A path to rural sustainability

There are countless problems that can be countered by employment.  Each partner group that we work with has identified specific needs in the communities that their makers live in and uses creative, thoughtful technics to build their business model around the needs in those communities.

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One of our favorites (because it harnesses technology in a really thoughtful way), is Soko.  we have just started carrying one or two of their pieces but have been following their work and impact for years.  They identify traditional artisans in rural areas, communicate orders and designs for their jewelry via cell phones and build relationships with their artisans remotely.

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There are so many exciting things about this model, but the biggest one is that it allows these artisans and their families to stay in their villages if they want to, keeping them out of dangerous and unhealthy slums in the cities and building their income and therefor impact on their communities in some of the poorest rural areas on Kenya.

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We will be bringing a few of Soko’s pieces in at a time and hope that you find things that you like and joining us in spreading the word about their effective work.

Happy Ethical Shopping!




To Change a Life with Dignity

The process of choosing which companies we will partner with and what products we will sell consumes so much of our work and conversation.  This is not a small process.  The goal is to put together a collection of well made, fashionable, well priced and deeply impactful products.  We want to choose the best of the best for you.  When you buy from Route, you can trust that these are pieces that people will compliment and ask you about.

When we start in on a new relationship (or in this case pick back up on an old one), we take that very seriously and approach it with care.  Years ago, Starfish Project came to visit our shop in Columbia.  We were thrilled about the work they were doing.  Literally bringing women out of brothels and exploitation into every level of their business.  Their goal is not just to teach women how to make jewelry.  They put women quickly into training and education programs to teach them computer skills, management, logistics and a slew of other seriously marketable skills.  These women will forever have careers that will safely keep them out of the situations that came from.  All of this while housing, caring for and helping to heal each women.

We have chosen not to buy from them in the past because we did not think the jewelry they were making had a wide enough appeal or that the style was updated enough to sell on it’s own without the story.  We are THRILLED that that has changed and recently found three gorgeous pieces to offer you from their current line.


Order one or two (scroll over image for link to purchase) knowing that the women behind these products are working hard to change the direction of their lives and you are helping to make that possible (and looking fabulous in the process).




Partner Feature: World Finds

World Finds was founded upon the basis that to lift communities out of poverty, they needed to be provided with work, not charity. Through this mission, it has created a community and a market for artisans to make and sell their products. By providing employment, World Finds has helped its artisans and their communities in India, Indonesia and Nepal by combatting poverty, improving educational programs and expanding healthcare initiatives.

World Finds itself provides a community for fair trade organizations and artisans, but it also does much more. By providing workshops to teach women to bead and sew, the fair trade organizations that work with World Finds help to empower women who can then empower other women in their communities.

Not only is each piece from World Finds unique, but it also helps to continue the cycle of women helping women. This necklace was handmade in India by a community of women that continues to grow with each purchase.

While all of World Finds products are helping to lift up women and their communities, they are also helping to educate young girls. The Girls Education Fund provides transportation, tuition, books and more to communities in India, which has helped triple the amount of girls who can stay in school.


From handbags to jewelry to hand printed scarves, World Finds offers on-trend, sustainable and ethical products that you can wear proudly, no matter your personal style. Their collection of scarves are perfect for this spring – throw one on during the cool mornings and tie it around your tote when the weather warms up.

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For a limited time, our Flora Scarf is 15% off 🙂 Click here to shop.

Blogger: Kathryn McDonnell, Route Intern

Partner Feature: FashionABLE



FASHIONABLE provides women who have overcome prostitution and addiction, jobs instead of charity. They seek to invest in the women who create their jewelry in Nashville, TN and their handbags in Ethiopia, so that they can provide for themselves and empower the communities they’re a part of.


By manufacturing the leather goods in Ethiopia, fair paying, local jobs are created. The Mamuye Leather tote is named after one of the women that works with FASHIONABLE. This 100% genuine distressed leather is a beautiful way to add color and texture to your wardrobe. Whether you’re using it for a school bag, purse, or even for traveling, the durable straps and roomy insides make it perfect for all day wear. Available in pewter, cognac or black, which are perfect to mix and match.



To see more of the bag and jewelry selection, visit us in store or online at shoproute.org.





When we brought Raven+Lily into our collection last year, we were thrilled. They employ women all around the world from Ethiopia to Haiti, over 1,500 marginalized women, giving them secure jobs to break the cycle of poverty for them and their families.


They also combine simple, beautiful design with their mission of empowerment.


We just added the ‘Home‘ tab to our online shop, and are excited to unveil a couple of Raven+Lily paper goods along with their jewelry. Or check it all out in-store!

