Jodie Fried from Armadillo&Co | LA Stories
When you purchase a rug from Armadillo&Co you receive much more than the handmade, tactile beauty. There is a story that unfolds, an exchange of giving and receiving that is far greater than a simple transaction. The story of an investment for life, the reassurance of creating opportunity, and of respect to the artisans that create the handwoven beauty to behold, underfoot at home.
Jodie Fried, co-founder with Sally Pottharst of the beautiful and socially responsible Armadillo&Co, was raised in Australia, has been based in LA for almost a decade with her young family, and is a woman on a mission.
At the helm of a thriving, trailblazing, socially responsible global business, with three children under five, living abroad, Jodie is a quiet force that inspires with vision, humility and grace. As she attests in a quote of choice – ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just get on.’
At GTA, next to the famous Gjelina restaurant in Venice Beach, we spoke to Jodie about co-founding Armadillo&Co, everyday family life in LA and how she is constantly inspired to live a beautiful life…
What is the inspiration behind the business? When did you launch?
Sally and I joined forces eight years ago when we were inspired to create a product which we couldn’t find on the market. A product which was simple, high quality, timeless and handmade which we could produce sustainably and social responsibly.
We are both inspired by our roots of Australian living, classic interiors and products that are high quality and that will last. We decided to make what we couldn’t find and Armadillo&Co was born in 2009.
What are the most important values for Armadillo&Co?
Authenticity, Quality, Design, Sustainability and Giving Back.
You’ve been a resident of LA for nine years now, what do you love most about living in LA?
It’s true about what they say, LA being 72 and sunny. LA does offer the best weather around, which I think makes everyone genuinely happy! We live in Venice and hit the beach with the kids for a quick swim most days after school, it’s a really great lifestyle for our young family here. We rarely leave the westside of LA, and the beachside community is filled with eclectic, interesting, creative people from all over the world
How does Armadillo&Co give back?
First and foremost we work closely and responsibly with our weavers, providing them with fair salaries and support to their families when they need it.
We work in partnership with Care & Fair which is an initiative against illegal child labour in the carpet production industry in India, Nepal and Pakistan. We are the primary funders for a local school in our weavers areas, which caters for grades 1-5 with more than 450 children in attendance. We pay for all the salaries, uniforms, books, maintenance and have plans to build extra class rooms.
Armadillo&Co are also the primary sponsor of The Anganwadi Project, an Australian Not For Profit association which I founded in 2007. We have annual fundraising initiatives in collaboration with the students there through creative workshops. TAP designs and builds “Anganwadis” which are preschool in slum communities in India for children between the ages of 3-6. There they receive much-needed education, nutrition and love.
The most important values for Armadillo&Co are Authenticity, Quality, Design, Sustainability and Giving Back.
Can you tell us about your neighbourhood and why you chose Venice? Could you share some favourite haunts?
My husband and I have always been drawn to the quirky, creative postcodes. We lived in Potts Point in Sydney, Fitzroy in Melbourne and now Venice in LA. We are definitely attracted to the more colourful, interesting neigbourhoods. It is great for our kids too, as they are exposed to people from all walks of life and are certainly not growing up in a protective little bubble.
We can ride our bikes or walk most places and some of our favourite haunts are Gjusta for anything at any time of the day, Gjelina for amazing green smoothies which even my kids love. For date nights, my husband and I are regulars are Wallflower for incredible Asian street food, and Cerveteca for a great margaritas and Mexican fish tacos on Rose Ave in Venice.
Daily inspiration comes from light, shapes, colour all in unexpected places and unexpected times. You just have to keep your eyes open.
How do you balance family life with your business in LA?
I won’t lie, it is a challenge. With three small children – 5, 3 and 1 years old they all have different schedules and demands, so life is busy! I do find that when I work and do what I love, I am a better mother and when I am with my kids, it makes me better with my work. It’s a constant juggle finding that balance.
What’s a typical day like for you in LA?
Given the time zone difference with Australia, I tend to use my mornings for my personal time, catching up on emails, and spending time with the kids, school runs and school volunteering. On Wednesday mornings I am learning to surf with a group of other girlfriends. I am not very good, but I can stand up, and I love it – it is like a meditation for me.
I start to hit my desk from about 11 am when Australia starts to come online soon after, and then I am pretty much in Skype meetings with Australia until the kids dinner, then bath, story and bed and then I hit the computer again as everyone is in the Australian office is full swing by then.
How have you managed to be true to the values of the company while the business has scaled?
Quite simply really, our values are such an intrinsic part of our business and operations they are hard to ignore! Our business model is quite unique, we have never followed a conventional industry model, we have just followed our instincts and naturally it has evolved to what we have today.
The most important part of our business is without a doubt, our people. They are all individuals who love what we do and believe in what and why and how we do it. Without our team, we would not have been able to scale at the rate we have while keeping a firm hold on our values.
Can you tell us about building your dream house with Australian architects Tribe and why you chose to use an Australian firm?
I interviewed many LA-based architects whose work was simple, light, airy, sensitive to detail and (with) high-quality finishes. Some of them were close, but we felt we never really connected with our aesthetic. I had no idea our Australian sensitivity to design was so strong. It also made me realise how important your space and architecture is around us. After having lived in America for six years at that point we were highly aware of what we were missing in the homes we had lived in – light, indoor/outdoor, air, high ceilings, hardwood floors, white walls just to name a few.
I had a treasured scrapbook for our house, mainly references were from Australian architects, namely Tribe Architects. It suddenly occurred to me that we were never going to find that sensitivity of scale, light and proportion here in the US, so we decided to ask Hannah Tribe, based in Sydney, Australia if she would consider designing our house transatlantic style. She said yes! Her work really spoke to us. Simple lines, attention to detail of every corner, light shaft, negative space, consideration for air flow and family living. We were inspired by this collaboration of an Australian family living in the US, joining forces with an Australian architect. Hannah responded to our project with her impeccable style creating an incredible Australian design which sits comfortably in the streets of Venice.
The design is truly a labour of love and we plan on breaking ground in December this year.
Where you draw your daily inspiration?
From light, shapes, colour all in unexpected places and unexpected times. You just have to keep your eyes open.
What does living a beautiful life mean to you?
Being happy, balanced, loving and being loved.
You’ve clearly travelled extensively, what are your favourite destinations?
Sicily, Ladakh (Indian Himalayas) and Paris.
Do you have a mentor or an icon who inspires you?
Blake Mycoskie, from Toms shoes who created a business around giving back. Steve Jobs for creating a product which was so unique, and desirable with sensational marketing and James Perse for a classic well-made product but also amazing company culture.
Could you name a quote that sums up how you live life?
If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just get on.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
You are only as good as the people around you.
What are you currently…
Coveting: the new Ace&Jig Collection
Reserving: A girl’s weekend in Palm Springs
Preparing: New season colour swatches
Watching: Orange is the New Black
Listening: Hip hop and freestylin with my children
Reading: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying
Trawling: Design blogs for lighting fixtures
Giving: Volunteering at my children’s schools
Dreaming: of my husband coming home
In/Out favourites from the current Armadillo&Co Heirloom collection …