Partner Spotlight: An Interview with Katie of Elegantees

My ideal top is one I can move around in without showing skin, needs no special bra, and one I don’t regret wearing three hours into work. It needs to make me look great and be versatile enough to fit with different jewelry and bottom sets. In addition to being captivating, versatile, and comfortable, I’d also like my top to save women’s lives.

Almost sounds too good to be true. Enter Elegantees.

Let us reintroduce you to the beautiful cotton clothing designed for the everyday woman who is socially conscious and loves to look good. This October I had the opportunity to speak with the founder of Elegantees, Katie Martinez, to get an idea of how she came up with this genius company and how it works.  We talked style and the holiday rush and what that means to her company.

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Tell us more about the concept behind the beauty in your more conservative fashion pieces. How does your clothing reflect the models and the everyday consumer purchasing Elegantees?

I designed Elegantees because shopping was hard. I needed tops that were pretty and comfortable, and with proper coverage. Having spent my life both on a farm in Iowa, and in the Fashion District of New York City, I’ve seen two extremes in the way women dress. A common approach is to avoid fashion altogether and wear the same tee and jeans or leggings daily. The other extreme is to place so much emphasis on fashion that it becomes an identity. Elegantees is for the woman who seeks to find a balance between fashion and life, with a tee that looks like more than a tee.

Our aim is to break away from the unrealistic standards of beauty. I believe that ideal beauty is an expression of something that comes from the inside. When a woman takes care of herself, and others with kindness, she’s at the height of beauty. True beauty is in being clothed in strength and dignity.

What does it mean to your business when people choose to do their holiday shopping with you? Specifically, what will it mean this 2017 season?

It means a lot! Holiday shopping sustains our operations, and provides for my family and our nonprofit partner. Revenue from the Elegantees sewing center funds rescue operations at one of the border stations at Nepal-India. Each border station rescues two to three thousand victims each year. The sewing center provides full time work for 17 people, most of them are women. I want to hire 3 more seamstresses by end of this year. If we hit a certain number in sales, it will happen. We are normally slower in the summer months, so being able to set aside that cash reserve as savings will ensure nobody gets laid off.

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Katie with her beautiful daughter in Elegantees!

Holiday shopping is not just about gift giving for the new and growing companies that Route partners with.  Your purchase from them can make huge and lasting growth happen in their business – often in the form of more employment for people who need it the most.

We have LOVED getting to know Katie and her staff as we have worked with them and watched their growth.  Consider including an Elegantees purchase in your holiday gift giving to help make their goals and dreams for their company come true!

Happy Ethical Shopping!

Love,

Liz, Christina and the Route Team

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#FASHREV

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Four years ago this week, on April 24, 2013, 1,134 people were killed and 2,500 injured when the clothing factory, Rana Plaza complex, collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

There are thousands more places around the world where children and adults are still forced to work in unsafe places and for far less money than is fair.

Fashion Revolution Week,  April 24-30, 2017 is a time for people from all over the world to come together, question, protest, and make our voices heard.  Route exists to raise awareness, to provide alternatives, and to support organizations that are changing the status quo that hurts so many. We are SO proud to work with so many partner groups that care so deeply about their makers.

So, what can we/you do this week and beyond? Wear your shirt inside out this week.  Ask hard questions. Find out where your clothes are made.  Take a picture of your clothing label, tag the brand, and ask #whomademyclothes? Purchase secondhand, purchase ethically.

Here’s more info on how to join the revolution: http://fashionrevolution.org/

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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.

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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: 31Bits

Similar to Roūte, 31Bits was started by women who believed every purchase made can have a negative impact or a positive impact in the world. They use fashion and design to help women to rise above poverty.

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The “31” comes from Proverbs 31, where it describes a diligent woman providing and caring for her family.  The “bits” comes from what the beads are made out of…bits of paper! 31Bits products are carefully crafted by hand by skilled artisans in Uganda and Indonesia.

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Their beaded products are made in Uganda from rolled up paper, sealed with a water-based varnish. Making beads from paper is a technique found throughout Eastern Africa. Their metal products and accents are made in Indonesia by skilled artisans who have spent years learning the craft.

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Every time our customers make a purchase, they are having a direct impact on the lives of our artisans and their families. Shop 31Bits necklaces in store or online.

Blogger: Saloni Gami, Route Intern

Product Feature: Tiffins

We work with Ten Thousand Villages to provide these fun tiffin carriers created by Noah’s Ark International Exports. A tiffin is actually a light mid-day meal, so these tiffin lunch boxes, which were made in India, will help you carry your food in style.

