California cool meets centuries of tradition at Block Shop, the Los Angeles design studio of Hopie and Lily Stockman. Working with printers and dyers in Bagru, Rajasthan, the two sisters create textile products – including their signature oversized cotton-silk scarves – woodblock printed in the traditional Indian way. The look is modern and minimal, with geometric patterns inspired by a desert vernacular and palette.
“They’re a little bit bohemian. They love to travel, love to read. They appreciate how things are made, from their food to their clothes,” is how Hopie describes Block Shop customers, who include Hollywood regulars such as Drew Barrymore, Jenny Mollen, and Busy Philipps. “There’s a strong travel element to our products,” Hopie adds. “People love bringing their scarves on the plane, on the train, in the mountains. They’re lightweight, pack easily, can work as a sarong or a picnic blanket. Whatever you need it to be, it will do the work for you.”
Both painters, the Stockmans got the idea for their company in 2010. That year Lily went to India to study miniature painting and met a fifth-generation hand-block printer who was starting an artisan cooperative in Bagru. She wound up experimenting with him on some fabric designs. “Lily was sending samples to me in my cube,” recalls Hopie, then an investment consultant in San Francisco. “I was getting excited about them, sharing them with friends.” Sensing a way to make good and do good, they partnered with the co-op, and Block Shop was born.
Today Hopie, 32, and Lily, 34, collaborate on the designs, which start as watercolors. Twice a year they travel to Bagru to work out compositions and colorways with their team of some 18 artisans. “They love to weigh in, and always end up tweaking and improving what we bring over,” Hopie says. The designs are then carved into wooden blocks used for printing. “Our master carver, Raju Chhipa, is truly an artist. The woodcarvings are gorgeous. We think of them as little sculptures.”
At the heart of Block Shop’s business model is ethical production and transparency in the supply chain – working directly with the artisans, making sure they’re paid fair wages. The company also puts 5 percent of profits toward health programs in the Bagru community, including primary care, vision correction, and water purification. “The most important part of our business is our relationships, both with our wonderful family of printers in India and our sisterhood of customers,” says Hopie. “For us, that’s the magic of Block Shop – that connection to this little village. Being able to show our customers exactly who’s making their product makes us extremely happy and excited.”
Modern Meets Traditional
Sister, sister: Hopie and Lily Stockman enjoyed an idyllic childhood on a farm in New Jersey, “full of animals, nature, lots of creative outlets, and no TV.” As kids, they turned an empty garage stall into their art studio, where they first started painting together. Lily went on to study art at NYU and Harvard. Hopie majored in art and English lit at Brown, then earned a Harvard MBA.
Lots of likes: With more than 80,000 followers on Instagram, Block Shop uses the social media platform for feedback and to showcase the people and processes behind their brand. The small-world engagement goes both ways, as the artisans in India get to see customers wearing items they’ve made.
But, wait, there’s more: Along with scarves, Block Shop offers printed pillows, and a line of cotton dhurrie rugs made by a weaving cooperative near Jodhpur. Just out: hand-blocked cotton baby blankets in soft, sweet shades of pink, blue, and gray – “for the design-conscious mama who wants to get the baby stuff that she likes, too.”