Five Amazing Women-owned and Values-based Businesses

By Shaina Shealy

1. Laura Siegel Collection was founded by Laura Siegel, a designer based in NYC who collaborates with   female artisans in Asia and Latin America to create ethically handcrafted, easy to wear apparel. Laura has travelled around the globe to identify skilled artisans with unique production methods. She recently collaborated with embroidery artisans associated with a women’s craft collective in Kutch, India called Qasab. The craftswomen embellished various pieces in Laura’s collection — the collaboration was a mutual learning exchange as the craftswomen taught Laura about their cultural heritage and Laura validated their skills in a global market. As a designer, Laura’s mission is to design ethically handcrafted easy-to-wear, textured designer pieces while enabling artisans in developing countries to preserve their unique, creative skills. The shawls and jackets in her spring 2012 collection are stunning – her use of natural dyes creates an organic pattern that is impossible to replicate by machine.

2. The founder of Zkano, Gina, is from Fort Payne, a small town in AL which was known as the sock capital of the world until outsourcing depleted the local textile tradition. Gina’s family had been in the sock making business when she realized she could incorporate her own passion for organic and green living into sock-making. Gina takes pride in continuing her family’s trade while maintaining her passion for organic, sustainable textiles. With Zkano, Gina delivers a product that’s both high quality and comfortable, and educates as many people as possible about the benefits of using organic cotton as opposed to conventional. I have a few pairs of Zkano’s socks with funky stripes and colors that I like to show off under ankle boots, but my favorite pair are  these classics that provide plenty of cushion for my feet during long runs. I became intrigued with the social and economic consequences of conventional vs organic cotton when I was in India (it’s a long story), and was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Zkano’s collection in my hometown’s outdoor market shortly after after I returned to  the US.

3. Pure Citizen, founded by Amy Ludwigson, is a platform that promotes mission-based and values-driven brands via flash sales. The companies featured by Pure Citizen are changing the world for the better with contributions that range from providing economic opportunities for marginalized communities and building safe drinking wells in developing countries, to reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture and creating healthy, non-toxic products. Pure Citizen was born out of Amy’s dedication to social justice, fair trade, animal rights and environmental sustainability, and her belief that individual consumers can harness the economic power to create real change in the world. Pure Citizen is driven by Amy’s commitment to providing education, health and opportunity for people throughout the world, and educating consumers about companies that are dedicated to doing so as well. I’m addicted to checking out purecitizen.com every morning to learn about new, exciting brands that are making the world a better place!

4Dear Kate (formerly known as Underbrella) began as a class project for Julie Sygiel while an undergrad at Brown University. Drawing on her background in chemical engineering, she developed a patent-pending fabric technology that is absorbent, leak resistant, and stain proof. She sewed this super soft fabric into women’s underwear, creating the perfect back-up for that time of the month. She began selling the Sexy Period line in 2011, and is now preparing to re-launch in November under the name Dear Kate (Dearkates.com), appealing to a broader market, including new moms, older women, athletes, and teens. All undergarments are made in NYC. I haven’t gotten my hands on a pair of these yet, but I cannot count the times that I wish I had worn them to save me from embarrassment!

5. Halle Butvin founded One Mango Tree with the belief that economic empowerment provides the foundation necessary for achieving sustainable peace and development. Halle was visiting Uganda when she discovered talented artisans throughout the stall’s of Gulu’s central market. She quickly realized that connecting these artisans to a global marketplace could have tremendous potential to contribute to the economic and social empowerment of women in the region. She created a business model that goes beyond fair trade to create jobs and improve quality of life in areas of Uganda affected by conflict and civil war. One Mango Tree’s model consists of identifying talented artisans, providing targeted design assistance and training to improve marketability, connecting artisans to a global marketplace, and educating consumers about the consequences of their consumer choices. I constantly get compliments on my Kitange clutch, but am eager to step into a dress made from organic cotton, one of the more of the recent additions to the One Mango Tree collection.

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