There is something to be said about brands which truly embody beauty. They are magnetic. These brands compel others to enter in, treating them just like a guest in their home. By creating a culture which values comfort, familiarity and effortless whimsy these brands bring a sense of familiarity. In a world filled with straight lines, fluorescent lights, and three-piece suits, there is something inviting about a culture encompassed by warmth, empathy and genuine care. One which engages creativity and showcases beautiful, hope-filled products centered around empowerment and giving to something greater than ourselves. This is why so many social business' are thriving and making great impact.
I'd like to introduce you to an inspiring Austin based lifestyle brand defined by these very things.
Meet Raven + Lily...
I was first introduced to R+L while working with Hope International at Catalyst Conference last year. Being the lover of beautiful visual display that I am, I was automatically drawn to their lovely 'Free People' inspired space. Naturally, I had no choice but to enter in. Just one look at the beautiful products displayed both on the table and featured inside their ‘look book’ had me completely enamored. Lori Fox, lead R+L designer at the time, preceded to share the story and mission of the company with me. I think she got about three sentences in and I was sold, I have been a fan ever since. Everything Raven + Lily comes out with is not only a beautifully designed visual piece, but the artisans creating these products are where the true radiance of the company shines brightest.
Their approach to social business is impacting lives all over the world. They are empowering women. Empowering women to create really beautiful products, which are in line with the current trends here in America. Through sales of these products these women are able to earn a sustainable income, provide for their families and in turn transform their entire community.
In addition to all this beauty, the purposes behind companies like R+L are powerful! They are seeking to see the statistics fall and empowering women with the skills needed to beat the odds. Just to name a few...
- 70% of the world’s poorest people are women.
- 2/3 of those who cannot read or write are women.
- At least 2 million girls per year are at risk of under going Female Genital Mutilation.
- AIDS is becoming a women’s disease with women increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic.
- 80% of refugees & trafficking victims are women.
- 100 million girls are expected to enter forced marriages in the next decade.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Cameron Crake, Director of Operations for Raven + Lily! Cameron shares some of her background and brings to light the value R+L has to bring to the world, as a socially conscious company.
Hi Cameron! Will you start by briefly introducing yourself? Where are you from? What’s your background?
I call Raleigh NC my hometown, made my way to Texas for college, and then came to Austin by way of Uganda- so I’ve been all over the place! Before coming to work with R+L, I was living in Kampala Uganda working for another socially conscious start-up company. I’ve seen firsthand how sustainable jobs can transform impoverished communities, so it is such a joy to have a job that allows me to promote that.
Can you tell us a little bit about Raven + Lily?
R+L is a socially conscious lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women through design. We specialize in coming alongside artisan groups to give them design input and access to a larger market. Right now we are working with over 1,000 women around the world to make our products!
What is your role and how long have you been with the company?
I’m the Director of Operations and I have been with R+L for about three years now. I was the first hire when we launched as a social business! I’ve seen the company grow from just myself and the founder to take on interns, more full time employees, and now open our own storefront. It’s been a pretty amazing journey.
How did you get initially get connected with R+L?
When I was moving back from Uganda, I was doing research on other socially conscious companies and I kept hearing about Raven + Lily. Once I decided to move to Austin, I got in touch with the founder to hear about R+L. Our coffee turned into an interview, and I started work a few days later!
Where did the idea for R+L initially come from?
Our founder, Kirsten Dickerson, started R+L as a way to combine her passions for social justice and fashion. In her humanitarian travels, she found that many NGOs were training women in design skills- how to sew, make jewelry, embroider, etc. Kirsten decided to use her design skills learned from working as a stylist in LA to help the women sell even more product by creating new designs that appealed to a larger market in the US.
How does R+L choose where they employ artisans?
The first artisan groups we started working with came from Kirsten’s connections to various non-profits from her years working in that world. Now we try to look around in the areas we are already working to see what other skills and resources exist in the area.
Have you ever had the opportunity to meet any of the artisans? If so, how has that experience impacted you?
Yes! I went to Cambodia last year to meet with one of our partnerships. It was incredible to meet the women firsthand and to get to see the way their business operated. Even though I had lived overseas before and worked directly with artisans in my past job, it was a great experience to meet the specific women we help employ and also to learn the unique challenges that come with their situation. Returning from that trip, I felt better equipped to do my job to make things run even more smoothly between our US studio and our international partners.
What makes R+L unique from other social businesses?
Our approach to social business is a rich one. We aim to produce stylish designs that are both fair trade and eco-friendly. Our designs are good for our customers, good for the artisans, and good to the earth. Also, our impact can be far reaching because of the way our business model works- we partner with existing groups to help them scale and grow to have a larger impact rather than starting our own artisan groups from scratch. It is rare to find a company like ours that can reach so many women and has a multi-level social purpose.
R+L's core values include...
What is your favorite part about your job?
My job tends to be a lot of problem solving- when you’re working in developing countries, if something can go wrong it probably will! So I enjoy helping find solutions to make business better for our artisan partners. I love watching them making progress and grow!
Can you share with us your favorite product from R+L and why?
I wear the Telau Braided Wrap Bracelet almost every day. I’m kind of obsessed with braids, so it’s something I always want to wear. I also love the story behind it- the beads are all handcrafted and made from melted bullet casings and other recycled metals. It’s a great conversation piece!
Tell me a little more about the recent collaborations with companies like Kendra Scott and The Giving Keys, what is your hope for these partnerships?
We love collaborating with other companies. Doing special edition products with companies like Kendra Scott and The Giving Keys has been a fun way for us to share our story with a new audience and also to make something beautiful with another creative company!
If you could describe the overall style of R+L with one word, what would it be?
Modern-Bohemian (okay, I know that’s two words, but that’s the phrase we use all the time as we’re thinking through our designs!)
What does the word ‘empowerment’ mean to you?
Empowerment means providing help in a way that gives dignity. We want the women we work with to feel proud of their work and a sense of accomplishment when they are able to provide for their families themselves rather than accept handouts. The gift of opportunity is one we often take for granted, but it is such a beautiful thing to give. We want all of our artisan partnerships to feel supported and challenged to rise to the occasion as we grow and change as a company and invite them to grow and change with us.
What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning (Besides coffee :) ), and what is your dream for R+L?
I think it is the responsibility that is so motivating for me…..there are so many women around the world that my job impacts. I keep doing it and strive to do it well because I know that the way I work ultimately impacts them. I can’t wait to see how Raven + Lily grows! We are still such a young company, and it feels like the possibilities are limitless. Seeing the impact we have had with these women just from our early days makes me hopeful for the way we can change lives as we grow and reach even more artisans and customers. I want to see R+L as a well renowned band that is known not only for our social impact but also our style and brand relevance in the fashion world.
Thank you Cameron! We are so thankful for the work of Raven + Lily! Work which is empowering women all over the world, bringing hope, dignity and discovering beauty beneath.
To learn more about Raven + Lily and purchase their products visit their website. To shop R+L you can also find a local retailer in your neighborhood! Lastly, if you are in the Austin area, be sure visit their storefront, I promise you'll be inspired!
P.S. Be sure to check out their ethical gift collection.
Note: All photos property of Raven + Lily