When I find a brand I like I always want to know more about it, so I was very excited to find out the inspiration behind Strange Fruit greeting cards. Here's my interview with the lovely Denise.
Why did you start Strange Fruit? I thought about starting a greeting card company representative of people of colour for years but did nothing about it. Colour Blind started and I was really pleased that someone had taken the initiative for a diverse greeting card company but there was still a converstion going on in my head. Fast forward to my wedding. We got married in New York City in October 2009, our friends and family over there gave us lovely cards, many of the cards reprsented us, a black couple. When we came home we had a party for our family and friends in London. I was really sad that we didn't get any multicultural cards here. That night I started writing the business plan and Strange Fruit started trading exactly one year later in October 2010.
And where did you get the name from? "Strange Fruit" is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who released her first recording of it in 1939, the year she first sang it. Written as a poem by Abel Meeropl, a Jewish English teacher from the Bronx, Strange Fruit condemned the lynching of black people in the Southern states. It quickly became a civil rights anthem. My husband is from the Bronx but his family left the South in the 1940's and my dad, who is Jewish, was an English teacher who actively supported the civil rights movement. So all together calling the company Strange Fruit is a nod of respect to the past and those who did what they did to make today possible.
How did you come up with the technique of putting together the Strange Fruit cards? I guess I just like making a mess. All of the collages are made by hand, the pictures are cut out using a craft knife. I like to see how different materials contrast together and then to see the difference in the image once the collage is scanned to create the digital printers proof. I have a range of cards, the most popular are the 'Cut it Out' range which are each a stylish collage created from recycled materials and the vintage images I have collected.
Describe a typical day in your life? Tiring. I leave for the office at 8 after having breakfast and a hug with my four year old son. The 40 minute tube journey is really good planning time. I have a mass of notebooks - I draft letters, sketch out card designs and project plan. Once I get into the office I am busy. Being a Press Officer in a government department means each day is manic, I always get away from my desk at lunch times to check Strange Fruit emails, make phone calls and check in with the printing company. The journey home around 6 is usually reading time and once home we always sit and eat our dinner together. Around 9 when the small person is in bed I start Strange Fruit work. I probably work until around 11pm - midnight and after a late night shower fall into bed exhausted but happy if I have ticked a task off the mammoth list.
What are your plans for the future? Right now the future is a mystery that I am waiting to unfold. Strange Fruit is on its path and I love the progress its made in less than a year. I plan to stay focused and work towards each business milestone but I also believe the business will grow organically as the right situations present themselves. I do plan to try and get to bed early sometime soon though.