Arrow Fat Left Icon Arrow Fat Right Icon Arrow Right Icon Cart Icon Close Circle Icon Expand Arrows Icon Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Pinterest Icon Hamburger Icon Information Icon Down Arrow Icon Mail Icon Mini Cart Icon Person Icon Ruler Icon Search Icon Shirt Icon Triangle Icon Bag Icon Play Video

~ 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©.

Continue reading

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.



Continue reading

7 Gifts for 7 Women

We’re all unique in our own ways — and thank goodness for that. The world would be a boring place if everyone were exactly alike! We love to celebrate the differences in the members of our tribe, and one way we do that is by choosing gifts that speak to their special roles in the world. Here are some of our gift ideas for the ladies in your life.


She’s So Extra

Everything she does is next level, which is why the Rizma Cha Cha is her perfect bag. Crafted from a  brightly colored silk velvet Uzbek textile and embellished with fringe, it’s a showstopper — just like she is.


She’s a Boss Babe

She’s also your literal boss — and she’s working toward the keys to the castle. She’ll know you believe in her when you gift her one of our brushed brass key rings


She’s No Basic Betty

An understated classic she will carry forever, the Mila pouch is constructed of black and white silk velvet ikat. She can even "mix it up" and convert it into a wristlet with our detachable brass ring. 

She’s your Bestie

Handcrafted from suede & brass, GAIA x Melt 'Dash' earrings blend traditional & modern. They are a rock-solid design for a rock-solid BFF. 


She’s Your Mini Me

We bet your little squeaks with delight when she unwraps the Margaux mouse pouch! French jacquard with leather ears and whiskers, it really is as cute as she is. 


She’s All Ears

Our pompom and tassel earrings are just the thing for the friend who always answers when you call and is always happy to listen. 

She’s a Minimalist to the Max

She’d probably rather you get her nothing, but there’s just no way you can leave her off your list. A delicate leather and denim tree ornament says “I love you” year after year. 

Shop the entire GAIA collection now.

Continue reading

Those Magic Moments

Working at GAIA is unlike working at most small fashion companies. We do all the same kinds of fun product research and development you’d expect from a company like ours. We get to play with beautiful textiles and analyze trends and design accessories that we think people will love. But because we employ resettled refugee women to bring our products to life, we have an opportunity to witness a process — and be involved in lives very unlike our own — that is rare and special. It’s not always easy. What our refugee artisans have been through is heartbreaking, and their stories are often painful to hear, especially Bothina's, which has touched people around the world. But the flip side of difficult times are magic moments.

Each of us at GAIA has heard and seen things during our workday that made us pause and catch our breath, caused us to stop and reflect on our blessings, or sent us to the bathroom with a lump in our throat. These moments of overwhelming emotion are as much a part of the job as matching a striped fabric with the right pompom — and we wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. They make our jobs unique, remind us that we are doing something truly powerful for other people, and help us find meaning in our own lives.

Here we share a few of our most magical moments with you.

Bothina Goes to Washington

‘They Know Who You Are’

I love that our brand name doesn’t just end at “GAIA,” because the second half of our name, “Empowered Women,” is the most important. We are in the business of being and developing empowered women. When I first starting working at GAIA Empowered Women, I thought I was empowering the refugee artisans I was working alongside, but I was wrong. All the women here — admin staff and artisans together — challenge, encourage, and lift one another up. There are quite a few moments that have left me thinking, “Wow, I am so lucky to be working and experiencing life with these ladies. How has God been so good to me?!” One of those moments came recently when a film crew was in the office talking to Bothina. Bothina has been a voice for — and given a voice to — refugees around the world. The IRC took her to Washington, D.C., to make a stand for refugees. They have interviewed and videoed her countless times, but I will never forget when one cameraman told her, "Bothina, [refugees] know who you are. They've heard your story, and you have given them hope for their futures.” Does it get better than that?!? — Alyssa, production & development manager

Huda GAIA Refugee Artisan

‘I Cannot Imagine Five Years’

A moment that comes to mind is a morning when Huda came into the office and told us that she was leaving for Germany in two weeks for a month. At first we were all shocked to be given such short notice, but after digging deeper we began to understand: Huda had not seen some of her family members — including her son — in five years! I was blown away by this. She teared up when she was telling us how excited she was to finally see her son and meet his wife for the first time. She had so much joy telling us all that they would do and how excited she was to take this trip. It is amazing to be able to give these women the opportunity to be reunited with their families. I get homesick and miss my parents if I go a few months without seeing them, so I cannot imagine five years. I think about all the things that have happened in my life in the last five years and what it would've been like not having my parents there. The more I thought about Huda’s trip, the more overcome with emotion I became. — Brooke, production coordinator

