Hopie + Lily Stockman: Block Shop Textiles

Block_Shop_Portrait_Credit_Kelsey_Daly.jpg

 

The city feels wild to me, like anything is possible, the way I felt about New York when I was in my early twenties.

Words:
Chelsea Sonksen

Photographs:
Kelsey Daly

Sisters Hopie and Lily are the creative and business minds behind Block Shop Textiles: a socially conscious textile company that blends modern California style with traditional Indian block painting. “It’s varsity arts and crafts,” Lily jokes gesturing to the watercolors and sketchbooks spread across the table in their DTLA studio.

Twice a year the sisters travel to Bagru, India, where they work closely with their team throughout every step of production. It starts with their physical drawings (they don’t use computers), which they transfer to scale onto graph paper. Each element of the design is then carved into wooden blocks and printed onto fabric using botanical, mineral, and other non-toxic dyes. The finished products are made into scarves and pillows, which are sold wholesale and online. Deeply committed to their community of printers, Hopie and Lily invest five percent of Block Shop's annual profits in sustainable healthcare programs in Bagru, which they develop with leaders in the community. To date they’ve funded clean water initiatives, an eye-care clinic, and more than 250 primary care check-ups.

www.blockshoptextiles.com
@blockshoptextiles

What advice do you have for young women who want to start their own business?

Hopie: Before you start: does your business address an unmet need? Is there proven demand for what you’re selling? It doesn’t matter how amazing and perfect everything else is; you must be able to answer YES and YES to those questions.

Lily: If you aren’t a savvy bookkeeper, hire someone who is — even for a few hours a month. I wish we’d hired our bookkeeper and accountant earlier. Always negotiate your shipping rates with your carrier. Seek out grants and loans for women-run businesses in your city. Be the face of your company, especially if you’re an online business. Doing pop-ups and markets to connect with your crew is vital not only to your brand but also to your personal happiness. It builds community.

How do you challenge stereotypes in your work?

Hopie: With respect to social enterprise, there are many well-intentioned business owners working in developing countries who go in thinking: “I want to help you, and my country is more advanced, so I know what you need.” We challenge this mindset by conducting needs assessments. All of our community contributions are driven by and for the community, and we’re working to implement measurement tools to monitor the change we’re effecting.

Lily: You might visit a place like Bagru and think women’s empowerment is a big issue. So let’s give women more work, right? But it’s not that simple. Actually talk to women there about what they want, and you realize that the empowerment issue stems from lack of access to money, not its accumulation. In Bagru, the husbands hold the purse strings. So setting up a women’s-only savings and loans pool (which is a standard practice throughout rural India, often called SHGs or self-help groups) is actually more impactful than providing them with more printing work.

Lily: You might visit a place like Bagru and think women’s empowerment is a big issue. So let’s give women more work, right? But it’s not that simple. Actually talk to women there about what they want, and you realize that the empowerment issue stems from lack of access to money, not its accumulation. In Bagru, the husbands hold the purse strings. So setting up a women’s-only savings and loans pool (which is a standard practice throughout rural India, often called SHGs or self-help groups) is actually more impactful than providing them with more printing work.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Hopie: Fiction. Fates & Furiesby Laura Groff, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman, and The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Lily: Hopie and I are both getting a real kick out of You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, which is like The First Bad Man but more satirical about iPhone zombieism and TV culture. I just started reading Paradise Now about Ann Lee and the Shakers. It reads like a rollicking New Yorker article, and I’m really interested in Ann Lee, speaking of women in leadership.

What nourishes you?

Hopie: My three sisters.

Lily: Tequila on the rocks after gardening all day in Joshua Tree. Family.