In 2008, Vanguard University student Jessie Simonson and two friends set out to create 31 Bits, a socially conscious organization dedicated to helping Ugandan women sell their handmade jewelry. The company has expanded, and in 2017 it launched a home line, Goods, that works with artisans from Indonesia. The fall collection will be released in September.
Why did you decide to base 31 Bits in Costa Mesa?
I moved here for college, and we started 31 Bits our senior year. All of us loved being close to the beach and that O.C. is close to L.A. and the fashion industry. In addition to that, we really have a strong community here. Our very first customers from 10 years ago are still some of our most loyal.
What made you want to start a home collection?
Our designer, Kallie Thomson, moved out to Bali with her husband and their little girl and started working directly with the artisans, designing (jewelry) and creating really great pieces. While they were there, she started nesting her home and was finding all these amazing pieces. She was like, “I’m meeting all these cool artisans, and they have such great stories, and I want to be able to offer them an opportunity to sell their work.” We put it all together and started Goods.
How are the home goods made?
We put together a ton of design inspirations and create a dream list of the items we would want to gift people or put in our homes. Then Kallie goes and meets with the artisans she’s created friendships with and does sketches and samples their materials.
Were there any issues that came up?
Trying to fit all the cultural barriers into a quick timeline and making sure that we were doing it all right—ensuring ethical standards in everything that we do, making sure the workshops were safe, that they were being paid fairly, that we were paying the right prices for these products, and then actually designing and working on the quality control.
Can you describe the new fall line?
We have a beautiful collection of whitewashed sand vases that incorporate actual sand from the beaches of Bali with a whitewash paint effect on intricate-shaped vases. You’ll also see blankets that are woven with modern color combinations, and we’ll do a line of hand-painted ceramic vases. I think we’ve been able to implement a lot more design elements, so Western design and even things that have been inspired by our customers and designers here.
Is there a message in your work?
Our goal is to live lives that are meaningful, and I think that shows in how we treat people, how we spend our time, how we care for our families and ourselves. If we have those values for other parts of life, why wouldn’t we have the same values for the goods we buy? I want people to understand that the things they purchase have an effect on the world and on people’s lives.
1001 W. 17th St., Costa Mesa