GAIA Refugee Women

‘I Stand by Their Sides as a Sister’

I remember a local television news crew was here in the office filming Bothina (it happens a lot), baiting her with questions about the election and asking her about her vetting experience as a Syrian refugee. I say “baiting” because they were phrasing their questions to get a dig or a heavily polarized comment from her. Instead of taking the opportunity to be negative, Bothina spoke eloquently about her vetting and resettlement. She talked about how working at GAIA is so much fun — a much-needed reprieve after a harrowing several years — and how each of us on the team has been her friend and her champion through it all and how thankful she is for us. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember sitting at my desk, eyes filled with tears. I was caught off guard by my emotion and avoiding Bothnia’s twinkling eyes as she knew she had got me! Empathizing with our refugees’ traumatic experiences and mourning with them in their unfathomable losses overwhelms me every time, but the honor of standing by their sides as a sister who loves them and cares for them more than they even know overwhelms me just as much. — Lauren J., director of operations

Bothina GAIA Refugee Artisan

‘I Had Never Heard Bothina’s Story’

My magical moment was when the IRC came to the office to video Bothina. They were set up in the front room of GAIA and were interviewing her while I worked at my desk. I could hear her telling her story to the IRC while I was working. I had never heard Bothina's story from her point of view in her voice, and it really overwhelmed me. I walked to the back of the workroom and started crying about how strong she was after everything she had been through. — Lauren G., head of digital

Catherin GAIA Refugee

‘Catherin Has Come So Far’

There have been many magic GAIA moments for me through the years, of course, but a big one happened in late October, when my husband, children and I visited Catherin and her family in their new home! It’s so incredible to see how far Catherin has come. When I met her in 2009, she was a stoic, shellshocked Burmese refugee, patiently learning how to use a stove (among other things) in her tiny, one-bedroom apartment in Dallas. To see her now — a naturalized U.S. citizen living in a beautiful home on a tree-lined street with a yard and enough bedrooms to allow her teenage daughter to have her own room for the first time — just makes my heart want to burst. It’s pure joy! — Paula, founder

Bothina GAIA Refugee Artisan

‘She Just Hugged Me’

One day a new tenant moved into the office behind GAIA and the owner came around to our office to meet all of us. When we were introduced, she just hugged me. She was so welcoming and it was so moving to have a stranger hug me and tell me that she was glad I am here. Bothina, artisan trainer

Continue reading

Why the Price Is the Price

Hi GAIA friends... Paula, here!

As you may already know, we like to pull the curtain back a little bit on how we do things. From a behind-the-scenes look at visiting one of our refugee artisans to a peek at our design process, I love sharing with our friends and customers just what goes into the products we sell.

Sometimes we’re asked why GAIA accessories cost what they do. After all, if we’re not using semiprecious stones or exotic leather, why the heck do our earrings and handbags cost upward of $100? In the age of fast fashion — and, listen, I occasionally like a cute $35 Zara top as much as the next gal — we’re all accustomed to clothing and accessories being really inexpensive.

However, inexpensive often equates to 2 things: 1) the materials used are of a lower quality and/or 2) the person making the item is not being paid fairly for his or her work. That is what sets GAIA, and other like-minded ethical brands, apart. Let me break it down.

For starters — and this is the most important part — GAIA pays our refugee artisans a living wage for their work. This is a core component of our mission statement. Minimum wage in Texas, where we are based, is $7.25 per hour. The living wage for a family of four in our area (that’s two working adults and two children), according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, is more than twice that. It’s $14.69 per hour, to be exact, which is why GAIA pays our artisans on average $15 per hour. How does that compare with other countries? A 2014 Bloomberg news article puts the average manufacturing wage in China at the U.S. equivalent of $3.52. In India, it’s just 92¢.

A large portion of the fabrics we use are artisan-made and/or vintage textiles of the highest quality. We also source eco-friendly organic cotton or hemp textiles, which can be a bit more expensive. Because most of the fabrics are extremely limited in quantity, we try not to waste an inch, which is why you might sometimes see an earring or a beaded necklace echo a pattern from a pouch or a bag. This is one way we keep costs down. In addition, we constantly strive to source our materials from ethical, fair trade vendors. For example, it took us a good while to find the right source for the brushed brass rings on our Cha Cha and Tote bags. Finally, we discovered Matr Boomie, which empowers 20,000 women and minorities in 40 communities throughout India.