 

Noah’s Ark, the producer of the tiffin carriers, is a fair trade company that was started in 1986 in one room of a family home in Moradabad, India. Samuel Masih, the founder, noticed that exporters were taking advantage of handicraft artisans, so he started Noah’s Ark to promote these artisans and their crafts in a fair and safe environment. Noah’s Ark now employs around 300 makers, and provides them benefits such as education and medical treatment. Stop by the shop to browse the tiffin carriers and help support the makers.

Blogger: Adileh Nazemi-Tabrizi, Route Intern

Introducing: Hand-Poured Soy Candles

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We’ve searched for a simple, ethically made candle for months, and we finally found a beautiful line of candles, made in St. Louis. They are hand poured with 100% soy wax, for a gorgeous, clean burn. Jennifer Ray, of Washington Avenue Post, a coffee shop & urban market downtown, pours dozens of natural scents, and we chose a few of our favorites.

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We donate a portion of the candle proceeds to True North and Magdalene House women’s shelters in Columbia & St. Louis, Missouri.
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Check out the variety at the next pop-up shop, or purchase one in Columbia. We’re working on getting them online soon!

New Truffle Flavors!

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We work with Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate in St. Louis Missouri to bring you our jumbo truffles made with Fair Trade Certified ingredients. We love that their facility is sun powered, continuing their commitment to sustainability.

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We just got in Strawberry Cheesecake, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, and Triple Chocolate Cake Jumbo Truffles, and they are incredibly delicious. Stop by in-store or order online, they make a perfect, simple Valentine’s Day Gift.

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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!

Introducing; Synergy

Introducing Synergy’s clothing this Spring is something we have been so excited about for a while.  Synergy employs over 150 women in Nepal to make their organic cotton women’s clothing.  They provide fair wages and significant yearly bonuses.  It’s all about supporting women so they can support their families.  When possible Synergy encourages women to work from their homes, reducing the stress of leaving children and giving them the flexible keep up with other responsibilities while completing their work.

On top of their loving care for their Nepali and US based teams.  We are so excited about all of the ways they consider the environment and the people involved with production of their products.  Their super soft fabrics are organically grown and certified, reducing the environmental impact of the cotton farming as well as the health risks to the farmers.  They take great care in the dying and finishing of their products to keep the process as low impact as possible on water sources.  On top of all of that, they rely on solar power when possible, soy ink and even reuse boxes and other materials.  We are inspired and encouraged by their thoughtfulness and care and are so excited to be sharing their pieces with you.

 

Some helpful hints as you are purchasing:

Synergy’s fabrics, though durable and fade resistant do shrink slightly.  We’ve carefully purchased only the styles that we feel like run true to size and are the MOST flattering.  You will love how breathable the dresses are especially and how they move.  Each style really makes the most of the fabric and are so fun to wear.  Enjoy!

Maker Story; Sonya

Greenola Style shared with us a story of one of their makers, Sonya:

“Sonya, from our Tikas Women’s Cooperative,Tikas, is one of our newest cooperatives that we helped form. We first met Sonya, her sister Vasilia, and Beatrice (all pictured in the team shot on the left, below) through a Catholic organization in Bolivia. At the time they were handcrafting greeting cards in which they sold in local communities without great success. After much relationship building and understanding their needs and personal goals, we learned that all their husbands work quite hard to support their families but were still struggling with the financial demands.

These three women needed to work, but were finding it hard to balance finding work and seeing their children off to school.  In Bolivia children attend only a half day of school making it hard on caregivers to find profitable work. Also their schools are  often many miles away and due to safety concerns the mothers take the public transportation and/or walk the many miles with their children.

Unfortunately the small profit from selling greeting cards was not enough.  Upon scoping the raw material markets, GREENOLA learned that there is an abundance of raw seeds available. With that, we decided to create jewelry recycling these seeds into fashion forward designs. This process was also an easy skill to teach. Starting with these three women, we have been able to grow this project into a community project. Sonya, Vasilia, and Beatrice have welcomed their cousins, friends, and neighbors into the project and now help employ more than 20 women in their community. With this project, the women of the community in which they reside (Buena Vista) have pulled together to form a women’s group that comes together for much more than working on this project. They have gotten their community church involved, created programs for their children, rallied to have public transportation run to their community, and so much more.

Sonya is quite the woman. In addition to contributing financially to her household, she has taken on guardianship of her nephew raising him as her own. This last year we learned that she has been having stomach problems challenging her ability to eat, function, and live a healthy life. With our on the ground partner, SolidarityBridge.org we have been able to provide Sonya the healthcare she needs to work on this challenge and improve her quality of life.”

Greenola Team

 

We are so excited to support organizations like Greenola who take the time to get to know their artisans, as well as makers like Sonya who are determined and hardworking.  Over and over again we hear the stories and see the statistics that when women are employed the money that they make goes to support their families and then their communities.  Sonya is one of thousands of stories of women who are changing their communities because of their employment!