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Patti Carpenter

Fashion and housewares designer Patti Yvonne Carpenter was born on May 2, 1955 in Washington, D.C. to Vivian and Horace Carpenter. She graduated with honors from McKinley Technical Senior High School in 1973. She then continued her education at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, receiving her B.A. degree in fashion design and fashion illustration in 1975 and 1976, respectively.

In the fashion industry, Carpenter worked with Scott Barrie, Bill Blass, Oscar De La Renta, Gloria Vanderbilt, Adrienne Vittadini, Cynthia Rowley, Peter Max, The Limited Corporation, Timberland, and Ralph Lauren.

Carpenter became disillusioned with the garment industry after twenty-five years, and turned her interests to home furnishings. She is a principal and creative director of Continuum Home, Inc. and Carpenter & Company. As a design, color and trend consultant and merchandiser, Carpenter works with clients such as the Worth Collection, the Exploris Museum, and Agexpront of Guatemala country originals.

Carpenter’s product line, the Phillips Collection, can be found in numerous retailers including Donna Karen, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, J.C. Penney, and Macy’s.

Through her extensive work with Aid for Artisans, she has worked with the International Executive Service Corps and was awarded the Presidents Volunteer Service Award by President George W. Bush in 2005. Carpenter sits on the executive board of the High School of Fashion Industries and is a guest lecturer for the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Parson School of Design and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Carpenter currently lives in New York City.

Carpenter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 10, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.005

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/10/2007

Last Name

Carpenter

Maker Category
Schools

McKinley Technology High School

Fashion Institute of Technology

Jessie LaSalle Elementary School

LaSalle-Backus Education Center

First Name

Patti

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

CAR11

Favorite Season

None

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bali, Indonesia

Favorite Quote

If A Man Has But Two Dollars, He Should Buy A Loaf Of Bread With One And A Flower With The Other.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/2/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Housewares designer and fashion designer Patti Carpenter (1955 - ) was the founder of Continuum Home Inc., and Carpenter & Company home furnishing companies. Carpenter also worked for companies and designers such as Bill Blass, Oscar De La Renta, Gloria Vanderbilt, Adrienne Vittadini, The Limited Corporation, Timberland, and Ralph Lauren.

Employment

Continuum Home Incorporated

Carpenter and Company

The Limited Inc.

Timberland

Scott Barrie

Vogue and Butterick Patterns

Bill Blass

Oscar de la Renta

Gloria Vanderbilt

Apparenza

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Patti Carpenter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Patti Carpenter lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Patti Carpenter describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Patti Carpenter describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Patti Carpenter describes her father's talents and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Patti Carpenter describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Patti Carpenter remembers her paternal great aunt

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Patti Carpenter describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Patti Carpenter describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Patti Carpenter describes her father's occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Patti Carpenter describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Patti Carpenter remembers her nursery school in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Patti Carpenter recalls Jessie LaSalle Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Patti Carpenter describes her childhood influences

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Patti Carpenter describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Patti Carpenter describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Patti Carpenter describes her family's involvement in civil rights activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Patti Carpenter describes Bertie Backus Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Patti Carpenter remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Patti Carpenter recalls her mentors at Bertie Backus Junior High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Patti Carpenter describes McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Patti Carpenter recalls her decision to attend Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Patti Carpenter describes the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Patti Carpenter describes her early career in the fashion industry

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Patti Carpenter describes her work with Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Patti Carpenter describes her work at Gloria Vanderbilt

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Patti Carpenter remembers her business trips to Hong Kong

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Patti Carpenter describes her experiences of racial discrimination in the fashion industry

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Patti Carpenter remembers working for Adrienne Vittadini

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Patti Carpenter recalls the creation of her own fashion line, Apparenza

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Patti Carpenter describes her work with pop artist Peter Max

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Patti Carpenter talks about licensing in the fashion industry

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Patti Carpenter describes her work with The Limited Inc., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Patti Carpenter describes her work with The Limited Inc., pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Patti Carpenter recalls leaving The Limited, Inc. to work for Timberland Boot Company

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Patti Carpenter remembers her career at Timberland Boot Company

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Patti Carpenter recalls her experiences of racial discrimination in Andover, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Patti Carpenter recalls founding an international development consulting firm

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Patti Carpenter describes her work with artisans in South America and Africa

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Patti Carpenter describes her Bolivian line, Carpenter and Company, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Patti Carpenter describes her Bolivian line, Carpenter and Company, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Patti Carpenter describes the types of funding for small businesses

