Will my bag look exactly like the one pictured online?
Maybe! It will definitely look verrry similar. But what you see is not always what you get when everything is made from vintage & handwoven textiles. Although your bag will be made from the same piece of cloth, it may have a different stripe or detail that was not featured on any other part of the textile. Lucky you! Think of your GAIA purchase as if you are buying a numbered piece of art: you're signing up to receive one of a limited-run of handcrafted masterpieces that no one else in the world will have. GAIA customers are collectors, not consumers.
How will my purchase be shipped, and when will it arrive?
For domestic orders, we use USPS Priority 2-day shipping. For international orders, we use USPS International shipping (travel time varies by country).
Our goal is always to get your order to you as fast as we can. While most items will ship they day they are ordered, it may take up to 2 weeks for production with the refugee women we employ. We promise we'll notify you if your order will ship out more than a week after it was placed. If you are in a time-crunch, please notify us in the notes section of your order (i.e. "Betty's birthday is Saturday, please let me know if I won't receive my order in time!") and we will do our best to make sure Betty has the best birthday ever!!
How can I track my order?
Once your order has shipped, you will receive an email with tracking info so you can watch your package make its exciting journey to your loving arms. If you see that your package is having issues along the way, please email us at Hello@gaiaforwomen.com and we will unleash our search & rescue team. Or at least call USPS for you.
What is your return policy?
We get a return request about once in a blue moon... but if by some bizarre turn of events you are not 100% satisfied with your GAIA treasure, you may exchange it for another, assuming your first love was unworn & sent back within 14 days of delivery. Please email Hello@gaiaforwomen.com for a prepaid shipping label, and we'll do our best to turn that frown upside down.
FAQ's about the biz, answered by GAIA founder, Paula Minnis:
What inspired you to start GAIA Empowered Women?
In 2009 I began volunteering with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global organization that provides essential care and resettlement assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. I became a Mentor to a Burmese refugee woman, Catherin, and her 2 young children in May, and by September, the seed for GAIA had already been planted, based on my experience with her. Her strength and determination really moved me, and inspired me to do more, so I started brainstorming of ways for Catherin to support herself. One day we were studying vocabulary words, and after describing the word “sew”, I discovered that she had some basic sewing skills. This led to a true “lightbulb moment,” and the idea for GAIA was born, with the ultimate mission of helping refugee women thrive in their new communities.
Why vintage textiles? How has that shaped the development of the collection?
When I started GAIA, I knew that I wanted a focus on sustainability and living lightly on the earth. I had recently begun collecting vintage textiles and had also shifted my household to using only cloth napkins…which happened to be a straightforward item to sew! The collection has expanded from there, always tailored around the refugee women’s varying skill sets. For the women who don't sew, we design jewelry for them to create; and of those that can, most sew from home so our designs have to accommodate smaller machines (which is why it helps to be textile-based). Definitely working under challenging constraints, but it only makes the design process more interesting! Designing within these parameters, my team and I just dream up pieces we would wear and our friends would wear. We always strive to create elevated pieces that stand alone, so we’re not relying solely on our mission to sell the product.
Where do you source the vintage & artisan-made textiles you use?
We’ve acquired vintage textiles from all over the world: Guatemala, Belize, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, and parts of Africa just to name a few. Now, with GAIA’s growth, we’re working with partners to employ artisans across the globe to produce the textiles we use, beginning with an ikat collection, handwoven by artisans in India through KUFRI, a custom weaving design firm also based here in Dallas!
There are so many people out there that need help – why refugee women?
I was really moved by the refugee experience as a whole, and inspired by the resilience of women I worked with. After already surviving against incredible odds prior to coming here, they then have to completely rebuild their lives in a foreign land, with multiple new challenges along the way. For Catherin, after enduring over a decade in a refugee camp in Thailand, she then faced an entirely new set of obstacles upon her arrival to the US….everything from learning how to use an ATM to navigating our country’s health care system. It’s overwhelming to even those of us born here, imagine how daunting it is for someone in a refugee’s shoes! We've dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, illnesses, break-ins, poor living conditions, and exploitation by other employers and apartment managers. These women face it head-on, with strength and faith unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.