A Piece of Work

Photo by Amanda Marie Lackey

Fort Worth entrepreneur Carly Burson started successful local accessories company and ethical fashion brand Tribe Alive after a major life change: She adopted her daughter from Ethiopia.
“I knew that becoming a mother would profoundly impact my life, but I never imagined that it would alter the course of my life’s work,” Burson says.

Burson was moved to address the core issue of child relinquishment on a global scale, specifically, the economic insecurities facing women in the developing world. “Tribe Alive was born from my decision to utilize years of experience in the fashion industry as a platform to alleviate poverty among people in the developing world,” she says. 

The socially conscious local company works with artisan partners in places like Haiti, Guatemala, and India employing impoverished women at fair trade wages. It provides them a safe job and a sustainable income.

An extensive background in visual design and merchandising with Ann Inc. and J. Crew prepared her for the role of Tribe Alive business owner, where she has curated a minimalist-friendly collection of accessories and leather goods while creating a visually stunning brand.

One of the staples of the Tribe Alive collection is bags – in the form of totes, weekenders, portfolios and handbags. So, when we decided to feature workbags and briefcases for this issue, we knew exactly where to turn for some expert advice and ethical options. But first, we had to get some entrepreneurial tips.

The Tribe Alive brand is so visually stunning and consistent. How did you accomplish this, and what are your tips for other entrepreneurs looking to brand their business? Anyone will tell you that I am crazy about visuals especially since I have a background in visual design. I work with an amazing team of women who also believe in a consistent brand message that’s built around storytelling. We cater our imagery to a specific type of woman. She lives in the city, travels often, cares about the world, loves deeply, and works hard. She’s independent, unapologetic, and has a relentless point of view. She loves fashion but cares about ethics and builds her wardrobe around a conscious conviction. We created this image of a Tribe woman not because she reflects all of our customers, but because she’s someone that all women want to be a little more like. We’re all about strong women and have built a brand around that.

I would encourage other entrepreneurs to figure out the main message and story they aim to tell through their platform and to consistently build imagery that supports that story. Your styling, language and content are the face of your brand so make sure everything you put out into the world represents who you are.

Ok. Let’s talk bags. What makes a perfect workbag for women? I’m all about buying fewer, better items that last. So, for me, a perfect bag would be a design that would withstand the “trend” test of time. A perfect bag is large enough to only fit what you need, goes with everything in your wardrobe, and transitions from the workweek to the weekend. I carry the same bag for years, take it everywhere with me, and appreciate it more when it ages.
You travel for work a lot. What’s your go-to bag? Our Weekender from Guatemala and our Leather Cross-body Bag from Haiti. I live in jeans, chambray shirts, and sandals, so I am a light packer. Whether I’m traveling for a few days or a few weeks, my weekender is all I bring. I love that this bag challenges you to only pack what you need and what you will actually wear. It speaks a ‘less is more’ language. My leather cross-body bag never leaves my shoulder and just continues to get better with age.
What kind of briefcase do you recommend for men? We hope to soon develop a small capsule collection for men, so hopefully I’ll be soon recommending our own bags. For now though, I am in love with the message and products delivered by United By Blue and Apolis. The Hawthorn Laptop Bag by United By Blue and the Mason Courier Bag by Apolis are not only ethical, but completely stylish and on trend.