A Conversation With JODIE FRIED of ARMADILLO & CO
Jodie Fried is the Creative Director of Armadillo & Co—a socially responsible rug company that combines aesthetics with ethics. While the brand is headquartered in Australia, Jodie lives in Venice, Los Angeles with her husband and three young children. She met Sally Pottharst (co-founder of Armadillo & Co) in 2009, and together they were inspired to create elegant, simple and quality rugs that they could not find for their own homes.
The Sherpa Weave (in Sand) is sitting pretty in our living area, and as Jodie mentions below, really anchors the room. It’s handcrafted from a luxurious wool blend, has a gentle texture and feels incredibly soft. I love how it looks in the space. Read on as I ask Jodie all about the brand’s ethos, product and practices, and follow along with their beautiful Instagram page.
What makes a good rug?
A good rug should be the anchor of a room. It needs to be high quality, durable and beautiful under foot. It is like a good pair of shoes, it grounds you from the floor up. A good rug is like the best supporting actor, it needs to be there to support other key design pieces in a room - art, chairs, sofas or the architecture without you even noticing (until you step on it and feel how good it is!).
We aim to create understated, incredible rugs that support a room and its style effortlessly. We design and produce all our rugs based around our company values. Our products are 100% handmade from natural and sustainable fibers and we are proudly socially responsible.
We work on each design to strike the perfect balance between these values and being inspirational and progressive from a design perspective.
Armadillo & Co has such an inspiring global focus with emphasis on fair trade, sustainability and education. Was there a specific trip or moment that inspired this business model, or was it a more gradual arrival?
It all started when I was working in India as a costume designer for the film industry. I was there in 2003 when there was a devastating earthquake which flattened the state I was living in. I went to work on rebuilding villages on the border of Pakistan and India and came to meet these incredible artisans which gave me a big reality check. I realized that I had the ability to make a difference by empowering these artisans to earn an income from their craft while giving back to their communities and their children. I founded our Not For Profit organization 12 years ago called, The Anganwadi Project where we build preschools for children in underprivileged communities. We have built 15 preschools to date with more than 500 children receiving education, hygiene, nutrition and love.
How does the dynamic between you and Sally play out in the day-to-day?
Sally and I have a “one in a million” relationship. We work so effortlessly together and are also best friends. We thrive and inspire together. With Sally based on the South Coast of Australia in Adelaide and my family based in Los Angeles, we rely heavily on today’s technologies to stay connected.
Sally and I work closely on every element of the business. I lead the creative direction of the brand and Sally is more of the curator, focusing on production, logistics and finances. For us, working collaboratively produces the best results and we design all the products together. Sally has an incredible eye for detail and I tend to have more of an overview of the design ranges and development.
Are there any designs or creative choices directly influenced from Australia? Do you feel your brand’s location influences your creative decisions?
We have definitely been inspired by the Australian landscape and lifestyle. The Australian aesthetic to so many is relaxed and textural, and we love to invest in a product that is durable and designed with longevity in mind. As a culture, we like to have indoor/outdoor living - earthy and not fussy.
We create our range using organic textures, natural tones and patterns that echo these textures from our Australian heritage. We love producing products that capture this relaxed style of living and awaken our senses with underfoot comfort.
What is your design process like when coming up with new rugs?
Each range and style has such a different beginning. We might find a color combination, or a fiber, a weaving technique, anything can spark the beginning of a new range or product. We always start with a lot of research and development, working with our weavings to trial all sorts of yarn weights, and weaving styles. Once we are happy with this, we move onto color, and texture, then size and design placement.
We are big believers in testing new products and with the recent additions of two new rugs to our Latitude collection, we tested these in our homes for 12-18 months before releasing them. We take a long time to not only design the product and the whole process can take anything from a year to two and half years from idea to product launch.
Is it tricky trying to balance the demands of a normal business with the sustainable and ethical side of what you do?
Our constant challenge is working in India under Fair Trade standards and developing brand new product in rural and traditional environments. This can take years from conception to customer. It can also be challenging educating our customers that our products are handmade, from natural and sustainable fibers and although robust, they have the irregularities and textures of a handmade product which makes them so unique.
Armadillo & Co has always been conscious that we remain strongly connected to our vision and mission, which is for our rugs to lie lightly on this earth. We honor and encourage ethical consumerism and work towards crafting beautiful products with the help of our incredible artisans, while providing them with a sustainable income.