Groton’s Indigo mixes style with social consciousness

Sisters Laura Daly O’Connor, left, and Susan Daly and take inventory of their unique array of merchandise from female artisans around the world. Their shop, Indigo, at 30 Hollis St., carries stylish items with a social agenda of empowering women in developing nations. NASHOBA VALLEY VOICE/SCOTT SHURTLEFF

GROTON — Sisters Susan Daly and Laura Daly O’Connor, dual proprietors of the small boutique Indigo of Groton, have a simple business plan: empower women across the world.

All of the products sold at Indigo, a one-year-old business at 30B Hollis St., are handcrafted, almost exclusively by women from third-world countries or former refugees. “We want to be sure that they (the women whose products they sell) are being paid a fair wage for their work,” Daly said. “And with that paycheck comes the opportunity for vocational training, the ability to educate and feed their children.”

The sisters said they believe that when women from these villages in Asia, Central and South America, Europe and Africa succeed financially, even on a small scale, the entire community is uplifted. They generate revenue that is returned into the local economies, kindling for a future flame of prosperity and independence.

“A hand up, not a handout,” Daly said.

The sisters try to vet all incoming products to ensure that the craftswomen behind them are making a living wage. “We are trying to create a marketplace for these lovely items.” In doing so, the sisters become merchants of ethics and not just dealers of household wares and fine clothing.

That standard of social awareness extends beyond the showroom.

“The fashion industry creates a massive amount of waste,” Daly said. The manufacturing process of mass produced, conveyor-belt clothing and accessories leaves piles of denim and linens and blended fabrics in the trash heap. Handcrafted products, by frugal artisans, create very little leftover. Less emphasis on the waist and more on the waste is environmentally responsible. “Just the sheer amount of products contributes to a massive culture of waste. Manufacturers are creating so many products, so cheaply, that people wear them once and then dispose of them and many never even get sold.” Once those items outlive their trends, the merchants, too, dispose of them.

“I first got the idea after traveling to Ethiopia and seeing the amazing things they were creating,” Daly said. “I had this idea to import and sell their products.” From there, the footprint grew to include products from more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

One particularly popular product is a hand-poured candle from Prosperity in Easthampton. Each comes with a personal note from one of the ladies who made the candles. Many from the community of former refugees there work at the candle shop and a personalized card, complete with photo and biography that includes struggles and strife before fleeing their homelands and refugee camps, is included with each candle.

Both Daly and O’Connor have two daughters, who also work in the shop. “Girls of all ages wear these clothes. My daughters and nieces and I all wear the same things. They are comfortable clothes that transcend changing trends,” O’Connor said “classic with a twist.”

One of their primary sources for products is Middleton-based Queen Allotey Pappoe, a clothing designer and native of Ghana. “It’s been great working with Indigo. I couldn’t have found a better partner to help me with my own mission of trying to help craftswomen around the world,” she said. “They are socially responsible and we are aligned in that.”