Sara Berks, founder, creative director and CEO of the housewares brand MINNEfelt dissatisfied with her career in digital design and branding when she turned to freelancing to give herself more time to think about what she really wanted to do.
After settling into her new schedule, she learned to weave and fell in love with the practice. In 2013, Berks, 34, who holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the School of Visual Arts, launched MINNA, a handmade collection of textiles and tapestries in honor of his grandmother, who gave up her middle name Minna when she went by Ellis. Island in the 1940s.
“When I started the brand, I knew I wanted a name that wouldn’t visually evoke any particular image but would have a personal meaning and story,” says Berks. “The brand was essentially born from my artistic practice and my love of weaving.”
The gay-run business has since grown into an ethically and sustainably made housewares store both online and in Hudson, NY, where Berks relocated after leaving Brooklyn in 2016.
“I wanted more space and a quieter life after 10 years in the city,” she says. “The space was more affordable and I was finally able to get a studio that wasn’t in my apartment.”
MINNA’s studio is still based in Hudson, but the brand partners with artisans from Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala and Uruguay to create its products.
MINNA is still best known for its textile-based pieces, including rugs, pillows, throws and other linens. Berks says the designs are informed and inspired by feminist art, Bauhaus, traditional crafts and vintage textiles. MINNA works with master knitters, weavers and embroiderers to bring their modern designs to life.
“We’re also looking for people who have a particular interest in innovation, because after all, we’re asking them to create designs that aren’t traditional,” says Berks.
The abstract throw brings together playful, muted abstract shapes with handicrafts from a women’s cooperative in Uruguay. The minimalist Spaces rug, with its grid-like pattern, is handwoven in a family workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico. Many MINNA textiles feature modern geometric patterns, while natural dyes add an earthy sensibility to the products.
Lately, Berks says she’s excited about MINNA’s new dog beds. The washable striped cotton pieces, which can also be used as floor cushions, are woven by hand in Guatemala.
“I love seeing my dog curled up on it,” she says.
In addition to its own products, MINNA offers ethically produced products from other brands, especially those owned or operated by people from the queer community, people of color and women.
MINNA’s lively rugs range from $125 for a small natural palm rug sewn by a family cooperative in Oaxaca to over $5,000 for a 9 x 12 foot wool and cotton rug made in Arequipa, Peru.
Blankets and throws range from US$150 for the cotton Baby Pantelho blanket made in Pantelho, Mexico, to US$365 for the 100% merino abstract throw made by a women’s cooperative in Uruguay.
WHAT IS THE GOOD?
MINNA, a Certified B Corp, is committed to ethical sourcing, labor practices and environmental sustainability. Through its partnerships, the brand invests in relationships with its craftsmen and offers them fair compensation and the possibility of regular and regular work compared to one-off orders.
“We consider sustainability from all angles of the business, not just material,” Berks says. “What does a sustainable job look like for our craftsman partners, how much sustainable work does an employee have to do and, of course, the most widely understood concept of sustainability: ensuring that our materials respect the least possible ‘environment .”
So far, MINNA has transitioned its entire supply chain in Peru to GOTS certified cotton and is working to incorporate more undyed and naturally dyed materials. The brand also reuses its fabric waste to create other products.
After years of donating to organizations in response to issues such as racial justice, the border crisis or abortion rights, MINNA has launched a formal donation plan in 2020 to donate at least 3% of its profits each year to social justice and equity organizations. 1% goes to a local organization, like Kite’s Nest in Hudson, 1% goes to a national organization, like the National Bail Fund Network, and 1% is allocated for quarterly rotating initiatives.
Berks says that this year MINNA will expand into new areas of the home and launch a new collection of rugs. She also says that the company is set to grow and that she will expand her team and seek new partners to grow with the brand.