This week we are thrilled to be hosted at Raven + Lily, a locally-owned eco-friendly and socially conscious clothing and accessories store to which we have always felt a kinship. We’ll be sharing our own values and approach to slow living and thoughtful consumption at R+L’s flagship store at Domain Northside, December 14th.
The holiday season feels like an especially apropos time of the year to connect with like-minded companies to talk about why and how to move toward mindful choices. We sat down with Kirsten Dickerson, Raven + Lily’s founder, to learn about her unique approach to designing and producing fashion that empowers both the women making R+L’s pieces, as well as those who buy them.
How did you enter the world of clothing and fashion design?
Since college I had been an advocate for at-risk women and children around the world, and I had worked with and been in the leadership of several non-profit organizations in that capacity. Through that work, I noticed that there’s a difference between charity that is dignity-oriented and empowering, versus charity that creates dependence. I wanted to be part of efforts that prioritized the former. I also found that, when organizations invest in women -- by providing access to a living wage, education, healthcare, etc. -- that women reinvest in their own families and communities. I knew that working with at-risk women in this way could help to solve some of the most pressing social issues that they faced in their countries.
I transitioned away from non-profit work and began collaborating with my husband, an independent filmmaker, on both set design as well as wardrobe styling. I was self-taught and worked exclusively with him, but I gained training and networks that eventually helped me to marry the ideas of creating fashion for women in the U.S. by empowering women globally to use their skills and available resources to earn a living wage.
Raven + Lily currently has 19 partners, employing over 1,500 women in nine countries where, in addition to ensuring a living wage, we are committed to ensuring that the women who make our pieces work in a caring environment and have access to healthcare and education for themselves and their children.
What is your design process and inspiration?
Each year we design two main collections, each with an overarching color story, pattern, theme and graphics. A major consideration in our designs is the skills of our artisan partners, what materials they have access to and whether they are sustainable, as well as what sells. Right now that means our collections have a lot of textiles, metal jewelry and leather. We also invest in further training the artisans, helping groups grow, and even guiding them through the fair trade certification process in order to keep building the partnership.
Much of our inspiration comes from the countries where we have partnerships, or where we’ve traveled. We like to see how women dress in their native environments and create modern interpretations of those garments.
Where can we find Raven + Lily?
Right now we have a small store in East Austin on Manor Road and our new flagship store is in the Domain. We have an online retail site, and about 300 boutiques nationwide carry our lines.
What is daily life like for you?
I live out in the country on a property called Green Acres. My husband, two kids, and I have several trailers and yurts out there where we live and host guests. We call it “glamping” (glamorous camping), and we also raise donkeys, alpacas, and chickens. I love waking up early, watching the sun rise and feeding the animals. We made an intentional decision to move away from city life and slow way down. I come into town about three times a week and work from home the other two. As a family we eat together most nights and have a movie night once a week.
What has been surprising to you, now that you’re several years in with Raven + Lily?
What’s been surprising is empowering the women on this side of fashion and design. We’re fighting a big monster out there...the fast fashion world, the big production world. R+L is one of the solutions, but not the only one. We won’t be successful if women on this end don’t want to buy what we’re creating. I’ve noticed that women here seem to be healed by gaining perspective and hearing stories of women who have survived what sometimes are unthinkable circumstances. This is very compelling to our customer base, and they can feel good knowing that each element of our garments and accessories have been sourced and produced mindfully and humanely.
Who are your idols?
This may sound cheesy, but I volunteered with Mother Theresa the day after I graduated from college. I flew to India and navigated my way through the heat and crowds and was quite overwhelmed. But while there I worked with women who were left on the street to die. They were brought to the Mother Theresa House where she and other workers treated each of them with dignity, love, and respect. She always focused on the individual, and I learned from her that every woman is valuable. I can’t fix all of the problems, but I can do a good job with each individual I work with. This is much of the foundation of Raven + Lily’s approach.
Join our founder Tarica Navarro of Kettle and Brine at Raven + Lily at the Domain Northside on Wednesday, December 14th for a thoughtful holiday entertainment event. Sips and light bites provided and 10% off merchandise at the event.