Developed by Rebecca Bravin and designed in Brooklyn, Charlie Sprout brings a sense of fun and personality to a room. But the brand has a deeper mission as well: All of their distinctive pieces are all either made locally in the New York borough or by artisan women in eSwatini, Africa. Every product in the colorful collection is crafted from scratch, from the harvesting and dying of sisal, to the intricate hand weaving and printing, all the way through the embroidery and embellishment phases.
What started as a project of self-expression for Bravin soon turned into something bigger and bolder than she expected. We spoke with the creator about her brand, its modern take on global aesthetics, and how one trip to eSwatini four years ago changed everything for her.
First and foremost, tell us about the mission behind Charlie Sprout and how you launched the business.
Charlie Sprout creates innovative, unique, and beautifully handcrafted home furnishings with the mission to empower artisan women around the world through sustainable, fair income. Our vision is to have a distinct point of view across multiple product categories in the home industry by creating luxury, timeless pieces with loads of personality. Our passion, and how we accomplish this goal, is by understanding the challenges these women face and utilizing their culturally diverse, indigenous techniques and traditional skills in a way that makes our pieces feel new and fresh to share with the world.
Where does the name Charlie Sprout come from?
Charlie Sprout is the name of my favorite girl — my dog. She’s a Brussels Griffon (…like a brussel sprout, which is where her middle name came from) that I rescued 11 years ago. She’s my love.
You started by launching your pillow designs first, and they’re still made in New York (along with the throws) by local women who need economic help. How did you launch that component of your business?
Charlie Sprout started very naturally when I began making decorative pillows out of my apartment in New York. I didn’t intend to start a company at that point — it was an outlet for me to feel more connected and hands-on with product rather than just designing for other brands I was working for. I really wanted to put a little piece of my vision and artistry into the world, and this was my way. After a prominent luxury store in New York City saw pictures of my pieces, they placed an order and Charlie Sprout was born. Because the pillows and throws started here, I wanted to keep that piece of the collection close to home.
Your hardgood accessories are made in eSwatini, a decision you made after a life changing trip there in 2017. Tell us about that.
Going to Africa to work with children had been a dream of mine for many years, which I finally got to fulfill in April of 2017. I taught English to children ages 3-5 in the mornings, and worked with 11-13 year olds on their schoolwork in the afternoons. School isn’t free in eSwatini, so children can’t go unless their families can afford it. The program I worked with set up what they called NGO Carepoints, building free early education sites for those children to start their schooling early enough to get sponsored so that they can continue.
It was while I was there that I saw beautiful baskets in a weaving technique I had never seen before. I knew I could design beautiful pieces that felt really special using these traditional skills. This idea gave me a way to continue giving back to a country and its people I fell in love with, even after returning home. It was this piece of the puzzle that really started the brand.
You have a page on your site specifically about your business’s mission to empower women around the world. As a female business owner, how has that manifested itself?
Little girls in our country are taught that we can be whatever we want when we grow up… and for the most part, that’s true. We certainly have a ways to go and more work to do in establishing women’s rights, but it’s incomparable to what women in other parts of the world must endure. As a woman who is lucky enough to have the privilege and opportunity to start her own company, I want to pay it forward by helping other women to make their dreams possible, especially when those dreams include feeding their families, helping their communities, and being paid fairly for their work.
The Charlie Sprout line certainly doesn’t lack for color, from the tableware pieces to the bowls, vases, and other accessories. Tell us a bit about your design style.
We believe that the home is a place for self expression, and that your accessories are the pieces that add character and personality to a space. Color is fun… and adding color with your accessories offers people a way to play and add little touches that make a real statement.
Our design style is modern global, combining traditional, artisanal techniques with fresh color and playful pattern. We also use sustainable materials, so our pieces are unique and sophisticated while being eco-friendly.
How has the line evolved since you launched it, in terms of both product creation and the way you’ve grown the business?
The collection has certainly grown in size with more styles offered per season, but the evolution of where we’ve gone with color and pattern feels the most exciting. We are also always trying to push the envelope — adding new pieces and shapes to our vases and urns in particular really pushed our artisans out of their comfort zone. The end results have (almost) always been gorgeous, and that’s one of the things that makes me most proud… that these artisans trust me to try new ideas with their traditional skills that have been handed down through generations of women. And I believe they’re proud of the end results they create as well.
Are there more products you’d like to launch in the future? Where would you like to take the business next?
There are LOTS of other products we would love to design and even more women artisans (and their beautiful skills) we’d like to work with in different parts of the world.
We are growing Charlie Sprout by adding a new category to the brand in the near future. Without giving away too many details, we are currently working on launching a rug collection that is rooted in the true spirit of Charlie Sprout: fun pattern, gorgeous color, and lots of texture, all handcrafted by artisan women.
All images courtesy of Charlie Sprout