St. Frank designs home decor that makes a difference
Words by Michelle Ferrand
With a fevered passion for art and design that’s been cultivated since childhood, Christina Bryant set out to start her own business after a two-year stay in a small village in Rwanda.
The University of Virginia alumna “fell in love” with the traditional craft methods and the fact that local artisans used their work to pass down stories from generation to generation. “I wanted to purchase some things and bring them home [but] kind of realized nothing was going to work without a business in mind,” said Bryant.
While pursuing her MBA at Stanford University, Bryant met Steph Peng, and together they launched St. Frank, a luxury home and textile brand for consumers who want a new type of home—one decorated with premium home goods that tell a unique story without sacrificing their values.
Bryant and Peng named their business St. Frank after the nearby city of San Francisco. Shortly after, Bryant learned that San Francisco was named after Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the environment and poor. A perfect coincidence.
With one look through the website, it’s easy to see why so many have become enamored with St. Frank. On every page, you’ll find vibrant bohemian décor, art, and textiles uniquely crafted or inspired by artisans living around the globe. Every product’s provenance explains the rich heritage weaved within.
Bryant’s time in Rwanda also inspired a crucial element of St. Frank’s brand: creating sustainable change by providing access to quality jobs and economic opportunity to the global artisan community. “Anything that is good for the world, should also be good for the business,” she said. “For us, that’s designing and producing product lines with contemporary artisan groups located in lower income countries or under-resourced settings.”
St. Frank works with makers located in over two dozen countries, some of whom, Bryant says, have been partners for nearly eight years. The artisan partners may earn royalties through printed reproductions of their work. Through the Artisan Support Fund, St. Frank sends grants to its partners to help them strengthen their own business capacity. “We really strive to build long-term partnerships and grow with our partners in both selling more of the initial product, but also developing new product lines with them. Growing their business is good for our business.”
Another societal benefit of this business model is cultural preservation. Each beautifully crafted product preserves the rich history the artisans have to share. According to Bryant, not only does this honor those communities, but also gives their customers access to conversation pieces that celebrate the traditions and art forms of the craftsman.
Over time, Bryant and Peng also began to focus on St. Frank’s environmental impact. Their vintage line minimizes one’s environmental footprint and supports small businesses in the same under-resourced settings. More recently, they overhauled their packaging to make the business even more sustainable.
“[Sustainability] is the third prong to our social mission that we’re still developing. We care about it and it’s also important to our team, our suppliers, and our customers.”
Starting and growing a business can be very unglamorous—long hours, finite resources, and frustrating obstacles. But the hard work pays off. With Bryant being an early adopter of Instagram, St. Frank gained 20,000 followers by the time they launched in 2013. In their first year of business, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York placed visual merchandising and wholesale orders, respectively. Shortly thereafter, Oprah ordered some items for a project.
Since then, they’ve increased their online reach and product offerings, opened three three brick-and-mortar stores, including one in Palm Beach, Florida, and continued to add wholesale partners. Now, the brand has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, a headquarters office in New York City, and has expanded its two-person team to seven.
As for what the future holds, Bryant hopes to keep expanding the brand’s product offering to fully flesh out the “St. Frank home and lifestyle,” to continue to develop their relationship with their customers, and to become main stage players in the home décor space, both nationally and internationally. Bryant also hopes to grow St. Frank’s relationship with the Southern consumer.
“Southern hospitality and the focus around the home is so special,” she said. “The entertaining lifestyle they’re known for really aligns with how we value spending our time as well. So we’re finding [more] ways to reach them.”