#BadassCreatives: Katie Schmidt of Passion Lilie Ethical Fashion
Local designer Katie Schmidt recently contacted me to let me know about her new vintage inspired fair trade clothing line, Passion Lilie. She launched her new collection just last month, and it features fabrics printed by hand with natural, plant based dyes. Her collection was inspired by a trip to India, where she was able to work with a women’s cooperative and other fair trade organizations. She came back home to New Orleans with a mission to create her own fair trade clothing line.
I recently chatted with her to learn more about her new collection and what inspired it.
Tell me a little about Passion Lilie and its mission.
Passion Lilie is a women’s fair trade clothing line that features hand woven and hand block printed dresses, skirts and accessories. Passion Lilie is based in New Orleans, where I do all the designs and pattern making. We work with small fair trade certified workshops in India that produce the fabrics and do all the stitching. The fabrics take longer than traditional fabrics to create, because our manufacturers use an Indian tradition of stamping a pattern onto the fabric by hand with a wood block. The dyes used in this process are all plant based, chemical free dyes. We also have some stripes in our collection, which are hand woven.
Our mission is to empower artisans by creating dignified employment opportunities that give fair wages and safe and healthy working conditions to marginalized individuals, mainly women, in developing communities. We truly believe that these positive job opportunities help lift individuals out of poverty, and lead to sustainable societies and a better world.
Can you tell me more about your trip to India and how it inspired your new collection?
My trip to India was amazing! I actually have several blog posts on my website dedicated to the trip. India, itself is overwhelming, overcrowded, but extremely accommodating and packed with culture. I have been to about 26 different countries and there is nothing quite like India.
During my stay, I visited Bhopal where I had a friend who ran a small home décor workshop that employs very poor village women to do the hand embroidery work. I spent a few days interviewing the women, listening to their stories and even visiting their homes. Because they are Muslim, the embroidery work is one of the few jobs they are socially and religiously allowed to do. Their work can be done from their home and they can still attend to the household duties. Their homes were simple with the bare minimum, but they still prided themselves on hospitality, offering me tea and a place to sit down. All the money they make is spent on necessities; they struggle to pay bills and feed their children.
I asked one of the women, “If you could have anything in the world, what would you have?” Her answer to me was, “Happiness and prosperity for my children.” At that very moment, I wanted to empty my bank account and give them all my money. But they were too proud to take my money; they wanted a job and a sustainable living. I knew I had to do something and 6 months later, I decided to quit my job and start Passion Lilie.
How would you describe your personal style? How is that reflected in your designs for Passion Lilie?
I am a romantic. I love soft lines, feminine cuts and neutral colors paired with bold prints. My style is reflected in my designs. I create dresses that I love, but I also ensure that my dress and skirt designs will flatter a variety of body types from pear to curvy to straight. I am very much inspired by vintage fashion, as well as by the colorful Indian hand block printed fabrics that I use. My vintage inspiration comes from looking at old patterns and watching old Nick at Night shows such as I Love Lucy and Green Acres. I also have a couple Indian designers I like to watch, such as Anokhi. The Passion Lilie Fall 2013 Collection is organic, fun and playful, but also can be dressed up for work or for a night on the town.
What’s in the future for Passion Lilie? Where do you see the company in 2 years?
The future for Passion Lilie is to grow our product selection to include more clothing and apparel options, to increase our reach nationally and ultimately to increase the amount of fair trade jobs we can provide for marginalized and disadvantaged individuals. In two years, we plan to grow our team in the areas of marketing and sales and as we expand our product selection, we hope to gain new international partners to work with us on fair trade and ethical manufacturing.
What brought you to New Orleans? What are your favorite things to do around town?
The first time I came to New Orleans was to visit an old friend during Jazz Fest. I had so much fun that I came back the following Mardi Gras. My friend then introduced me to a very sweet French guy and being a freelance costume designer, I decided to move to New Orleans for the summer! I fell in love with the city that first summer, despite the humidity and I decided to stay. Oh and the French guy, still in love.
Now that it is Saints season, I love to watch the game on Sunday; my favorite place is Rusty Nail. I enjoy walking around the French Quarter on a nice day and having a drink on the balcony of Jax Brewery, which overlooks the river. Being in the Quarter makes me feel like I am on a mini vacation. I also love to try new restaurants and I usually eat out on the weekends; the next one on my list is Amici on Magazine.
Where can people find your designs?
My designs can be found on my website: passionlilie.com, or at local stores in New Orleans: Green Serene (complete collection), Gae-Tana’s, and Bon Castor. I am always adding new retail partners. Follow this page to stay up-to-date as we add more stores.