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~ GAIA Goodness ~

The Company We Keep: GAIA Collabs & Custom Collections

Teamwork is a theme around GAIA. We believe that together we are better, and that partnerships between like-minded brands can truly amplify the goodness we're all trying to put out into the world! The last six months have brought all kinds of opportunities for us to create special things with and for special people. Let’s take a look!

Custom Collections: Wisteria, Raven + Lily, and Rachel Roy

GAIA x Wisteria Mudcloth Pillows

Our partnership with furniture and home decor brand Wisteria is an ongoing effort launched in 2016 (read all about it). We’re delighted to continue creating pillows with purpose for the company’s Gifts That Give Back collection. GAIA refugee artisans use one-of-a-kind textiles — exclusive GAIA-designed ikat and hand-dyed African mud cloth — to sew pillows that are available exclusively on Wisteria’s website or at their Dallas store. online

GAIA x Raven + Lily Mudcloth Pillow

GAIA x Raven + Lily Mudcloth Pouch

New this season: We designed a special collection of pillows and pouches for Raven + Lily. The Austin-based brand sells fair trade clothing, accessories, and home furnishings with the mission of empowering women around the world. Founder Kirsten Dickerson currently provides meaningful work to more than 1,500 at-risk women, helping ensure they have safe jobs and access to health care. The company is a natural fit for GAIA’s work.

“We both are passionate about employing women with dignity, using traditional textiles, and exploring ways to be sustainable in our production practices. Most of our designs are developed in Austin through our direct artisan partnerships in 10 countries, but sometimes we find a company like GAIA that is a perfect partner for a co-branded design collaboration. I think the collaborative spirit promotes the overall mission of both our companies in a beautiful way,” Kirsten says. 

GAIA x Rachel Roy Text Pouch

GAIA x Rachel Roy Text Pouch

Giving back is also key to the Rachel Roy mission. For the last two holiday seasons, GAIA partnered with the L.A.-based brand for its Gifts for Good effort. Now we’re taking things a step further with the thought of creating products together all year long. Soon to be released: text pouches and pillows exclusive to the brand. What can you expect from this partnership? Design-driven products that are colorful, fun, and functional, says founder Rachel Roy.

“Both of our organizations are ... run by women who truly care about the world and making it a better place. We both are the type of organization that does not wait for someone to give us the answer, we go out and create answers to challenges ourselves. I’m proud of our commitment to each other to keep creating work for refugees,” Rachel says. 

Collaborations: Melt Goods and SZ Blockprints 

We couldn't be more excited to introduce our first collection of hand-cut brass earrings, all produced in collaboration with Melt Goods. Like GAIA, Melt is a small Dallas-based business that employs resettled refugee women to make fashion accessories. The work we do is similar and the synergy is strong. Collaborating with Melt was a no-brainer for us, and founder Meredith Lockhart felt the same way.

“We are all about encouraging and uplifting refugees, and I think the cheerful colors and bold designs really coincide with our message and goals. Though GAIA and Melt are making different products, we have the same mission in mind,” says Meredith. “I adore everything GAIA makes. It is so fun, upbeat, colorful, and bold — all of which are qualities that we like to incorporate in our jewelry and brand.” 

Another recent addition to the GAIA lineup: a children’s collection incorporating the gorgeous fabrics of SZ Blockprints. Founder Sarah Zellweger works with artisans in Jaipur, India, to create colorful hand-printed fabrics. She also works to educate and empower women and girls in India. We're crazy about her prints, but also really love her mission — and how it aligns with ours.

"We are so thrilled to be working with GAIA, a brand whose mission and ethos we admire so much," Sarah says. "The fact that our textiles are ending up in the hands of refugee women all over Dallas, rebuilding their lives through their sewing and design skills, is such a beautiful joining and a continuation of a story."

So far we've incorporated SZ Blockprints fabric for a Mini Heart Purse, Bib & Booties, and Diaper Pouch. We’re also working on a Zipper Pouch/Clutch collection and — perhaps most exciting of all — we’ll launch our Butterfly Top this spring. It’s GAIA’s first foray into clothing, and we think you’re really going to love it!  

Also, in case you missed it, check out our earlier post about our exclusive collaboration with another woman-owned, Dallas-based company Perennials©.

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Making Pretty New Things With Perennials

'Tis the season for collaborations — or so it seems!

We've got a lot of creative collaborating going on these days and we're LOVING it! One collaboration we are thrilled about is our partnership with Perennials©, a Dallas-based, female-fueled fabric company that has resulted in tons of new high-utility GAIA goodness! Read on to learn about Perennials© and each of our new & improved product categories.

Perennials© was started in 1997 by Ann Sutherland, and since then has become a leader in the textile industry, known for creating luxury high-performance fabrics. (Like super high-performance – as in, pour bleach on your black Perennials© pillow & don't bat an eye.) Perennials© is best known for creating performance fabrics for patio and porch furniture, but it also makes pillows, rugs, trim, and even pet beds (lucky pups!).

