Partnering Locally: Leaning on Tradition•
Posted on February 25 2019
Leaning on Tradition and Family
Before starting the company, we had a road map of how many home decor collections we wanted launch during the year and what we wanted to focus on during each of them. We did not know who would be making the goods, but we knew each collection had a very special meaning to the Effortless Composition brand. Much like any creative process, we started with an idea and then found the talent to bring that idea to life.
The last decor collection on that road map included an idea centered around tradition. Tradition in the sense of the homes we grew up in as children, heirlooms that reminded us of family, and what we thought of when we heard the phrase ‘black home’.
This decor collection was one of the most difficult to bring together, which probably explains why it took half a year to release. The traditional homes that we could envision were multifaceted and slightly disconnected from our mildly boho-modern-rustic home decor style. We struggled with how we would pull in those deep tones that we could vividly remember, all of the black art, and all of the texture. More importantly, how we could bring in the stories that we experienced, the joy and the laughter.
We gained traction once we started to call our network and family members, asking if they remembered where they got the Cleopatra sculpture we remembered or the images that were hung in all our aunt's living rooms. We worked from those memories that drove our desire to pay homage to the black traditional home we knew. Our phone calls turned into canvasing local home furnishing businesses in South Central LA on Western, Broadway, and Slauson looking for items that triggered our nostalgia. During that process we got to engage in hour long conversations with our elders about what the city used to be and why black art was so prevalent in homes during the early 90's.
Eventually, our conversations lead us to Forest, a street vendor who has been selling beautiful black art for more than 20 years. Forest was a crucial partner in shaping the Jean and James home decor collection.
Our second partner was inspired by our desire to utilize the vivid tones and textures often seen in traditional black homes. We worked a family friend, a retired interior designer, to identify various textiles that reminded us of a time in our past homes. We visited more than 100 stores looking for rare and equally intricate textiles that we could use to curate a collection of timeless pillow cushions. During each visit someone could be heard uttering the phrase ‘my grandma used to..’ ‘uncle used to have this..’ ‘I remember this in..’ ‘you couldn’t go anywhere without..’ . All of the nostalgia we felt and all of the memories we shared of our homes back then allowed us to navigate in the right direction.
While picking fabrics for the line we often considered our personal style, during each launch we ensure that the goods we bring into the store are consistent with our brand.
Once we sourced all of the textiles we could handle we turned to my sister to supply an incredibly talented seamstress to bring the designs to life. Nora, our second partner, was very special to the collection as well given her work within the family and her amazing reputation. Using a seamstress who was no stranger to working with my family made the pillows in this collection special.
Partnering Locally- Meet Forest
I’ve seen Forest more times than I can count growing up in south central LA. He was a permanent fixture in front of the super market alongside other vendors who had become like family to each other over the years.
A retired sheet metal worker, Forest had been side hustling long before it was a thing. He started off selling on the weekends just to bring in some additional cash for his household. He enjoyed interacting with the many personalities he encountered and educating anyone who was interested in learning more about the artists he was selling. Most of which were reprints art from famous African American artists such as Monica Stewart, William Johnson, and Ernie Barnes just to name a few. During his 18+ years there, he had seen more than we could ever discuss and his love for his city was what kept him coming back. It was what kept me coming back as well.
Forest was a true salesman at heart, through all the talking and learning, it always came back to the business. A ‘I got something for you’ or ‘you know who that is’ typically ended up with me carrying a new piece home to add to my collection. When I was not learning about his business I was methodically planning if we could get his story to the store. As mentioned, I kept coming back and by our second meeting I knew Forest and his art would be a great fit into this collection which represents the black home of the 80s-90s, our cultural aesthetic, and more.
When I finally proposed the idea he was all in, not only was he interested in having us as a longtime customer he thought it was crucial to keep this type of art circulating in our homes and imagery. He mentioned that rising freight cost and other external factors has made what he has done over the two decades more difficult. Utilizing platforms such as Effortless Composition to reach a larger community in this ever-changing economy is something he doesn’t want to forget about. For Forest, selling keeps him young and he couldn’t imagine slowing down. For me, this partnership felt right, and it felt necessary. We worked together to get a few special prints into the shop that we debuted throughout various photos in our shoot. Each image brought the vivid cultural influences that we were looking for. Each image was able to represent Forest, his crucial contribution to our community, and the impeccable artists that he refuses to let fade away. For purchase, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Partnering Locally- Meet Nora
Working with Nora on the pillow cushions from this collection was very special because we were able to utilize our family network. The goal of our local partnerships is to continue to funnel business within our community so finding a partner who was already working with members of the family was perfect synergy.
Nora has been working in the industry for more than 30 years, specializing in apparel and home linens. Learning the ropes from her grandmother when she was a young, she had always been focused on perfecting her craft and pushing herself to create the most beautiful goods. Her breadth of knowledge and expertise was a perfect match for the type of partners we utilize to bring our goods to life. Bringing together the linens we sourced, and Nora’s expertise resulted in a detailed ideation session. We spent hours deciding on what sizes to offer, which patterns to pair with what, and how we could get the soul of the collection in each item. We were able to watch her work through each design with intention and care, making sure that each item was just right. Nora expressed how much she enjoyed working with on the collection and how grateful she is for each client she takes. With her children out of the house, she has more time to work on her passion. She gets to do what she loves every single day and that is not something to take lightly.
I admired Nora for being able to bring that to our collection and happy that we could work to create some beauty. You can find her handcrafted textiles for the Jean & James collection here.
Bringing Tradition and Family Home
Both of these artisan stories are the foundation of the Jean & James collection which is grounded in vivid textures and the tones from the homes we grew up in. With this latest collection we hope to help you bring these themes into your home. We hope that each piece in the collection evokes a tradition that you can remember or a family moment you cannot forget.