Moving women forward through handcrafted design.
While Kari Litzmann officially launched Rubina in 2012, her story is the paradigm of unremitting growth—she has, in her own way, been working towards it for the better part of a decade.
In 2005, Litzmann traveled to Pakistan while researching for her thesis at Brooklyn’s Pratt School for Art and Design. With her team, she explored design as a means to alleviate poverty. They met with dozens of women who worked in sewing collectives and Litzmann got a taste for the artisan way of life, recognizing the potential of women around the country.
There, she met someone who would serve as the inspiration for an adventure Litzmann would embark on more than six years later: a Pakistani woman named Rubina. Rubina was working in one of the collectives and “had the best talent by far,” Litzmann said. She also had the drive. “She was the only one who said she wanted to start her own business with the skill she was learning.”
Upon receiving her Masters, Litzmann focused on using design to empower the Rubinas of the world. She worked with the Women’s World Banking organization and Barnard College on sustainable business models. Then, in 2012, she garnered the confidence to start a sustainable business of her own. That’s when Rubina was (officially) born.
Today Rubina partners with artisans and designers in India to make beautiful scarves and bags, while empowering women with a high level of skill to create better livelihoods. “I’m inspired by how Indian people live and how they manage to survive,” says Litzmann. “And they survive in a beautiful way. Especially artisan families—their lives are adorned in beauty even though many of them live in poverty.”
Why we love them
When a design is carefully crafted and well thought out, you can see and feel the difference. Just one look at Rubina’s dazzling goat leather clutches, handmade in Kolkata, India, and we think you’ll agree.
At her studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, founder Litzmann and her team work on their designs by mixing and matching patterns and fabrics. They’re now designing their own products to be created at WORK + SHELTER, their partnering fair trade cooperative in India - and we’re really excited to see what comes next for them. While it may have taken years to get to this stage, Litzmann is enthusiastic about what’s on tap for Rubina.
“As designers we are in a powerful position. We choose materials that go into products, we make decisions that can take the environment and society in different ways,” she says. “I want to do things that are really well designed and incorporate artisans.” And with Rubina’s gorgeous collection of handbags, wallets, pouches and scarves, it’s clear she’s doing an excellent job.