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~ GAIA Goodness ~

What to Wear on Summer Weekends Away

Summer is in full swing, and we’re eagerly packing our bags for some long weekends away.

Where are we going? What will we wear? We’re so glad you asked!

We cruised Forbes’ list of top travel destinations for 2018 to choose our not-so-far-away destinations and then paired them with GAIA tops and accessories and bottoms and shoes from our friends at Cabana. Every beautiful GAIA item is handmade by a refugee artisan rebuilding her life in Dallas, Texas (a great place to visit, by the way).

Check out these gorgeous U.S. spots and the outfits to match.

Asheville, North Carolina

We’ll breathe more deeply and rest more soundly when we nestle into nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ll at least drop by the Biltmore Estate, even if we don’t get to stay there.

Top + Earrings + Bag + Bottom + Shoes

Detroit, Michigan

The idea of Motor City and the birthplace of Motown really gets our motor running. It’s a city seeing a revival — and you know we love a good starting-over story. Top of our list: a ride on the Q-Line streetcar.

Top + Earrings + Bag + Necklaces + Bottom + Shoes

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy can get a bit sweaty in the summer months, but we don’t mind. Hotels and restaurants are plenty air conditioned, and if we really need to cool things off, we’ll grab a frozen daiquiri.

Top + Earrings + BagNecklace + Bottom + Shoes

Palm Beach County, Florida

As if miles of sandy white beaches weren’t enough, Palm Beach County is more than fun in the sun. We’re hitting Delray Beach for its incredible Japanese gardens and the must-see costume museum in Boca Raton.

Top + Earrings + Bag + Bottom + Shoes

San Juan, Puerto Rico

The U.S. territory still needs our help after last year’s hurricane. One way to give back is to go stay. We’ll book a room, make some dinner reservations, and plan daytrips to rainforests and rum castles.

Top + Earrings + Bag + Necklace + Bottom + Shoes

Curious about the refugee artisans who create our tops and accessories? Get to know them here.

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The Story Behind Our New Baqa’a Tote Collection


Instagram continues to connect GAIA with not only fans of the brand, but also other companies and individuals who can help us grow our mission to empower refugee women and help them rebuild their lives. Our new Baqa’a collection of embroidered Totes is the latest example of the power of social media — who knew that scrolling through pretty photos really can help change lives!

Jordan Refugee Camp

Recently, two New York City-based journalists our founder Paula had previously connected with were visiting Jordan to research a project. While there, the women toured a women’s center in the Baqa’a refugee camp. (The camp is the largest in Jordan. It was established in 1968 for Palestinian refugees and people who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It remains a refugee safe haven, and it is plagued with extreme poverty and unemployment.)

Palestinian Embroidery

The journalists met with refugee women working in a United Nations-backed Women’s Programming Center, which was established as a sewing and embroidery center in the camp in the late-1980s and functions as a place for women and children to socialize and earn a living. The journalists were so impressed with their beautiful traditional embroideries that they shared the women’s handiwork on their Instagram accounts. But they didn’t stop there: They bought the entire inventory, providing income for 60 refugee women! They then put the word out on on Instagram that the embroideries were available for purchase through them, if anyone was interested. Paula immediately responded and, after several back-and-forth texts and photos, placed an order.

She didn’t know exactly how they would fit within the GAIA collection, but she knew they were extraordinary and that they fell right in line with the brand mission. When the pieces arrived we were so excited! They were even more beautiful than we’d imagined.

For GAIA refugee artisan trainer Bothina, the designs are even more meaningful. The embroideries are a traditional style found throughout the region, including Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Bothina has memories from her childhood of learning how to do this type of embroidery from her aunt. 

Earlier this fall, GAIA released our new Ring Tote, a versatile style that can be carried not only as a tote but also as a fold-over clutch and a cross-body. Some of our first totes were of a velvety silk ikat; for our new releases we incorporated the Palestinian embroideries. GAIA refugee artisans in Dallas have combined them with canvas from Dallas-based Perennials (more on that collab to come) to create timeless accessories unlike anything else in our collection. Bothina sewed the first tote for the collection, and she’s excited to carry it.

When you purchase a tote from the Baqa’a Collection, you are receiving a one-of-a-kind piece touched by two refugee artisans living 7,000 miles apart. We're so proud to connect with women from around the world, and we're honored to be able to impact their lives.

Shop the GAIA Baqa'a Tote collection now.

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GAIA + Spring Break: 7 Perfect Travel Pairings

Spring break is in full swing in some parts of the country. In others, people are just packing up. To help you plan your vacation wardrobe, we (and a few of our fans) pair popular travel destinations with GAIA goods, handmade by refugee women who are rebuilding their lives in the United States.

GAIA Pom Pom Bag

Glamping in Marfa, Texas

The funky desert town of Marfa, Texas, is one of our personal favorite destinations. J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons spends time there each September, and in this month’s issue of Conde Nast Traveler, she shares with readers that on her most recent trip to this magical spot, she packed the GAIA Pom Pom bag we designed especially for J.Crew (available mid-April).

GAIA Tassel Necklace

Sightseeing in Pensacola, Florida

Julia Ussery, a boutique owner in the Florida beach town of Pensacola, pulled together a spring nautical look for Southern Living that incorporates our Cleo tassel necklace. Yes, the city has sand and surf, but it’s also a naval base. This casual yet polished outfit nods to that fact — and it’s perfect for an afternoon stroll downtown and the Museum of Art. 

