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!
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.)
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.