For Darbie Angell, president and CEO of Cru, designing dinnerware is not only about helping consumers set a beautiful table, it’s about “impacting the world one plate at a time,” she told NOUVEAU®. Through the sales of Cru’s dinnerware, Angell aims to help dig clean water wells in Bangladesh and give charitable donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“It’s important to put your passion and knowledge together; it works itself out. My passion has always been to make an impact in the world,” said Angell. She said that while many people don’t know where to start, she listens to her heart’s call.
After Angell was prescribed four months of bed rest after going into pre-term labor with her daughter, Gianna, she felt restless. She had been working at a law firm, but during her confined bedroom hours, decided to follow her love for design and start her own company, Cru, in 2008.
Angell’s love for tabletop derived from childhood memories of neighborhood parties her family would host.
“I grew up in a family that loved to entertain,” said Angell. “We set a beautiful table. We pulled out our best china and flatware. It was just a fun time that we all looked forward to,” she said.
Angell has always had a passion for design and fashion and has a degree in interior design. When she first started Cru, she said that she noticed department stores’ china walls were mostly white. “I loved color and thought that a bride might want something a little bit bolder. I also wanted to offer a bride a chance at luxury,” said Angell.
Cru’s 24KT gold Monaco pattern, for example, could be used for serving people on the back of a yacht or for setting a glamorous table at home, but at a price point that could still be affordable, she said.
Angell is also excited to design product for the Millennial consumer, who, as a demographic, are typecast as those wanting something slightly artistic or unique for their home. For example, many of Cru’s collections are hand-painted gold and platinum. She said it allows consumers to bring something into their home that’s not simply mass produced.
One of Angell’s favorite Cru designs is Lauderdale, which takes design inspiration from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It aims to bring the tranquility of the sea and the classiness of the nightlife there to the table, she said.
Angell has also combined her passion for design with wanting to make a difference in the world with her dinnerware patterns as well. One of her dinnerware patterns, Madison’s April in New York, a cherry blossom design, is named after a teenage girl named Madison who had died from leukemia. She said Madison had always wanted to attend the NY Tabletop show with her mother in April, but never got the opportunity.
“I sat in Madison Square Park with the cherry blossom blooms — it’s beautiful. I could imagine Madison having that same experience, taking in New York in April, and that’s how that design came about,” she said.
And she has taken that product — as well as others — and turned them into a charitable experience. Angell explained that 10% of sales from the Madison go to St. Jude, while 2% of Cru’s other dinnerware lines go toward digging clean water wells in Bangladesh, through a partnership with Columbia University, after she learned that many people were dying there due to high levels of arsenic in the water.
“A piece of my soul is there now. I want to make sure they’re taken care of,” she said. “I want to make sure that I am helping impact their lives.”
Angell also hopes that the story of Cru inspires other young women, especially her daughter, Gianna, that they can set and reach their goals in life.
“As a woman in the business industry, it’s extremely difficult. [Women wonder] how you juggle raising your kids and your household, being a wife and running a company. One of my goals is to teach young girls is that you can do whatever you want in life,” she said.