Happy Textile Tuesday! I want to introduce you to a fabulous brand that epitomizes so many things that we love- indie, creative, textile-based, global cultural fusion, boho chic – I can go on! The upside of social media algorithms is that you are more likely to find things, people and brands that you are likely to love, which is how I first discovered the Department Of Agra Culture. Let’s talk about the name first- isn’t it intriguing?! The brand is based here in the United States, and I spoke to founder Lauren McCaul Petersen (pictured below) about Department Of Agra Culture and what it’s all about.
” Agra Culture grew out of a love for travel, experiencing different cultures and people groups, and a fascination with global textiles and designs. As an Interior Designer, I have always had a deep love for textiles; so every time I travel, I am instinctively drawn to the unique designs and styles found in each culture’s handicrafts. I created Agra Culture as an outlet to share the unique pieces I found with others. I want you to be able to accessorize your life with the items we curate, so typically I look for home goods and fashion items that you can mix with things you already own; a tasseled pillow that can adorn your couch, or a textile clutch that you can jazz your favorite outfit up with. I choose items that I am personally drawn to and would use in my own home or style with my own clothes; which actually makes it VERY difficult to part with anything. Color and texture really draw my attention, so the pieces that resonate with me are usually bold and patterned. For a hot minute, I tried to tone things down and go more “minimalist” or neutral, but I couldn’t do it, it didn’t come naturally; so I decided I should stick to what came easiest to me, and that is mixing colors and patterns.”
“Years ago, my very first trip overseas was to India. I’m talking about back road, miles from the nearest town, and working with groups of Banjara Gypsies. IT WAS AMAZING. The vibrancy of the outfits the Banjaran women wear, and the details that they add to their attire is incredible. I think the majority of the images I took were of the women because I was so fascinated by the embroidered textiles they draped themselves in.”
“For a hot minute I tried to tone things down and go more “minimalist” or neutral, but I couldn’t do it, it didn’t come naturally; so I decided I should stick to what came easiest to me, and that is mixing colors and patterns.“
“Fast forward 10 years, and I have now traveled to many countries, but your first trip always changes you. When I decided to start my own business, I knew that I wanted my global company to have a namesake that paid tribute to the first culture that impacted my life, and Agra Culture was born (or planted!). For those that may not know, Agra is the city where the Taj Mahal is located. As cheesy as it sounds, I want the love for unique people, places and cultures to “grow” in other peoples’ hearts through our products, so Agra Culture was a play on words for the Indian culture that captured my heart, and the love for those cultures that I hope our products will plant and help grow.”- Lauren
Priya: As a creative entrepreneur, what are some of the triumphs and challenges that you have faced in running your business? What is one piece of advice that you would give someone who is starting out?
Lauren: “Currently Agra Culture is my side hustle because I also have a full time job, so my biggest challenge is definitely TIME. I feel like I never have enough time to put towards growing Agra Culture the way I could if I had 40 additional hours a week. (On the flip side though, my full time job has allowed me to stay afloat while AC is still in it’s infancy, so I don’t stress too much about being able to pay my bills or eat.) Eventually, I would love to be make Agra Culture my full time gig, but until that day comes, I struggle to be content with slower progress. Where I want my business to be, seems years away from where it currently is; I feel that if I had more time then I could speed up the process, and sometimes when I just don’t have the time I wonder if it’s even worth it. I read a quote recently by Bill Gates that resonated with me as I deal with this challenge; “We always overestimate the change that will occur in two years, and underestimate the changes that will occur in ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” From what I hear, Bill is a pretty savvy business man, so I feel like you can take his advice seriously. Grow your business the best way you can, even if it is taking longer than you anticipated. Where you want to be may actually sneak up on you some day and you’ll wonder why you worried so much back at the beginning.
“Grow your business the best way you can, even if it is taking longer than you anticipated. Where you want to be may actually sneak up on you some day, and you’ll wonder why you worried so much back at the beginning.”
Priya: What is your long-term vision for Dept of Agra Culture? Where do you see it going and what do you want it to accomplish?
Lauren: These are questions that I have been asking myself a lot lately. At the beginning, I was scared to admit that I wanted Agra culture to be a “real” company and brand someday. You hear so many stories about the majority of small businesses not making it in the first 5 years, so I told myself that it was just a “side thing” so that I wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t work out. But that was two years ago, and I have grown more confident in who I am and what I really want to do with the company. Over the next couple of years, I want to grow the network of artisans that we work with overseas and also try to focus the product types we have more narrowly. Really, REALLY long term, I would love to work with under-privileged women locally in my home town along with supporting the artisans overseas. It’s easy to become complacent in our American lives and only see poverty as something that needs to be helped far away in foreign cultures, when you can find it right at home. I want to find local , under-privileged women who have untapped skills, be it business or creative skills, that haven’t been nurtured or given the chance, and allow them to flourish working for a company where they know their hard work is positively impacting a woman just like themselves half way around the world. Obviously, in order for me to accomplish those long term goals, Agra Culture will have to become my full time job. Once that happens, on a more personal note, I would also love to do more design and styling with the products that the brand offers.”
“I would love to work with under-privileged women locally in my home town, along with supporting the artisans overseas. It’s easy to become complacent in our American lives and only see poverty as something that needs to be helped far away in foreign cultures, when you can find it right at home. ”
I love the styling, the colors and the boho-ness of it all. Plus my brain always does a happy dance when there is an exuberant mix of prints and patterns. As an entrepreneur myself, I find it inspiring to be part of a community that is looking not only to build a sustainable business, but also one that focuses on long -term growth and giving back to local and global communities. Please visit Department Of Agra Culture at their website and if you ask me, make yourself a cup of tea and settle down. You will love browsing through their lookbook and tempting products! Thank you for sharing, Lauren!- Priya
Images courtesy of Lauren McCall Petersen/ Department Of Agra Culture. Photography is by Lauren Tomasella Photography, Sleepy Fox Photography and Alex Worlund Photography.