We were approached by the powerhouse Perennials© team last summer. A woman-owned business (like us!) producing products in an ethical way (like us!) – obviously we had to get together! So we popped over to their Design District showroom to get a tour and have a chat, where we confirmed that our companies should be BFFs. Fast forward a few months and – abracadabra! – a collection of lovingly hand-crafted products made from the highest-utility fabrics & indestructible pom poms just for you!

First up were our limited-edition Pom Pom Tassel Earrings. Perennials© silk pom poms are handmade in Dallas and are highly stain (i.e. makeup) resistant. We designed four color ways to choose from, but act fast! Two styles are already sold out!

Next up was a special collection of Ring Totes we're calling The Baqa’a Collection, named for the traditional embroideries we incorporated, which are made by Palestinian refugee women living in the Baqa'a refugee camp in Jordan. The bag’s other fabrics—the outside and the inside lining — are Perennials©. We’ve also used Perennials as the lining on many other Ring Tote designs. (More about why this is super cool in a moment...)

Finally, we launched Bib + Bootie Sets and Diaper Pouches made from Perennials© fabrics. All moms know these need to be able to take a lot of abuse — and now, thanks to Perennials©, they're cuter & more baby-proof than ever.

These fabrics are the very definition of form meets function. In addition to being absolutely beautiful & much softer than other performance fabrics, Perennials© fabrics are made to handle the rough stuff. They are tear resistant, stain resistant, and easy to clean. You can even use bleach without damaging the fabric! That means makeup won’t mess up your GAIA earrings. It means that an exploding pen or a rogue lipstick inside your GAIA tote will be able to wash right out. And it means that diaper duty will leave less permanent memories...

Because of their durability, we're also using Perennials© fabrics as the reverse to most of the pillows in our collection, and as the lining to many of our pouches and bags.  We're exclusively using their fabric for our recently launched Custom Text Pouches, and our entire Text Pouch collection will soon be transitioned over as well... the perfect material for our GAIA pieces that get a lot of use and a lot of love!  

We are so jazzed to be working with Perennials©, and the feeling is mutual. “We are always excited and interested in working with talented, creative people," Ann Sutherland says. "We also embrace being informed by other cultures and contributing to their assimilation into our design work. It is inspirational to know that through art we can make a difference.”

Are you ready to make a difference in a refugee's life? Shop GAIA.

To learn more about Perennials© process watch the video below!

Perennials Fabrics from Perennials Fabrics on Vimeo.



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GAIA x J.Crew!!

GAIA for J.Crew

As you might have seen on our Facebook or Instagram, GAIA products are now in select J.Crew stores all over the United States and abroad, as well as online.

It’s a big moment for us — one that was nearly a year in the making. We are beyond thrilled to see our beautiful handmade earrings, pompom bags, and hair ties (more on that later) under the J.Crew umbrella. It’s not something we aspired to, but the implications for our little brand are huge: More people find out about our products, which means more sales. But what’s meaningful about that is it means we get to hire more refugee women! And that’s why we’re here!

So how did this partnership happen? And how did a tiny brand with a tiny team working out of a 950-square-foot office pull off production of 6,200 individual handmade items? Sit tight and we’ll tell you.

GAIA Instagram

The Discovery

Last May, our founder Paula shared a photo of herself in a striped J.Crew dress on GAIA's Instagram account. Paula tagged J.Crew, along with her GAIA pieces. The company’s creative director, Jenna Lyons, saw the post and “liked” it, along with several other photos on our feed. She also shared a few of our images with members of her team. Which, of course, we didn’t know.

Cut to two months later, when we get an email from the brand buyer who oversees J.Crew’s partnerships with third-party brands, called "In Good Company". She told us that they’d anonymously ordered three Pom Pom bags and that they were obsessed with them. She said that Jenna had carried one to a wedding and loved it. She asked if we could make some samples for potential consideration for the spring 2017 collection.

Of course, we said yes!

They sent us some of their fabric yardage and we made 16 samples, using a mix of their fabrics and ours. They said they might use them in their September Fashion Week presentation in New York. (What!?)

We tried not to get our hopes up because they kept reminding us that the bags might not be used and that even if they were used that they might not be picked up for stores. All summer, our team struggled to keep our composure, knowing that we might appear at New York Fashion Week! We were still flying high just from the fact that Jenna was following us on IG — never mind that J.Crew was interested in our products!

Deep breaths, like, all the time.

 GAIA for J.Crew

GAIA for J.Crew

So then, lo and behold, Fashion Week rolls around, and on September 11, several styles of our Pom Pom bags show up in their presentation! We were freaking out, to put it mildly. But would they get picked up by stores? Would J.Crew actually place an order? We didn’t know. And we would have to wait. And wait. And wait.

