How One Gift Industry Veteran Turned a Life-changing Trip Into a Life-changing Opportunity for Other Women

When Gretchen Hollingsworth visited India in 2016, she was determined to get back to her roots. What she found, was inspiration to create Ink + Alloy, an approachable accessories line with modern bohemian design to celebrate connectivity and empower women.

As a veteran of the gift industry, having created Paddywax, the candle company seen at Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters, West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Target, at just 26 years old, Hollingsworth knew the power that handcrafted pieces can have “in a world that can feel so large and impersonal.” The products, she said, create bridges between trends that make you feel good and do good.

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With Ink + Alloy, Hollingsworth’s mission is to empower the spirit of wonder and exploration. Popular styles include handcrafted earrings, bracelets and necklaces made with colorful glass seed beads and upcycled brass. Importantly, the women-founded brand’s products are made entirely by women artisan women both throughout India and in a studio in Atlanta.

As part of its commitment to doing good, Ink + Alloy partners with Commit2Change, an organization that Hollingsworth said aligns with her mission to lift up other women and girls. Through the partnership, a portion of proceeds from every Ink + Alloy purchase goes directly to providing education to abandoned and impoverished girls in India.

Ink + Alloy accessories are all handmade by women artisans.
Ink + Alloy accessories are all handmade by women artisans.

Here, Hollingsworth talks to WWD about creating Ink + Alloy through inspiration to help other women, designing accessories that foster goodwill and the brand’s all-women team of artisans.

WWD: Can you tell us about creating your first company Paddywax, and how you continue to foster the entrepreneurial spirit into giving back?

Gretchen Hollingsworth: From a young age, I knew I wanted to start my own business. My parents are entrepreneurs too, and I saw from their example how special and meaningful it is to forge your own path. I started Paddywax in my early 20s and I learned so much through that experience. I was fortunate to bring in some strong employees throughout my time at Paddywax (several of whom still work with me today at Ink + Alloy), and I learned the importance of having a team you can trust. The people you surround yourself with can make or break your success.

After I sold Paddywax and exited the business, I knew I wanted to take what I learned and invest myself into something new, and a big part of that is our giveback. I’ve learned that how you do business is even more important than what products you make. I promised myself that my next business would donate a portion of proceeds from every order to help make the world a better place, and that’s what we’ve done with Ink + Alloy.

Ink + Alloy designs are inspired by color.
Ink + Alloy designs are inspired by color.

WWD: Can you tell us about your trip to India that inspired Ink + Alloy?

G.H.: I have always loved to travel and explore. Visiting new places is one of the ways I get inspired to create and design new things. I’ve had the privilege of working with artisans and manufacturing partners from many different places over the course of my career, and I’ve become close friends with many of them. When I take my annual trips to India, it’s like a mini-family reunion.

WWD: Can you tell us about your production process starting in Atlanta and working with artisans in India?

G.H.: Our art director, Audrey Morrison, and I design all of our products personally. We start by finding inspiration from current fashion trends, our travels and the women on our team.

One of the things that inspires us most is color. On our recent trip to India, we took a trip to the flower market to find inspiration in the colors and textures found in nature. We start our color stories with a mood board of images to set the tone for the collection, and then we design the individual products from there.

Once we have our designs ready to share, we start work with our partners in India to make sure that the designs translate well into physical products. We work with some amazing teams of artisans, which empowers us to continue to push the envelope on what’s possible with our products without losing the handmade nature that makes them special.

WWD: In your own words, what is Ink + Alloy and how would you describe its consumers?

G.H.: Ink + Alloy is a modern and effortlessly bohemian brand that makes unique, handcrafted pieces designed to give women the courage to be creative and bold in their everyday lives while also donating a portion of proceeds from every purchase to educate marginalized young girls in India.

We are known for our colorful seed beads and our modern bohemian style. Our colorful glass seed beads and upcycled brass are handcrafted into earrings, bracelets, necklaces and accessories that evoke a bohemian vibe that is modern, inspiring and effortlessly cool.

We strive to carry this mission not only through the products we make but through the way we practice business as a whole. When you purchase from Ink + Alloy, you are supporting women in our home office in Atlanta, as well as our artisan partners in India and all of the girls we are able to support through Commit2Change.

Ink + Alloy artisans.
Ink + Alloy artisans.

WWD: How did the collaboration between Ink + Alloy and Commit2Change begin?

G.H.: It is important to me that we invest back into the communities where our products are made. Our brand is all about female empowerment, so Commit2Change is the perfect partner for us. They do amazing work educating vulnerable girls throughout India and we have built a strong relationship together over several years. We’ve found that we can make a bigger impact by focusing on donating to one charitable organization since we are able to get to know them and their needs so well.

On my trip to India last month, I was able to visit one of the schools that we support through Commit2Change, and it was truly humbling and heartwarming. Seeing the girls learning English, coding, math and so much more — it reminded me of why we do what we do. In fact, last year we were able to educate over 1,000 girls.

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