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Katherine Parr- Empowering Underserved Women Artisans Through Jewelry Business and Social Innovation

Female artisans in undeveloped and underserved areas are pivotal to the preservation of dying crafts and the world’s cultural heritage for future generations. According to the World Bank’s International Finance Committee report, research suggests that women-headed households reinvest 90% of their income into their families, compared to 30-40% contributed by men. Nonetheless, they still face numerous issues globally and often cannot access the tools, support, and visibility to succeed to their potential.

Most of these problems faced by women are gender-specific, such as limitations of societal gender roles, and sexual harassment, while other issues that they encounter are lack of support, financial stability, and access to digital solutions. Women in underserved areas are often excluded from funding and credit opportunities. Women in these undeveloped regions may struggle with financial management because, despite their capabilities and potential, they may lack the necessary education and training, or access to digital solutions for implementation. Because of these obstacles, skilled women in less developed areas may not have the means to market and distribute their products. This is a concern of entrepreneur Katherine Parr who, grateful for the privilege of being born into a family in the United States, has dedicated years to learning about and understanding the challenges that are faced by women worldwide.

In some less developed cultures, the incorrect discriminatory belief that women are not competent to handle money prevents some financial institutions like banks, businesses, and family members from providing financial assistance to women. This is especially disheartening because women in undeveloped and underserved areas can’t create and grow businesses without capital. The owner and founder of Katherine Parr Jewelry has challenged this outdated mindset and has given opportunities and recognition to women by incorporating and using their talents to create her designs for her jewelry line. She has supported microgrant competitions providing small capital injections into young women entrepreneurs’ small businesses in Jordan, through a program designed at Education for Employment, a leading global nonprofit that works to eradicate youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa region.

By highlighting the talents of skilled female artisans, Katherine aims to change the trajectory of a society where women’s education, empowerment, and promotion are lacking, and access to viable markets is limited or nonexistent.  

In some societies where Katherine works, women lack equal rights and opportunities due to discrimination. Women entrepreneurs like Katherine are providing women with the support and recognition they deserve. Working with artisans in locations such as Afghanistan, India, and South Africa, and Syrians living in Jordan, Katherine’s design and manufacturing gives opportunities to some of the world’s most vulnerable women. She believes that women artisans must be empowered, and recognized as important players in the economy without their participation, no state can sustain its development. They also contribute a fundamental piece of social capital to a nation along with promoting its culture through their jewelry, therefore their importance across the globe is critical.  

Katherine Parris is a multifaceted woman with the reputation of a successful entrepreneur, designer, philanthropist, public school teacher, and accomplished fashion model. She is widely known internationally as the founder of Katherine Parr Jewelry and Parré Chocolat.

Raised in a family of educators, Katherine received her early years’ education from Sea Girt Elementary School and Manasquan High School in Monmouth County, New Jersey. After graduation from high school, she enrolled in Villanova University’s School of Business to major in marketing and minor in Spanish, spending time living in Spain studying Spanish and European studies.

Katherine was featured in an advertising campaign in the New York Times as a teenager, however, her fashion career really began when she entered the Elite Look of the Year competition upon discovery in a shopping center by Elite Management agents at the age of 17. Despite numerous opportunities in the fashion industry, she declined many contracts, to attend Villanova University’s School of Business in 1997. Only after graduating in 2001, Katherine decided to focus on her modeling career and moved to New York City to shoot an advertising campaign.

Her first post-university campaign was for the designer Adrienne Landau in Elle Magazine. This campaign acted as a stepping stone in her career and she subsequently walked in New York and European runway shows and worked for top brands in the fashion industry including Diane Von Furstenberg and Gerard Darel, Vidal Sassoon, and many others. Famed fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier discovered Katherine while she was jogging on the beach at the Caribbean island of St. Barth’s and signed her with his agency Bryan Bantry and Elite Models in domestic and international cities. She worked on the fashion runway, advertising, television commercials, and magazine editorial spreads for the following years in the European and New York fashion markets.

In addition to being featured in Elle Magazine and Vogue Magazine, she has also appeared in television commercials for Piaggio Vespa and for New York City and has worked with beauty brands like Vincent Longo, and numerous shows, including the show of Diane Von Furstenberg, during her modeling career.

Katherine Parr Jewelry, by designing jewelry and making mixed-media decorative art. Her jewelry designs and art have been shown in Barcelona, Spain; New York City, and London at Clarence House for King Charles III. Many respected public figures including tennis player Rafael Nadal, CNN International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, top performing violinist Joshua Bell, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, and rock jazz pianist ELEW, have all owned Katherine Parr Jewelry.  

Her jewelry has been sold online and at several museums and boutiques in the United States and Europe, such as the Morgan Library and Museum, 1stDibs.com, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and has also been featured prominently in Tatler Hong Kong, Town & Country Magazine, Tatler Malaysia, Elle, and L’Officiel, among other publications. 

Katherine currently serves on the two global advisory councils with her focus on education and employment:  Education for Employment, the leading Middle East and North Africa nonprofit organization works to eradicate the youth unemployment crisis in the region through education and access to employment. has also worked for years with Custom Collaborative, a high performing Harlem-based philanthropic organization that supports low to no income immigrant women of color toward education and employment initiatives.

For Turquoise Mountain, an NGO founded by King Charles III, Katherine has supported as a partner and designer since 2016. She has supported, hired, and collaborated with artisans in conflict zones like Afghanistan and Syrians living in Jordan. In addition, Katherine is a member of the Accessories Council in New York and has been accepted into the Fulbright Specialist Program for Entrepreneurship and Education Advisory.

Through her business and philanthropist efforts, Katherine aims to empower underserved communities and women artisans, while also preserving handmade jewelry, artisanal traditions, cultural heritage, and important traditional techniques. Through the brand she has built, she promotes culture, tells untold stories, and highlights the extraordinary skills of women through their products. She strengthens the relationship between traditional artisan communities and the fashion industry while making the industry more economically and environmentally sustainable through social innovation.