Guest Interview by: Sarah Imran of Turner Family Center for Social Ventures
My personal story is eclectic and an important part of the Portmanteau brand. I am an Alaskan hippie with a New Zealand heritage, and I now live in the urban creative setting of Nashville, TN. The juxtaposition of my geographies has a visible influence on the bohemian-chic aesthetic of my designs. I am also an artist with an MBA, a rare combination which I think can be explained by my upbringing: Growing up we had a commercial fishing site in Bristol Bay, Alaska —my parents also owned their own photography business. In this respect, I was raised in an environment where creative pursuits and business were not mutually exclusive!
About the Product
Portmanteau is a contemporary collection of jewelry based on simple lines and asymmetry. All pieces are handmade in my Nashville studio using precious metals and organic materials (feathers, pearls, gemstones). The word Portmanteau [ pôrtˈman(t)ō ] means the blending of two things; fusion and layering are core to the Portmanteau concept. Through the collection I encourage my customers to push their personal style and create unlikely combinations. Experimenting is a fun part of the Portmanteau customer experience.
On Being an Entrepreneur in Nashville
I have benefitted greatly from the collaborative environment of Nashville –moving here was the best decision I could have made for my business. It is an exciting and creative city, with plenty of opportunity to be a part of growth that is underway. My business wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for entrepreneurial support from Owen Vanderbilt faculty and students, LaunchTN, the Entrepreneur Center, and The Social Enterprise Alliance, as well as industry support from the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA) and mentor Van Tucker (NFA CEO and Owen alumna).
On Community & Social Impact
Over the past year, I have enjoyed hosting youth-at-risk jewelry workshops within the community —a portion of each Portmanteau purchase goes towards this project. This workshop idea stemmed from my own positive childhood exposure to art. Growing up around artists and entrepreneurs gave me creative confidence at an early age. This sense that I could manifest a vision into a physical thing has benefitted me far beyond my artistic pursuits. It is a confidence I hope to share as much as possible, and right now growing the youth workshops seems like the best way to do that! Recent workshops have been in partnership with Consider the Wldflwrs, Youth Villages, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. This summer I’m excited to host my first studio apprenticeship, I’ll be mentoring a teen from Youth Villages.
As a brand in fashion, I am very conscious of my labor and materials sourcing. In terms of labor, Portmanteau is an artisanal brand whose customers appreciate hand-crafted, small batch jewelry with a maker’s story. My biggest challenge as a small company is sourcing ethical metals –my supplier certifies that all metals are recycled and/or conflict free, however, information beyond that is difficult to discern. As Portmanteau grows my goal is to be able to track our materials to origin, and ultimately work directly with an ethical source.
In terms of growth and ethics I look to companies like Elizabeth Suzann and Nisolo. These Nashville brands have been able to stay close to their supply chain, manufacturing processes and customer experience while growing to international success
*Be sure to check out Portmanteau at the 36|86 Street Fair on June 5th.