My Travel Style: Laura Hebden, Founder of Maven Collection

Looking for that perfect travel tote, or perhaps a cute pair of flats for walking around new cities? Online store Maven Collection is a lifestyle brand featuring ethically sourced, handmade pieces from artisans across the globe.

In this week’s ‘My Travel Style’ interview we caught up with the founder of Maven Collection, Laura Hebden, who aims to connect talented artisans from around the world to socially conscious shoppers. We asked her about her inspirations, favourite Chicago hangouts, travel essentials and hopes for the future.

Laura Hebden
Laura Hebden, founder of Maven Collection

Laura, when did you first catch the ‘travel bug’ and where have you been?

My love of international travel started when I spent a semester studying art history in Florence, Italy. I was completely overwhelmed by the elegance of the city and its art, but was also taken by the beautiful artisan-made goods–so much so that I actually found myself spending more time perusing the street markets than I spent at the museums (although I did really love the museums). I continued to travel internationally both during college and after, and was drawn to places with vibrant local markets such as Marrakesh, Zanzibar, and Peru.

Maven Collection Red Kilim Boots
Maven Collection “Why You So Obsessed with Me” Red Kilim Boots

What inspired you to pursue a career in art and design?

I have always loved fashion and design. As a child I would literally dress and style all my little neighborhood friends. However, I also spent a lot of time babysitting and worked in a daycare throughout high school. As a result, when I went to college I thought education was the path I wanted to pursue. A year in, I decided I wanted to be able to study abroad and take a few art classes during college but if I stuck with education as my major, my schedule would not allow it. So, on a whim, I switched my major to Advertising and Creative Design! A year later I was in Florence, having the time of my life studying art history and sketching in piazza’s on my lunch breaks. I never looked back.

Maven Collection Mayan Huipil Bag
Maven Collection Mayan Huipil Bag

You launched your own lifestyle brand-Maven Collection- earlier this year. Can you tell us a bit more about it and how the idea came about?

In 2011, I started working with a company whose mission was to employ global artisans by partnering with socially conscious retailers who wanted to ethically source products for their collections.  I was able to travel, learn about indigenous craft techniques, meet artisans from all over the globe, and see first hand the direct effect sustainable employment could have on one’s life.  It was an incredible learning experience, but I also found that my own entrepreneurial voice was growing louder – what if I was that socially conscious brand that was ethically sourcing products from talented artisans?  Needless to say, Maven was born.

Through Maven Collection, you support artisans from countries all over the globe, including Morocco, India, Guatemala and Bangladesh. How do you choose the artisans you work with?   

Aesthetics and craftsmanship, but mostly craftsmanship. If I can see that something is really well made but maybe the design needs some ‘tweaking’ to appeal to the western market, we start the development process.  If I can see potential and the artisans are willing to work together to collaborate, then we go for it!  I want our collection to be representative of indigenous craft techniques without being kitschy! It’s a really fine line but we try hard not to cross it.

Maven Collection Green Python Flats

We can tell you love local markets; can you tell us about one of your favorite markets in the world?

Marrakesh.  Shopping the souks is one of the most intense, yet exhilarating experiences.  It was inspiration over load and I had a hard time saying no. I could lose myself in the markets for days.

Marrakech Souk
Marrakech photo from flickr

Maven Collection is based in Chicago. Can you recommend something unique for a tourist to do here?

Eat your way through the city.  Breakfast at Bongo Room, lunch at Longman & Eagle, before-dinner cocktails at the top of the John Hancock, followed by dinner at The Purple Pig! I live blocks away from Green Mill, Al Capone’s hangout, which has incredible live Jazz featured every night. It’s the perfect ending to a night out in Chicago!

There is also this fabulous artisan market every Sunday called Dose Market! It features local artisans and has built up a wonderful community of weekly shoppers.  It’s a must visit if you are in town!

Purple Pig Chicago
Laura recommends dinner at the Purple Pig in Chicago.

List 3 of your favorite items in your suitcase right now!

I am all about traveling with great accessories. I have this killer pair of leather Stavros Melissinos sandals that I bought in Athens that go everywhere with me. I’m also big on packing statement scarves/shrugs whenever I travel–they are comfy and incredibly versatile. My current obsession is Maven’s Pushkar Persimmon Silk Scarf!  Lastly, a pair of sunglasses and a romance novel for the beach! I am a total sun child so I tend to follow the sun when I travel. Why I live in the Midwest in the winter is a mystery to me?!

Pushkar Persimmon Scarf
Maven Collection Pushkar Persimmon Silk Scarf

Finally, if you could hop on a plane right this second, where would you go an why?

Indonesia. I used to steal my sisters National Geographics when I was little and I remember looking at all the beautiful landscapes Indonesia had to offer. I’ve wanted to visit ever since.  Now that I have started Maven, I would love to go to source some beautiful Ikat & Batiks! I am constantly looking for more artisans to work with to expand our product line. Hopefully I will make it there soon!

Rice Fields Indonesia
Rice Fields Indonesia, photo from flickr

Like what you see? You can check out the “For Her” collection on the Maven Collection website, which features work from artisans in Morocco, India, Peru, Guatemala, France and Bangladesh, as well as L.A and Chicago.

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