This last month I found myself excitedly getting on a plane to Kenya to meet with groups of women artisans who will be handcrafting new collections for Raven + Lily. Because of our long-term commitment to the Maasai women in the Amboselli region of Kenya, we decided to begin development of additional partnerships within the country. In June, I had the opportunity to meet the amazing women behind these new partnerships for the first time. The women always inspire me with their stories, their handcrafting trade, and their passion for empowering themselves and their community. Spending time with the women behind the Raven + Lily designs is the highlight of running this company and my heart is always full from such opportunities.
This fall we launch our newest Kenya partnership with a group of skilled Kenyan knitters. These women are creating an exclusive line of organic cotton hand-crocheted accessories and next Spring we will launch into light weight sweaters!
Even though so many of the women in this partnership, like beautiful Ruth, have not been given the opportunity for a good education, they have become experts in their craft and found a means to use that skill to provide for their families. They are overcoming the cycle of poverty that many women are born into. Their persistence in their skill have led them to become a necessary facet to their community. Not only do they provide beauty by creating works of fashionable art, but they also provide sustainability for those who are touched by their hard work.
In the next six months, we’ll be introducing two more Kenyan based jewelry partnerships: one that features beautiful hammered brass jewelry and the other that features elegant upcycled horn and brass jewelry. The leader of the artisan brass workshop in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi had always wanted to employ women, but he wasn’t able to until we committed to partnering with the workshop. Now, with Raven + Lily partnering alongside them, they are able to train, and employ several women from the slum, providing an avenue out of poverty.
Visiting the workshop and meeting the young women who are being trained on brass making was truly special for me. Knowing that women are being employed specifically to fulfill the orders we place puts warmth in my heart knowing their lives are being empowered. Their children’s lives are being empowered as they see their mothers go to work each morning. Communities are being empowered as women are seen in a new, beautiful light. Typically, young women living in this slum community are vulnerable and given very little opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. I’m overjoyed to know that young girls will be empowered to have income and new opportunities through this employment from R+L orders.
Every part of this collection, even the most delicate brass chain, is handcrafted, and many pieces are made from upcycled brass. I gave hammering a try, but quickly realized I needed much more training because their craft is truly unique and takes a lot of practice to perfect. These women are truly skilled at creating beautiful, wearable art.
The third partnership is in collaboration with the fabulous Irish designer, Penny Winter. She and her husband run one of my favorite boutique hotels, The Ngong House, in a part of Nairobi known as Karen (named after Karen Blixen of “Out of Africa”).
Penny has been working with several groups of artisans throughout Nairobi to craft her high-end jewelry line. After meeting on my trip to Kenya last year, we began dreaming about developing an exclusive line of upcycled horn and brass jewelry for Raven + Lily. This trip, the collection no longer was a dream but began to evolve into reality. The pieces that we are launching in time for the holidays are truly unique and exquisite. The women involved in crafting this collection are leaders within their artisan communities, so I’m thrilled to support such inspiring Kenyans.
Collaborating over knitting designs with the leader of our knitting partnership in Nairobi at the Ngong House.
I’ll be sharing much more in the months to come, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse of what has been in the works this past year. Stay tuned for the launch of some stunning new collections that will help expand the Raven + Lily mission to empower women through design!
- Kirsten Dickerson
Photo Credit to: Melinda DiMauro