Fashion Rule Breakers

How Raven + Lily Helps 'Empower Artisan Women Who Are Survivors Of Extreme Challenges'

"We empower women to earn a living for themselves and their families. This in turn provides access to healthcare, education ... "

Fashion Rule Breakers is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Each month, we profile a fashion designer, model, organization, or icon who is a fashion rule breaker — someone who acts outside mainstream industry standards to make a positive difference.

For Kirsten Dickerson, launching her lifestyle brand Raven + Lily wasn't just about showcasing trendy products for consumers, it was about celebrating and empowering women all over the world. 

Prior to founding Raven + Lily, Dickerson "spent 15 years in global non-profit leadership as an art director for the film and fashion industries," and with Raven + Lily, she could unite multiple passions. She "is passionate about social business as a means to provide a dignified manner in which to alleviate poverty, especially among at-risk women," it says on Raven + Lily's website

Now, the brand works with more than 1,500 at-risk women in 10 countries to help provide them with fair trade wages, access to healthcare, and more.  

By focusing their fashion brand on helping women in need, those behind Raven + Lily are being fashion rule-breakers. 

Raven + Lily's site is filled with gorgeous finds in both the clothing, accessories, beauty and home realms. They have dresses made in Malaysia, necklaces crafted in Kenya, pillows and towels from Mexico, backpacks from Ethiopia, and more. Recently, the brand announced it would incorporate a give-back model into their business so that they can fund a micro-loan program financing female entrepreneurs in developing countries. 

And on each one of their products, Raven + Lily explains just how purchases will benefit the environment and the artisans involved; they are "committed to eco-friendly practices in our sourcing of materials and our design processes," as well as "honoring traditional artisan crafts and techniques," it says on the website. "We empower women to earn a living for themselves and their families. This in turn provides access to healthcare, education, and healthy living."

For example, beneath the description of the brand's Sofia Blouse from Cambodia, the text reads: "This garment was handcrafted using up-cycled textiles from a zero waste facility and might have slight variations. Your purchase helps empower artisan women who are survivors of extreme challenges, such as HIV and trafficking."

Additionally, "It empowers at-risk women in Phnom Penh in a zero-waste facility to break the cycle of poverty and provide for their families."

In September, Raven + Lily also helped victims of Hurricane Harvey by donating 100 meals for every $100 dollars spent on their products. 

Earlier this month, Raven + Lily moved their collections into a collaborative shop, the Maiyet Collective, in New York City, which features other empowering and ethical brands like Voz and Maiyet in the store. 

"We had this feeling that the organizing principle of ethical fashion combined community and collaboration, and there is something magical about that," Maiyet Founder and CEO Paul van Zyl tells Fashionista. "It hasn't been so much a conscious decision as a continuation of a trend that we think is happening, which is that brands do well when they collaborate and people look for community."

We had the opportunity to check out the store, which is now filled with lifestyle pieces at various price points, including candles, journals, clothing, and handbags.

For Raven + Lily, accountability is quite literally one of their major selling points — "we mean what we say," in terms of finding solutions to various fashion industry problems.

Because of all this, Raven + Lily was named the Best for the World in Community Impact in 2014 and 2016.  Check out more from Raven + Lily below. 

Photo by Claire Peltier
Photo by Claire Peltier

A Plus has reached out to Dickerson for comment.

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