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Patti Carpenter remembers the attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Patti Carpenter reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Patti Carpenter shares her advice for future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Patti Carpenter narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Patti Carpenter remembers the March on Washington
Patti Carpenter describes her work with artisans in South America and Africa
Transcript
Now you're living in a city [Washington, D.C.], when the March on Washington happened.$$Um-hm.$$Do you have any stories about that?$$I remember it, and we went down to the tent city. My dad [Horace Carpenter] took us all down. It was one of those things where I had just felt like I had never seen so many people in one place in all my life. It was just that sense of a sea of humanity and knowing that really important things were happening, really important things were happening, and wanting to, having a very strong sense of pride and wanting to be involved in that. It was really impactful standing down by the, I can remember going across and coming around into the Mall [National Mall, Washington, D.C.] in front of the Capitol [U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.] and just that sense of all these people around you, but feeling like it was okay; not like now, where if you get in the middle of a crowd (laughter) you wonder if people are going to stampede and if someone's gonna start something. I didn't have that sense at all, even in the midst of all those people you felt that connectedness of one, one purpose and that nonviolent sense of, that nonviolent purpose, and so those are the things that really resonate with me from that time, yeah.$And in 3- 2003, I started my own collection of Carpenter and Company, which is products made with indigenous women in first Bolivia, and now we've layered in Guatemala and I work with weavers and embroiderers, and hand crocheters that make the product that we sell on our line, and I do home decor mostly. I've moved out of clothing, I found that it was more stifling to me as I moved up in it and as I stayed in it longer and the industry changed, so instead of going into a meeting with color swatches and inspiration and sketches, I was going into a meeting with numbers and that wasn't what kept my battery charged and fed my creative energy, and so it's part of what the decision making was, was to get back to my roots of being a creator and to sit with these mostly women. I work with probably 90 percent women in the places that I go, though we do work with some men, and we really sit there and we help them to determine through assessment of their product and their capabilities and their capacities, should they have their product in a local market, or are they able to expand from a local to a regional or from a regional to an export if they've got cooperatives or groups of people that can come together and work on that product and whatever the quality level is, et cetera price points, and so I've been doing that now for these seven years and I love it (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Which you've always had a love for textiles anyway.$$Absolutely, absolutely. Textiles, I mean, I've worked actually on a lot of different products. The beauty of doing this work is when ATA [Aid to Artisans, Hartford, Connecticut] brought me in, they brought me in first on textiles. I made two promises to myself in 2000. I wanted to leave the fashion industry and start this work, and I wanted to get to Africa, because I had never been to Africa, and two months later I was sitting in Mali, working with artisan producers and I was in heaven, and they started me out on textiles. Mali is the largest, third largest producer of cotton in Africa and they were not getting the value at it from it, and we have the AGOA Act here in our country, African Growth and Opportunity Act [African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000] and that states that in the countries that fall under that act, you can bring in product from Africa that's African made that doesn't have a duty and a quota attached to it, so it helps it to be more competitive in a market place where China and India and Indonesia and people like that can flood the market with lower priced things, and so they sent me over there to work on cotton products to see what they could make out of cotton that they could bring in to the country, and that was my very first time in Africa, my first job as a consultant, and it's just gone on from there; but yeah, I started in textiles, but now I've worked on wood, beading, glass, ceramic, metal, I think that, almost every kind of material you can think of, a little bit of resin but because you're working with artisan producers, you're really working in natural products, candles, and I've worked on all kinds of things and it's been amazing. It's like--$$When you say you worked on them, what do you mean?$$What does that mean?$$Yeah.$$What I do is I go into a country and I am introduced either through the government of that country if that's who brings us, or the organization that brings us to a variety of artisan producers, and I go to where they work more often than not, unless it's really broad, and then the bring them in to me, and they show me the product that they're making. We discuss the raw materials that they have available to them, we discuss the capacity that they have available to them, and we discuss the quality that they're capable of making, and then I will work with them to, if it's gonna stay on the local market, try and just bring it up to be the best thing it can be for a local market, but since our tastes are different than what the local market might bear if it's something that they're going to do regionally or export, then I work with them literally on the design of something, so I may often design something new but that retains the intrinsic value of, and identity of the place that it comes from, so that it's, because that's part of the reason that it exists in the world is that it has that identity that's not the same as some other country or not the same as, you know, as some other country even though some other country may make the same kind of thing, and so we encourage people to tell their story, to write their story on hangtags, because that connects with the consumer, often encourage people to sign work, because that lets you know it's handmade, and you're also educating on this side the consumer to appreciate a handmade something versus a machine made barreled out thing, and so when I say I work with them on all those levels, we do small business development, we help them understand how to price, we help them understand how to market, we help them understand marketing tools, how do you, do you have to put a code on everything so that if somebody buys something you know exactly what it was and how to make it again. We help them, you need to take a photograph of it if you're going to try to bring it outside of the country so that you have a reference point. We talk to them about developing collections of products, you don't just come with one thing and if, you know, a buyer didn't like that one thing what do you do, but if you build a collection of them then you have a more of a chance for sales. You also, within a collection, will have more of a chance for sales because if you, as an example, a small, medium, and a large, then someone may appreciate the handwork but can't afford the large, but may take the small one to make sure that they have something that reminds them of whatever it was, and who knows if it's a store, they may test the small and come back and buy the collection, which often happens, and so that's how I work with them.