GAIA Pom Pom Bag

Soaking in Sun in Cabo, Mexico

Something Beachy blogger Kelsey White shows us just how sexy a Pom Pom pouch can be when she hits the popular Mexico resort town of Cabo San Lucas wearing one of our bags made of African mud cloth with a shoulder-baring white dress. Her vacation picks appear this month on the fashion site Foray

GAIA Roundie Bag

Après-Ski in Beaver Creek, Colorado

Half the fun of going skiing is getting dressed to go skiing. The same goes for after the slopes. When you’ve had all the downhill you can take for one day and are ready to hit the town for snacks and shopping, round out the fashion scene with our Roundie (see what we did there?).

GAIA Tassel Earrings

Touring in Washington, D.C.

Part of our team recently visited the nation’s capital, which is a popular spring break destination. (Education doesn’t have to stop just because school’s not in session.) Travel light when touring important historical monuments and museums and accessorize with our Sunburst tassel earrings. Their playful style is a much-needed reminder to smile in a city that sometimes takes itself too seriously.

GAIA Cha Cha Bag

Shopping in Santa Monica, California

On the other side of the country, there’s quite the opposite sentiment. Our friends who live on the West Coast tell us it’s a bit like a permanent vacation. If spring break finds you in La La Land, there’s just one thing to do — OK, there are literally a million things to do, but hang with us — and that’s take our Cha Cha to the iconic Santa Monica Pier after an afternoon of retail therapy.

GAIA Crescent Clutch

Finding Bliss in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Wild West, as it turns out, is the ideal place to cultivate calm. Scottsdale, Arizona, is brimming with spa experiences designed to take you away from it all. Spend your days unwinding and refreshing with facials, massages, and more, and then venture out on the town for some serious eats with a GAIA Crescent clutch.

Marfa image by Paul Joseph via Creative Commons

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Paula's Guatemalan Adventure

Paula's Guatemalan Adventure

Next month marks one year ago that I traveled to Guatemala. Since GAIA didn’t have a blog at that time, I figured the anniversary of that trip would be a good opportunity to do a little “throwback”  and tell you all about my time in that beautiful country!

In search of a new travel experience, my sister-in-law, Yana, and I headed to Guatemala last October for a week of adventure, nature, and culture. And, of course, since Guatemala is known for its rich textile heritage, I knew I could mix a little business with pleasure and do some sourcing for our brand.

Yana and I were traveling with BikeHike Adventures, a group that organizes sightseeing, outdoor activities, and cultural immersion for vacationers. We had taken a trip they organized to Morocco the year prior (blog post about that soon, hopefully!) and the highly cultural aspect of both trips — the opportunity to spend meaningful time with the indigenous people of those areas — was the highlight for me.  

Another feature of the trip that drew me in was the opportunity to get outside of my comfort zone hence, the “adventure”  portion of the experience! This included kayaking, hiking, and biking through the Guatemalan highlands … and it may as well have included wood chopping, because those activities are definitely not part of my normal day-to-day life. In other words, I am very “indoorsy.”

However, after every mountain pass climbed and village road biked, I was rewarded with stunning views of one of the most picturesque countries I’ve ever visited. Kayaking through the turquoise waters of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes, was an otherworldly experience. The gratification and sense of accomplishment at the end of the day filled me up, reminding me that I’m capable of pushing myself past my limits and can actually do physical activity for longer than 30 minutes on a treadmill. The “outdoorsy” thing is pretty good for the soul; if you haven’t tried it lately, I highly recommend it. ;)


 And then there was the culture! Throughout the week, we traveled through various villages, visiting local markets and meeting the kindest people. One evening we were hosted overnight by a fifth-generation family of textile weavers, who even gave me a little lesson on their 95-year-old loom. Thankfully, I didn’t break it!

GAIA Goes to Guatemala

Another afternoon we found ourselves in a remote dusty village, enjoying a hearty lunch served by a local Quecki family in their home. At each of the visits, I purchased some of the family’s handwoven textiles to take home. Weaving is a deeply revered tradition in Guatemala, with men typically working on the larger foot looms and women weaving on backstrap looms, often spending multiple hours or even days on the creation of one piece.


We also traveled to the open-air market in Chichicastenango, one of the largest flea markets in Latin America. I was in utter textile heaven, so allowed myself to go a little nuts. I stocked up on patterned cloths, bedspreads, wall hangings, and more. Many of the pieces scored there have been transformed by our refugee women into gorgeous pillows, clutches, and pouches, most of which sold out pretty quickly!

GAIA Goes to Guatemala

Fortunately, I was able to make a local connection with Jess at Stela 9, who has since made a few market runs to help us replenish when we needed to. I was lucky to meet several other American expat women (thanks, Instagram!) and fellow social entrepreneurs who have created inspiring businesses of their own, employing local artisans to create their beautiful collections. You must check out my friend Molly’s work at Luna Zorro, and Uxibal, which is run by my friend Britini!

I also found some special textile pieces entirely by chance. One afternoon, Yana and I were wandering the cobblestone streets of Antigua (the most charming colonial city with stunning Spanish architecture) and happened upon two women tucked in a little alcove off the sidewalk, surrounded by stacks and stacks of textiles. I could’ve spent all day there, sorting through the fabric, chatting, and learning about the lives of these lovely women (that's them in the top photo and below!). One of the pieces — a length of indigo jaspe corte (which I'm holding in the pic) — bought during that warm encounter hangs in the GAIA showroom, still a favorite reminder of my trip. 

Overall, it was truly an unforgettable experience. Now I’m itching to go back!


GAIA Goes to Guatemala

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