Perhaps it was Stella McCartney that paved the way, or maybe it was H&M with their Conscious Collection, but either way, it has become fashionable to be conscious, ethical and green. And the message of defying the tidal wave of fast fashion and providing products with honesty and suppliers with fairness is rife; take Brother Vellies, for example. Where being ethical hasn’t yet made its marks, however, is in home wear.
But that is all set to change with the arrival of one New York-based brand: Meridian. The social enterprise curates ethically-sourced décor and textiles that are handmade by artisan craftspeople from around the world. Its founder, Ashley Viola, was inspired to create Meridian when she spotted a gap in the market for cultured décor in America.
“It was hard to find décor that really spoke to what I was trying to envision for a home,” she told the Observer. “I wanted my new apartment in Manhattan to reflect where I had been and I wanted every piece to tell a story about how it was made and who made it. That was really where the idea for Meridian was born.”
Think plush pillows, ornate porcelain bowls, traditional Chapati plates and eclectic brass bells and you’ll get the picture. Meridian currently works with artisans in 17 different countries, from Central America, to Asia, to Africa, and Viola is adamant that by the end of the year, there will be even more added to the roster.
The online-only brand has three sections on its website: décor, market finds and soft goods. For décor, Viola has fostered an array of relationships throughout her travels, so when she’s not able to visit a place, she has artisans she still works alongside.
“We’re not just buying a set of something and then never talking to these people again; we’re making a relationship with the craftsmen and seeing it as a long term relationship that we will foster and nurture,” she explained.
Textiles are scooped up from countries across the world—the latest being Guatemala—which are then shipped to New York and then hand-sewn and manufactured into pillows in Brooklyn.
“Meridian takes pieces that have been crafted in a very traditional and indigenous way. [We] add a contemporary touch by rethinking its purpose. Something that may have started as a dress, for example, then gets re-purposed into a pillow. We back everything with 100 percent Belgian linen and try to create a very contemporary product,” Viola said.
When the entrepreneur isn’t flying around the world foraging for the items herself, she’s working with her team of global contacts to source the items necessary to round out Meridian’s collection.
It’s important to Viola that the brand is seen as a channel for making a significant impact on artisans around the world. From her travels as a little girl, to her previous career as a jet-setting producer, the native New Yorker has global and philanthropic goals that she is passionately invested in; she hopes Meridian will be a vessel for those desires.
“Being able to empower our artisans with access to the global economy, be able to grow and evolve in what they do, improve their supply chain and provide education to their families, means everything to me,” she said. Here’s to the future of Meridian and all things ethical.