We were getting nervous.

And then, about a month later, they finally reached out and said they’d taken so long because they loved all the bags and it was hard to choose!

The Order

When the order came, it was initially for three styles of Pom Pom bags.

Gaia for J.CrewGAIA for J.CrewGAIA for J.Crew 

But a few weeks later, the J.Crew accessories team emailed and asked if we could make hair ties with pom poms. We hadn’t done it before, but Bothina figured out the construction for the initial samples we were able to send the company an assortment of color combos.

Gaia for J.CrewGAIA for J.CrewGAIA for J.Crew

And then, when Paula went to New York and met with J.Crew buyers they saw her GAIA tassel earrings. They asked for samples and then chose three styles from our existing collection.

GAIA for J.CrewGAIA for J.Crew

The full order comprised 4,200 hair ties; 1,200 Pom Pom bags; and 400 pairs of earrings.

This was by far the largest order we’ve ever received. Now we had to figure out what it would take to fulfill it. We starting by plotting out how many of each item needed to be completed each week and compared it to existing resources. At that time we had six refugee artisans, and we quickly realized we needed triple that number.

So the team reached out to the International Rescue Committee, who began to recruit potential candidates. We held several interview sessions in our office before choosing the 12 women who were the best fit.

We then enlisted Alyssa to oversee production and Johnna to oversee sourcing. One of her biggest challenges was finding a reliable quality source for the elastic bands we needed to make hair ties.

Gaia for J.Crew

Gaia for J.Crew

Gaia for J.Crew

The Fulfillment

A big order like this one forces a little company to shore up. For GAIA that meant not only hiring more people, but also streamlining processes, putting system in place, and formalizing training.

Gaia for J.Crew

Volume was the challenge. Each Pom Pom bag has seven pompoms — we needed 8,400 pompoms for the bags — and each hair tie has two — which meant 8,400 more. And every GAIA pompom is made by hand. There were refugee women all over Dallas making pompoms nonstop for weeks! We knew we had the earrings down, it was just a matter of getting 800 individual pieces made. The hair ties were a little tricker, because we hadn’t done them before and our supplier was late delivering the elastic bands, which put us in a time crunch.

Gaia for J.Crew

Gaia for J.Crew

Ultimately, we were in the thick of things for more than a month — and it all got done only with the help of many, many volunteers. GAIA friends and family came to our office on multiple Saturdays to help us inspect each product and attach the hangtags hand-signed by our artisans. It was a family affair — Lauren J.’s mom flew in from California, both Paula’s mom and step-mom volunteered their time, and the husbands did their share as well! One friend of ours even threw a party at her house one evening where people did quality control. (Everything had to be perfect!) We all took home bags or ties to tag each night. A neighbor let us store the inventory in her office. Toward the end, we had to pull out all the stops!

And then we packed it all up and sent it to New York. Whew!

Gaia for J.Crew

The Fulfilling Things

This order was a turning point for GAIA. Whatever happens next, we grew so much from the experience.

Our hearts are warmed by the outpouring of support we received from every direction, and we are in awe at what an incredible partner J.Crew has been. They liked us for who we are, never asking us to change what we do or how we do it, fully believing in the mission behind our brand and showing us a lot of patience and grace when we needed it.

What has happened feels surreal at times. To know that J.Crew elected to use its massive international platform to feature a little company that exists to employ refugees and to bring awareness to refugees living in the United States is significant in many ways, especially in a time of anti-refugee sentiment. GAIA refugee artisans now have a world stage on which to shine.

We didn’t dream this dream that is now a reality, but we are forever grateful.

Gaia for J.Crew

J.Crew Order by the Numbers

18 refugees artisans
800 earrings
1,200 Pom Pom bags
4,000 tassels
4,200 pompom hair ties
16,800 pompoms

Gaia for J.Crew

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The Little Market x GAIA Launches (and Lauren Conrad pays us a visit!)

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

Just in time to round out your last-minute holiday shopping list: The Little Market launches a custom collection from GAIA!

We’ve been biting our tongues for months, dying to tell you about the day Lauren Conrad and her team came to our office in Dallas to design the collection, meet our refugee artisans, and see how we make magic happen. We wanted to wait until the collection was live, and now it’s time to spill the beans!

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

It started back in the spring, when the folks at The Little Market reached out to us. They wanted to know all about our company, our process, our materials — everything — really digging in to what we do to make sure that the GAIA mission and The Little Market mission were aligned. In case you don’t already know, The Little Market is a non-profit, charitable organization and online fair trade shop founded three years ago by TV personality Lauren Conrad and her long-time friend Hannah Skvarla. Its mission is to build sustainable partnerships with artisans around the world and help them develop and sell their designs, so that those artisans have meaningful work and can support their families. (Have you ever heard anything more aligned with our mission?!)

