone, including Berks. "One family had never exported before, and since I had never imported before either, we were really able to grow together. Figuring out things together and managing the boring things like how we place orders, training them on how to use Google Docs, to proper labeling/SKUs, to best methods for packaging and shipping." These types of skills help ensure job preservation and a more secure future for the artisans involved.
"I took a trip and a huge risk, and luckily it's been working out," she told us. "Two years later, I've expanded the network of artisans MINNA works with, we have retail partners all over the world, and recently opened our own flagship store." Berks' story just goes to show that it's possible to make a career out of your passion.
MINNA is located at 421 Warren Street, Hudson, NY, or online at minna-goods.com.