And then there’s the matter of wholesale, which is often not something a retail customer considers. About 70 percent of our business is selling to other businesses — retail stores that purchase a large volume of our product at a discounted wholesale price, then mark it up to sell to their customers. We love our wholesale accounts because they order so many items at once, providing significant income to our refugee artisans in a single transaction!    However, because we want to keep our final retail prices more attainable, our wholesale margins on most of our products are way lower than most other fashion companies. In fact, if we were exclusively a wholesaler, we wouldn’t survive on our margins. We would have to increase our wholesale prices, resulting in an increase in the final retail price to the customer. Instead, we choose to keep our final retail prices on the more reasonable side and count on the profit margins through GAIA items sold on our website to offset our lower wholesale margins.

I hope that makes sense.

And I hope that the graphic below makes it easy to understand the costs that go into one of our products and why. Our Embroidered Earrings retail for $110, but we wholesale them for half of that at $55, so our profitability is mostly based on the lower number. You can see that though a price might seem like a lot, it’s actually not, considering all of the costs it must cover!

So, in a nutshell, charging less for our product would mean lowering our refugee artisans’ wages, which would essentially change our entire business model. The GAIA support staff is definitely not getting rich doing this work and they graciously accept lower wages than they might earn elsewhere (I personally have not taken a salary yet) in exchange for the meaningful, rewarding, and life-changing work we do on behalf of those in need.

Providing living-wage employment to refugees is why GAIA exists, and for us to change that would compromise our core mission. It is my hope that providing this window into in our costs and pricing will not only help you feel even better about your GAIA purchases, but that it might also encourage you to reflect on your buying power as a whole and to be more intentional in how and where you shop.

Know that when you make a GAIA purchase, you are purchasing something touched by real hands, by real women who have endured atrocities unfathomable to most of us. Know that you are helping to restore their dignity, creating the opportunity to rewrite their stories. Yes, you are adding something beautiful to your wardrobe — but you are doing so very much more!

Continue reading

Lots of New #GAIAgoodness for Fall!

Crunchy leaves, football games, sweater knits, and holiday prep are a few things we love about fall. We also love that we get to show off what we’ve been working on all summer. Have a look at the cozy fabrics, rich colors, and updated shapes that are new from GAIA this season.

New Ring Tote

It’s a tote! It’s a clutch! It’s a cross-body! With both a wrist ring, a long chain, and a design meant for folding, our newest bag is a triple threat. Our favorite styles are made of colorful silk velvet ikat textiles hand-dyed and hand-loomed by artisans in Uzbekistan. All are handcrafted in Dallas by our own refugee artisans and lined with Perennials fabrics (stay tuned for news about our partnership with Dallas-based Perennials). 


Bonus: We’ve also got a few new Cha Cha bags in the silk velvet ikat.

Updated Roundie

Honey, we shrunk the Roundie! This GAIA favorite has been updated with a smaller body and a shorter, chunkier tassel. We constructed the range of styles for fall from vintage fabrics from Thailand and Africa, French jacquards, leathers, suedes, and more. The Roundie comes with or without a long chain — and now with or without a wrist ring. 

Limited-Edition Pompom-Tassel Earrings

The first releases of this new earring style are four limited-edition designs using Perennials pompoms. We paired the poms with African and Ethiopian accent beads for added interest and texture. Once these are gone (yikes, one’s already sold out!), they’re gone forever, but we do have plans for other color combinations with GAIA’s own refugee-crafted pompoms. 

New Celeste Earrings

It was time for a refresh on our Celeste earrings, which were introduced early this year, so we created four new color combos — navy on gold, blue on pink, peach on wheat, and white on white. These beauties are all made with repurposed textiles and edged with gold beads. 

Updated a la Carte Tassels

There are two varieties of the latest clip-on tassel designs. The first is five tiers of poms and cotton tassels layered with brass, bone, and wood beads. The other is a chunky suede tassel in four colors: rose, olive, butter, and electric blue. All have brass hardware and look cute clipped on any of our bags, any of your bags, a key ring, and more. 

New Key Ring

Speaking of key rings, meet the latest GAIA version, featuring our favorite brass wrist ring  and tassels handmade by Feza. The are 4 tassel color combos, and each one coordinates beautifully with our small and large pouches.  Grab and go!

Shop the full range of GAIA accessories now.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Two Ways Upcycling Benefits Our Brand

We’ve been thinking a lot about the environment lately, trying to better understand our responsibilities and the actions we can personally take to protect the planet and live more lightly on it. Living lightly is a philosophy that is baked into the GAIA business model — GAIA means “Mother Earth” after all — and we’re proud of how we upcycle materials, not only because it eliminates waste but also because upcycling allows us to invest more in people than we do in materials.

