BY ERICA JORDAN
Born out of “a desire to combine a love of design with the hope to alleviate poverty among women around the world,” Raven + Lily truly embraces the empowerment of women through their feminine fashion collections.
Founders Kirsten Dickerson and Sophia Lin have built their message into the company’s “triple” bottom line; “People, Planet, Profit.” The two gather inspiration for their unique collections through travel experiences from around the globe and through the relationships they forge along those journeys. Nature, art and culture found in the countries they visit play a large role in design inspiration along with the visions of the local women they’ve partnered with.
Raven + Lily empowers women through local partnerships and sustainable employment opportunities, which meet fair trade standards, and also reinvests profits into training and educational opportunities for the women and their families. Some of these opportunities include encouraging the partner programs to help women create a savings account; providing further training and education; and job training for women in the community who have not yet secured employment.
“Our goal is to have women that are fully trained in design and production so that they can operate a successful business with or without the help of Raven + Lily,” says Dickerson.
Until then, each partnership is visited at least once a year, most recently through an ambassador trip to Morocco where volunteers were able to meet the artisan groups while shooting this season’s lookbook.
This summer, they will be embarking on another ambassador trip, with celebrity ambassador Jayma Mays to meet the artisans and to compile their Spring/Summer 2014 collection.
Dickerson tells us that the collections are developed around two yearly seasons, with each collection having a theme that is carried through all [of the] partnerships. “In this way,” she says “these groups of marginalized women from around the world are unified through design and hope for a better future.”
The pieces, which can be described as “modern and organic in nature with an ethnic twist,” reflect the beauty of the message of hope that they contain. In fact, some of the pieces are up-cycled from hurt to hope, such as beads used in pieces made in Ethiopia. These beads are created from bullet casings from previous war conflicts. Many farmers gather the casings from their fields and pass them on to women in the community who melt and reform the casings into beautiful jewelry.
Raven + Lily uses eco-friendly materials that are kind to the environment and to the people creating the items in their collections. Dickerson and Lin are on a constant search to find high quality materials that also fit these requirements, beginning with their design process. Most of the materials and artisan techniques compliment the region where a partnership is located. Raven + Lily’s dedication to being environmentally friendly extends back home as well, with each team member personally seeking eco-friendly lifestyles.
“We truly believe in the model of creating sustainable income opportunities for women, not just charity or hand-outs. Each woman is valuable and needs to know that,” says Dickerson. “Raven + Lily provides opportunity to bring hope and dignity into the lives of woman who have suffered deeply. The beauty of the products we sell is a reflection of the beautiful woman who made it and how her life is changing.”
For more information regarding how Raven + Lily is a socially responsible brand, check out their infographic here.
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ABOUT THE WRITER
Erica Jordan obtained a degree in biology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before getting addicted to travel. She has since traveled extensively while teaching English in Japan, written a grammar textbook and sailed around the world as an interpreter and translator. Some of her interests include sustainability, modern art and hunting down cozy cafes. You can read about her adventures on Kizzling Around or connect with her on twitter @Kizzling Around.