Over the last year, I’ve tracked the nascency of Rubina Design, a social enterprise that aims to address rural poverty and women’s empowerment through ethical, informed consumerism.
When I first met Rubina’s founder, New York City-based Kari Litzmann, she was envisioning the enterprise as a design company that worked with rural artisans in India to expand their sources of income by bringing their products to new markets.
As Litzmann began working with an Indian firm on product development, she worried that the social mission of her company was becoming secondary to aesthetic or commercial factors. Litzmann had been working from New York and the gap in communication, culture, and distance was aggravating.
So she took the leap and made a five-month trip to India, hoping to find a way forward for Rubina that maintained its original emphasis on social impact. It turned out to be the right thing to do; Rubina has made enormous strides toward becoming a business that brings consumers hand-made goods alongside a deeper approach to fair trade. The company currently has some items in the Pratt Incubator store in Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market, and is launching its web platform and a line of hand-painted clutches in the fall.
Below, Litzmann shares details of her recent journey and how it is helping get Rubina going.
RS: What was the context for your trip to India? Litzmann: I went to India for the first half of 2012 to start building relationships with a wide range of traditional women artisans and designers working with them. These partnerships will result in exclusive products designed FOR Rubina BY external designer brands that work with women artisans, as well as suppliers for the Rubina proprietary collections coming out in phase two. There is so much interesting stuff happening in the design + artisan world that we wanted to partner with and promote the work of others that share the same goal of giving women artisans more steady work and preserving their traditional craft.