GAIA Vintage Textiles

The Textiles

GAIA is a textiles-based brand, and the majority of the fabrics we use are vintage, upcycled, or made of eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton or hemp. Most of our textiles are very limited in quantity and special in this world, so our goal is to use as much of each piece as possible. Once we make a larger item, like a pouch or handbag, we use fabric remnants and scraps in everything from earrings to necklaces to the linings of our bags. We try not to waste an inch!

GAIA Earrings

The Product

For example, we incorporate remnants into our Cleo tassel necklaces. Not only does this use those extra bits of fabric that another company might toss in the trash, it also means that each necklace is a one-of-a-kind original. The same goes for our fabric-wrapped Beaded necklaces. We also use leftover fabric in our Mini Heart and Mini Kitty purses for littles. But our favorite example of how we try use literally every little centimeter of fabric: our earrings. Textile remnants are the centerpiece of each show-stopping pair!

GAIA Refugee Women

The People

As you may know, GAIA exists to help resettled refugee women rebuild their lives in the United States through meaningful work. We pay our artisans a living wage to craft the collection, and most of the women work from home, where they can set their own schedules and take care of their children. Our use of vintage, repurposed, and sustainable materials supports that mission, too: Not only do those types of textiles reduce our environmental footprint, they also allow us to invest more into labor. In other words, we’re putting more money in the people who make our product — which is what we at GAIA are all about!

If you’re interested in ways that you personally can impact the environment, we encourage you to check out

Continue reading

Meet the GAIA Summer 2017 Interns

GAIA Summer Interns

Summer is a fun time at GAIA, thanks in part to summer interns! Having the fresh faces and bright ideas of the young ladies who spend a couple of months lending a hand to our small business is exciting for us and educational for them. Whether they’re tagging along on our visits to refugee women in their homes or organizing shelves filled with supplies, their enthusiasm and energy are contagious. This season, we are so grateful to have four delightful souls and feel confident that they will end their break from the classroom with a different kind of knowledge about the working world. Let's meet this fun-loving bunch!

GAIA Summer Interns Alex

Alex Karber, 21

Hometown: Amarillo, Texas

School: University of Kansas, class of 2018

Area of study: Illustration/animation

Dream job: Hand-letterer at Hallmark

Why are you excited to be at GAIA? Being part of something that is much larger than I am is a new way for me to live life. I truly believe that loving people is the root of everything good, and that is exactly what GAIA is founded on. I am excited to learn more about the women I am working with and to experience how a company like GAIA can impact lives

What is your favorite GAIA product and why? The Pom Pom bag! You can’t look at that bag and not smile!

What’s your favorite quote? “Decide what to be and go be it.” — The Avett Brothers

Who is a woman who inspires you? Every single day, my best friend, my mom

GAIA Summer Interns Lily

Lily Sutherland, 21

Hometown: Mansfield, Texas

School: Texas State University, class of 2017

Area of study: Fashion merchandising and business 

Dream job: Visual merchandising or product development for a company with a cause 

Why are you excited to be at GAIA? I love the products, and I like being part of the process of creating a product. From an initial idea to handwriting the note that goes into a package when it is about to be sent off, I enjoy being part of a creative team. I also love getting to interact with the women we are empowering.

What is your favorite GAIA product and why? Anything with a pompom attached. I am not totally sure why. I just love those things. 

What’s your favorite quote? “Beautiful girl, you were made to do hard things, so believe in yourself.”

Who is a woman who inspires you? Beyoncé. She is the ultimate queen. She uses her fame to empower women around the globe to believe in themselves, tells them that no one can define them and to never give anyone the opportunity to dull their sparkle.

GAIA Summer Interns Jewel

Jewel Jefferies, 21 

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas 

School: The University of Texas, class of 2018

 Area of study: Consumer sciences and retail merchandising 

Dream job: To start and build my own fashion company with a meaningful purpose 

Why are you excited to be at GAIA? This is a job I love and feel good about doing! I hope to learn about running a small company and how to keep growing without losing sight of your company’s purpose. 

What is your favorite GAIA product and why? The Olivia Cha Cha bag, because I love pink and gold. 

