Sure, Carla Venticinque-Osborn spent her days as a New Jersey kid painting and drawing and earned a fine-art MFA from Temple, but it wasn’t until she fell—hard—for a crew of artisans in Guatemala that she got hooked on designing. Her first foray into the world of things you can wear was a fabric-forward, slipper-like footwear line she developed in the early 2000s that required close working relationships with the makers behind her handmade goods—and a desire to throw herself in and learn, learn, learn.
Once she got more comfortable with the nuts and bolts (or, rather, the needles and scissors), Carla felt the itch to bring her art experience back to the fore and began working up ideas for the fabrics themselves. The criteria: patterns and prints that would pop on the breezy jumpsuits and soft cotton slip dresses that, in 2015, became her line Po-em, created with worker cooperatives in India, Guatemala, and Mexico. Carla describes the new production process as “passing a baton,” where she dreams up motifs inspired by things like pre-Columbian gold designs and fairy tales but works within the block-printing and weaving parameters of her partners. The results look both classic and fresh—and the result of a team effort. As she says, “I love how many hands have touched my pieces.”