Slumlove Sweater Co. | Austin Artist

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Photographed by: Katie Jameson | Interview of: Ava Darnell, Found of Slumlove Sweater Co. 

How did you get started?

Slumlove started as a way for me to combine two great passions in my life - fashion and Africa. I had been working for a non-profit organization in Kenya’s largest slum Kibera, and over the years had developed really great relationships within the community. It was through these relationships that I was first introduced to Clare, a woman from the slum who knit school sweaters for children. Clare and I worked together to design Slumlove’s first collection of unisex sweaters for men + women and I began selling them to friends and family online. As interest in the sweaters grew, we expanded our production and developed new collections. We now operate a knitwear workshop in Nairobi, Kenya that employs more than 20 knitters and have grown our company into a lifestyle brand for men and women! We now not only knitwear, but tees, leather goods, and accessories that are all made with love in Kenya and giving back to various organizations within the country. 

What influences you? / Where do you get your inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is being in Kenya. My love for the people is what started Slumlove and it continues to be the thing that motivates me. Although I live in Austin, Texas, I travel to Kenya frequently to spend time with our knitwear team and visit our other suppliers. I find so much beauty in the culture and environment - there really is no place like it. Whenever I need a little boost, I look back at photos and videos of our time there and it always gives me the inspiration I need!

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What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?

I am passionate about helping put Africa on the fashion map. There isn’t a ton of global textile production coming out of Africa, despite it’s abundant talent and resources. Being “made with love in Kenya” is something we really push because it is such a unique aspect of our business. My motivation is my team of 20 Kenyan women who work hard everyday to bring my designs to life. It’s the group of 300 kids from the Kibera slum who we are helping send to school through our customers purchases. 

How do you balance your personal time + work? / How do you create separation?

Not only running a company, but also having a baby, has really made personal time elusive! Most down time is spent with my family enjoying the city of Austin and traveling to new places. We are a food family, so most of our evenings are spent on a patio enjoying the sunshine and a good happy hour deal. When I do have some alone time, I love to pamper myself :) Massages, pedicures, getting my hair cut - these things feel soothing to me and reset my energy levels. 

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years? / What’s next for your brand? 

The two big things that are always on my mind are how can I better improve our current product offerings and what’s our next product going to be. I want to work hard to continue improving the types of products we currently sell. That means investing in our knitting team to help advance their skills or make connections with other East Africa suppliers to find great, new materials for our products. For example, we recently found a great eco-friendly yarn dyer in a small, rural town in Kenya and have begun using them to dye our yarn for our current knitwear collections. But I also love to dream about what’s next. We started as just knitwear, but over the years expanded to tee collections and leather goods. We have another new category in the works right now that I am really excited about, but can’t quite talk about, yet!

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Nairobi, Kenya

While in Nairobi this summer, Katie + Ava visited the Slumlove headquarters in Nairobi where Katie got to meet a few of the talented ladies who create the beautiful sweaters.

Ava sources the Slumlove leather bags from Gonzala Leathers. Katie also had the privilege of meeting Grabriel, the talented leather worker behind the brand, while visiting Nairobi.

Simpleton Goods | OKC Artist

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Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Tyler Carder of Simpleton Goods

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How did you get started?

I used to play music and did a lot of traveling and while we were on the road I would try to keep a log of our travels. I filled the journal I had at the time and instead of purchasing a new one I decided to make one. I had friends asking if I could make more which led to inquiries for other items. It organically turned from hobby to my full time business. 

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What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?

Influence and inspiration doesn’t generally come from a single source. I’m influenced by the quality and intentionality in the old products that have proved to stand the test of time as a dependable daily carry item.

My grandpa has passed down to me nice leather shoes and wallets that he bought years ago and told me the reason for buying them is because they’ll last forever and that in essence is what inspires me to create new products at this point.

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How do you balance your personal time + work?/ How do you create separation?

As the owner of Simpleton it is quite hard to separate the work from personal time since there are always things to do that require MY attention and concentration. It’s like being on call; you never know when something is going to pop up. But I try to be present when I’m at home with the wife and kids and I’ve learned to make a habit of taking notes while I’m away from work so I can recall the things I’ve thought of in the meantime to avoid those things falling through the cracks. I’m generally looking like a nerd with a notepad and pens stuffed in the chest pocket of whichever shirt I am wearing for the day. I have to keep those things close or run the risk of not taking the notes like I need. 

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What keeps your motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?

I’m learning that love is NOT a sustained feeling of happiness or excitement but rather a commitment of discipline to press hard into the people or responsibilities which result in deep affection or fulfillment. Work, though not always fun, leaves me feeling enriched knowing that I am creating goods that are intended to stand the test of time and become companion products for the people using them; items that can be depended on to make their lives more simple. That to say, motivation comes from what the products do for a person rather than from the products themselves. I love hearing that people use a specific Simpleton item daily and appreciate what it does for their routines or how it creates ease in their day to day. 

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Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?

Primarily we’ve remained local to the Oklahoma City area but as we’ve grown the product line and strengthen the brand I think the next move is to start reaching into other markets. There are still details we need to iron out before making any big push but we have come a long way in our ability to produce items consistently and efficiently. It feels like we are solidifying the brand for the years to come and have focused on the idea that it isn’t about how many steps are taken but rather how firmly each step is planted. Without any prior experience in owning a business I am having to learn a lot along the way and there are many times it’s as though I am feeling around in the dark, but we keep moving forward and that in itself is a positive thing. I’d like to start working with other mediums such as adding some canvas items to the product line and possibly venture in to other modes of product all together but for now I’ll keep dreaming and see where that leads. 

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Photographed by: Katie Jameson | Coffee Shop: Eightfold, Los Angeles 

One of our favorite things about doing the job that we do is that we can pick up and work from anywhere. We love that coffee shops in different cities are always welcoming, allow us to have a delicious cup of joe, enjoy good conversation, do a little editing, and make you feel like you're right at home. This coffee shop in LA was so peaceful and the beautiful morning light flooded the space the entire time Katie was working there.