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

After we completed a Q&A and both realized what an awesome match we are, The Little Market began carrying some of our goods on its site. GAIA favorites, such as the Pom Pom bag and Fold-Over clutch, as well as pillows, pouches, and Mini Heart purses, have found a home with The Little Market customer — so much so that The Little Market folks wanted to have us create an exclusive GAIA collection just for them! As if that weren’t enough, they told us that Conrad and Skvarla wanted to come to Dallas to meet everyone and work on the collection in person. For all of us, it was a thrill, and for some of the gals on our team — those who have been huge fans of Conrad since her OC days — it was one of the highlights of their year!

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

There’s nothing like a guest of honor to inspire a little sprucing up, so we cleaned and painted and rearranged a bit.  And since Conrad and Skvarla wanted to meet all of our refugee artisans, and most of them work from home, have childcare responsibilities, and don’t have transportation, it took some coordinating to get everyone into the office. But we did it!

It is so rare that we are all together in one place, and it would have been a wonderful day just for that reason, but having Conrad and Skvarla in our space, talking with everyone, designing with us, and taking lots of photos and video for The Little Market website and her own blog, was a dream! They couldn’t have been warmer or more gracious with the team and our refugee artisans. And we couldn't be more excited to finally tell you about this collaboration.

Lauren Conrad Visits GAIA

Read Conrad’s post about her visit to our office and shop The Little Market.

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J.Crew Takes GAIA to New York Fashion Week

J.Crew Takes GAIA to New York Fashion Week

Yep, those were GAIA Pom Pom bags you spied in the J.Crew Fashion Week presentation!

Such a thrill last Saturday afternoon to spot our familiar hot pink poms paired with a satin skirt in a sneak peek shot on J. Crew's Instagram feed... All the GAIA gals were texting each other like mad, we couldn't believe it was actually happening!  The next day, images of the J.Crew Spring/Summer 2017 presentation — with looks accessorized with GAIA creations — were popping up everywhere, accompanied by sweet comments and shout-outs from our friends and supporters.  Still pinching ourselves!

We love seeing our GAIA bags styled with such a gorgeous collection (want it ALL!), and we also love the fact that the brand opted for "real" people — employees, friends, family — instead of trained models. Its clothes were presented on a wonderfully diverse array of men and women of different ages, races, and sizes.

J.Crew x GAIA

So inspiring to see such a beloved brand make an effort not only to honor those who actually wear its clothing, but also to give the skilled work of the refugee women we employ such a spotlight. 

We're excited to see what happens next.

Stay tuned!

J.Crew x GAIA

Photos: Courtesy of J.Crew

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Pillows With Power

Pillows With Power

Products with stories. Goods for the greater good. Items with beauty and meaning. These are part of the DNA of GAIA.

 They are also in the DNA of Dallas-based home decor brand Wisteria. So it made perfect sense for GAIA to partner with Wisteria on a line of pillows earlier this year. 

 GAIA founder Paula Minnis and Wisteria co-founder Shannon Newsom met about five years ago through their daughters, who became close friends through school and soccer. When the moms each discovered what the other did professionally, they knew they would work together. 

 Shannon says she immediately felt a kindred spirit in Paula, and soon Wisteria was carrying GAIA’s tabletop goods, bags, and jewelry. When GAIA launched pillows, Wisteria began to carry those too. 

Wisteria x GAIA Pillows

“What stands out about GAIA,” says Shannon, “is that not only does the company empower women, Paula has an incredible sense of design. Her background in color and textiles and the design sense of the whole team and they way they put things together mean they can provide products that high-end companies like Wisteria can work with.” 

What’s more, of course, is that GAIA’s purpose and Wisteria’s purpose are aligned. In the same way that GAIA exists to provide sustaining work to refugee women, Wisteria wants to create what co-founder Andrew Newsom calls “a virtuous cycle,” in which the company, its customers, its artisans, and the community all benefit.  

The GAIA/Wisteria partnership reached a new level, however, after Shannon returned from a mission trip to Guatemala, where she was working with orphans. One day, she took a break to mill around a market, where she found gorgeous handwoven fabrics she wanted to turn into pillows for Wisteria.

Wisteria x GAIA Pillows

 She brought those fabrics — indigo mud cloths, embellished cortes, embroidered huipils — back to the United States. GAIA’s Lauren created dozens of one-of-a-kind designs from the textiles, determining the best ways to showcase patterns and embellishments and finding the right complementary accents. Our Syrian refugees, Huda and Bothina, brought those ideas to life with their sewing skills. 

Those pillows are now available exclusively at Wisteria’s Dallas store.

“We are always interested in something that has a story to tell,” Shannon says. “We couldn’t have a better partner in that mission than GAIA.”

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