Photo Credit, Top & Middle: Raven & Lily

Meet a Maker: Arati

FORAI, Friends of Refugees and Immigrants, is a small nonprofit based in St. Louis that shares our passion for relationships.  Their work teaching women to sew and make jewelry begins and ends with long-term loving friendships.  We have worked with FORAI for six years and are so excited to now be selling their product and helping to advance their work. Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 8.55.50 AM

When you walk into a Saturday morning FORAI session the first thing you notice is how loud it is; ladies are chatting, children are playing, sewing machines are humming.  It’s a celebratory atmosphere.  It’s obvious that these relationships aren’t new.  

Arati is one of those sweet ladies.  Arati is an accomplished young women (here she is wearing the mingle collection).   In elementary school she left her home country of Burma to move to St. Louis with her family as a refugee.  She started working with FORAI when she was in high school.  After high school she went away for two years to school.  In the last few months she has returned to complete her degree in bio-medical engineering at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

FORAI is excited to welcome her back to their jewelry team!  She will be making several of Route’s most popular pieces (check a few below) and we are so honored to help her fulfill her dreams.


Maker Story; FashionABLE

We are honored to partner with FashionABLE, an organization passionate about employing women that otherwise may not have a chance for employment and fair work. Women that have been involved in prostitution or have fallen into addition.

“In 2006 I got a divorce then I started facing the challenges alone and didn’t have any option to raise my children well. One day one of my “friends” gave me advice to start a prostitution business and I was convinced by her idea. I rented a small room in Addis and started. Some days I went to my house without getting any money and wasn’t even able to feed my children. I would then beg for food that I would bring home to my children. This was the biggest challenge in my life. // The happiest day in my life is the day that I joined the FashionABLE program. It was a big moment for me because I didn’t like my previous work. Now I am able to provide for myself and my children.”


When you purchase from Route, you are investing in the life of a woman.

Introducing; Tiklari

As soon as we saw the gorgeous designs of Tiklari’s Karla Diaz Cano, we fell in love. Knowing that the artisans are fairly paid, with special consideration to preserving traditional hand-making techniques, we were sold.

Karla works closely with the makers around the world. We were able to speak with her on the phone in between her trips and it was fantastic to hear directly more about the work that she does and the design process.


“Our mission is to help preserve traditional hand-making techniques that have been used by artisans from different cultures around the world for hundreds of years. We don’t only source items around the globe; we work closely and collaborate with artisans to create items that reflect a fusion of ideas – old and new, modern and traditional. We believe the handmade is a work of art, and we aim to celebrate it as a form of self-expression and a way to preserve cultural heritage.”

Shop Route’s selection of Tiklari.

Women at Work=Kids at School

73 million children under the age of 14 work in full time jobs around the world instead of attending school. 73 million, how is this possible? They say that the numbers may even be conservative. Personal stories break my heart, but numbers that staggering move my feet. What do I do? How do I start? Honestly, I would sooner get a on a plane to India and go completely momma bear on any employer who dares hire a child. But often when I choose to purchase, I’m not thinking about cause or effect, only about what I want.  I want what I want because it makes me look and feel good about myself. When it works and I’m complimented, I want more. But then I realize, children aren’t in school, some are in danger.

Mata Traders and World Finds work in countries with high numbers of child labor, intentionally employing women who have never worked before so that they can receive the income brought in by their children and their children can go to school. Done. What are these women producing? Beautiful pieces that are fashion forward, that we love to sell and wear. So incredibly proud to partner with these groups and know that our feet can move in the direction of change because of the work they do.

Here are a few of our favorite pieces:

Marka Necklace, World Finds

Faith Earrings, Mata Traders

For more info on Mata Traders and World Finds check our their websites:

Introducing; Elegantees

We were so excited to discover an incredible organization making well designed basics. Based in Nepal, Elegantees works with talented women, teaching them to sew if they don’t already have the skill, and provide counseling and healing.
Here is a note directly from the Elegantees Team:
“We are happy to share photos of two of our sewers in particular. Gita and Binita have become our “poster artisans” as they’ve been with us the longest and feel fully restored! They also have everything resolved with their traffickers, that we can share their faces and their names. Gita and Binita autograph many of the hang tags as well so customers can connect with them through their purchase.
Both of them were victims of sex trafficking until they were rescued at the Nepali-Indian border where their traffickers had them in route to the Middle East. Once they were rescued, they received counseling and healing from our nonprofit partner. During the process, they learned how to sew. Today they are able to sew with Elegantees for a living and are finding more joy in life. They are forever overcomers.”
We are so excited to be carrying Elegantees basics, including this ruffled peplum tank that looks perfect with the pencil skirts from Synergy. Watch for pieces on sale via instagram in the coming weeks and styled in our Spring Lookbook!