What’s your favorite quote? “A smile is the best makeup any girl can wear.” — Marilyn Monroe 

Who is a woman who inspires you? My mom

GAIA Summer Interns Maddie

Maddie Whitten, 21

Hometown: Frisco, Texas

School: Oklahoma State University, class of 2018

Area of study: Marketing and international business

Dream job: To be a social entrepreneur and to start my own business

Why are you excited to be at GAIA? I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than working for a company full of leaders, dreamers, and believers who all have a goal of empowering and employing marginalized women who deserve a second chance. The insanely cute products are just a plus. I hope to learn how to use my talents and gifts to make a tangible difference in our community, as well as how a successful small business works.

What is your favorite GAIA product and why? Literally everything! My answer to this question changes daily. No joke. Right now, it’s the Sunnie Pom Pom bag, because it is such a statement piece and conversation starter. But what GAIA product isn’t?!

What’s your favorite quote? “I’ve always had the feeling that life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you, give you experiences. They may not all be that pleasant, but nobody promised you a rose garden. But more than likely if you do dare, what you get are the marvelous returns.” — Maya Angelou

Who is a woman who inspires you? Maya Angelou exuded grace, confidence, humility, and passion. She was just as fierce as she was compassionate. Most importantly, she was a woman who was unapologetically herself. I am inspired by her wisdom, her love for others, and her strong will to pursue the dreams that set her soul on fire. 

GAIA Summer Interns

Interested in interning with GAIA? Email us at

Continue reading

What Is a Hijab? Why Do Women Wear Them?

What Is a Hijab?

At GAIA we are accustomed to seeing women in hijabs. Huda and Bothina wear hijabs when they come to work in our office, and several of our other refugee artisans cover their heads in public as well. We’re around women who wear head coverings all the time. But we realize that many Americans are not and that, in fact, the who and why and where of the hijab, also called a veil, simply isn’t well understood by most people in the United States. So we decided to shed a little light on the subject, with the help of a site called Arabs in America, directed and sponsored by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  

The Who and Why

Though there are Christian women and Jewish women and also Arab men who wear headscarves, this story is about Muslim women.

It’s a common misunderstanding that Muslim women are forced to cover their heads, and though Taliban law imposed the burqa (a head-to-toe dress that covers every inch of a woman, including her eyes) on Pakistani and Afghani women, a hijab is not the same thing and the Taliban is no longer in power.

What Is a Hijab?

Most Muslim women will tell you that covering their heads is a choice — and that they are proud to do so. In fact, many say that a headscarf or even a face veil gives them freedom and protection. It’s all a matter of perspective!

There are a variety of reasons a woman might elect to wear a hijab. Most wear hijabs for religious reasons. Some believe that God has instructed them to do so and wear it as a symbol of devotion. Others, however, don’t perceive a head covering as obligatory but wear it instead to express their Islamic identity and show their faith. There are other women who cover their heads as an expression of cultural identity and a challenge to prejudice. Some women wear it sometimes and don’t wear it other times.

We asked Bothina how she feels about wearing her hijab, and she told us, "When I am walking and wearing my hijab in the street or wherever I am, it's as if I am expressing how proud I am of my faith and the human being I am." (We love this explanation — it kind of blew us away!)

What Is a Hijab?

The Where

Muslim women cover their heads anytime they are going to be around men who are not part of their immediate family (think: husbands, sons, brothers, fathers). They don’t wear hijabs when they are at home with only their families or when they are with only other women in someone’s home. Anytime they go out in public, they will cover their heads.

The How

All hijabs are hijabs but there are other kinds of hijabs. Does that sound confusing? Let us explain.

The word “hijab” is simply the Arabic word for “cover.” It is used both as a general term for modest attire that includes a headscarf and as a certain type of headscarf. A hijab can be worn tightly or loosely.

What Is a Hijab?

The most common type of hijab is called simply a hijab, and that’s what you’re most likely to encounter in the United States. It’s a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face free. This is what the Muslim women who work with GAIA wear.

The shayla is another type of hijab. It is a long, rectangular scarf that is wrapped loosely around the head and tucked or pinned at the shoulders. It covers the head but often leaves both the neck and face exposed.

The khimar is a long, cape-like scarf that covers the head, neck, and shoulders and hangs to the middle of the back. The face is left uncovered.

What Is a Hijab?

A floor-length version of the khimar is called the chador. Worn with a khimar or other headscarf, the niqab covers the mouth and nose but leaves the eyes clear. Though Latifa doesn’t wear a niqab in her daily life in the United States, when she goes to visit her family in Tunisia she does. 

OK! That’s a lot, but we hope it has helped demystify head coverings. And if you have more questions, we encourage you to ask a Muslim woman about her hijab the next time you see one. There’s nothing like having a real conversation!

For answers to more questions about refugees, read Refugee Resettlement 101.

Continue reading