By Rita Cook
For Cedar Hill resident and fashion forward artist/designer Lori Fox growing up in the Dallas suburb of Cedar Hill meant, in her words having a good childhood, adolescence and young adult life.
“My upbringing early on was focused on helping the elderly and poor,” she explains. “I would go with my mom or school or youth group to visit the elderly at the nursing home, or help out at the Cedar Hill food pantry. Me and my mom didn't have a lot of money growing up either, but she always taught to still help others as much as I could and be resourceful and creative with what I had in front of me.”
These days she is continuing what she was taught as a child by working with a fashion designer group in Austin called Raven + Lily (R+L). www.ravenandlily.com
Left to Right Zia: Double Morocco Earrings, Eden: Fusion Silver Tube Bracelet, Nimol: Make-up Bag: Chartreuse Tassel Print,
“I originally started volunteering with them while living in Los Angeles,” she explains. “After the founder moved to Austin and we received funding to expand the company, they were able to hire me as their full-time designer.”
(Left) Lori Fox working with women in Ethiopia (Right) Working with bead makers in Ethiopia
By full-time designer that meant, for Fox, also being able to empower women around the globe since R+L is a socially responsible brand dedicated to empowering women through design partnerships and sustainable economic opportunities.
“We go after women who have no other chance for employment, which includes situations of being infected with HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, gender discrimination, class discrimination, and the like,”
Fox says. “We will soon be adding a refugee group to our team. We believe in the beauty and power of women all over the world and want to offer them the opportunity to grow and thrive and support their families. We have chosen these places because we have personal relationships with them from past experiences.”
(Left) Lori Fox working in India (Right) working with women in India
Fox says when she visits these women she works with them on developing new designs, going into the markets to source new materials for future designs and working with the women on sample development. “I am constantly working in the future,” she explains currently designing Fall/Winter 2013 collections with the various women’s groups around the world.
“I travel to Ethiopia, India, and Cambodia to work with our women twice a year,” she says. “This is the part I love most because I am able to see first-hand how doing business with these women is radically changing their lives and living conditions. It's inspiring and exciting to see how when you just take the skills that you know how to do, and combine it with materials that are right in front of you, and use it for the good of others, it really does make the world a better place.”
Locally, Raven+Lily products can be found at Houston Street Outfitters in Old Town Cedar Hill where the store is carrying Fox’s Ethiopian recycled bullet jewelry collection, among other fair trade products.
Fox says she uses about 90% local materials for all the designs in each country. “Before we joined with the groups we surveyed what skills they already had and what materials they had available to them,” she explains. “Based on those things we developed collections. Doing business this way cuts our carbon emissions dramatically.
We also use recycled metals for our Ethiopia collection. Bullets are melted down and turned into beads. I love that something that was once used for harm is now being recycled and turned into something that not only celebrates the uniqueness and resourcefulness of the place it was made in, but also provides hope through employment opportunities.”
Another example, in India all the paper goods are recycled from used paper, denim, old army tents and waste from the textile/garment industry. For final product packaging Raven+Lily always uses recycled paper for tags, brochures and bags.
“I think these huge global issues can be very overwhelming most of the time and it used to cause me to shut down,” Fox concludes. “Then I realized, we are all contributing to these issues in some way, so I started recycling, taking my batteries to the proper recycle station, conserving water, using reusable grocery bags and becoming more aware of the companies I was purchasing from.
This felt very empowering to me to not just be a silent consumer, but one who could effect change by my actions and by voting with my dollars every time I purchase something.” Overall Fox says she is happy she has been able to merge her passions of humanitarian work with the design business since it just feels right.
For more information about Raven + Lily go to www.ravenandlily.com
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Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org