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Spring Maker Series: Raven and Lily

by Magnolia
Published on March 22, 2022

We've been taking a look at a few of our vendors who have nurtured their products and their craft, all while holding firm to the values they've had from day one.

Next up in the series: Raven + Lily.

Based in Austin, Texas, Raven + Lily is a Certified B Corporation accessories brand that partners with independently-run, female-led businesses all over the world. They have been a vendor at Magnolia for several years, and we’ve always been inspired by how they invest in communities, encourage artistry, and lead with curiosity. We recently sat down with Kinda Lincoln (CEO), Kristen Caron (Creative Director), and Mercedez Pérez-García (Director of Merchandising + Partnerships) to hear how the company began, what values keep them grounded, and why a global perspective is foundational to their mission.

Magnolia: Can you share the backstory of how Raven + Lily started?

Kinda Lincoln: Raven + Lily was started by a team of designers who wanted to build a meaningful connection between women artisans who create accessories and the women who wear them. That was over 12 years ago. We marry traditional craft with natural materials and a modern design. Our inspiration has always been, and still is, our artisan partners. We work with a community of over 500 artisans around the world, 70% of whom are women.

Raven + Lily is committed to not only using natural, sustainable materials, but also making a social impact by being a female-led company. Why is that important to the mission?

Mercedez Pérez-García: I was looking for my next step, coming out of a very corporate, luxury fashion world. That world doesn’t typically support work-life balance. Then I came to Raven + Lily. That openness and perspective of being women-run and working with women-owned partners—just the way we approach problems and the solution-oriented mindset we take—allows for more creativity as we push the company forward.

KL: It’s also so rewarding to see our artisan partners and the care they give to building their teams. The thought that goes into setting their policies for mothers or giving paid maternity leave—there’s just so much care that goes into supporting women who create these beautiful products. And when women feel supported, they can reach a better balance between career, family, and doing great things for their community.

Can you talk about the quality of your product—how it’s made and what makes it stand out?

Kristen Caron: I've worked with companies where they have large factories, and a lot of things can be made by machines and computers. But when I went to work with one of our artisan partners in Ethiopia, she started to show me how they were working on some tassels for our handbags. The team was cutting and rolling each of those leather strips to create that tassel—and they were perfect. In other places, it's not necessarily always done like that. To see so many young women working on products in a way that's very hands-on and at a very high level is incredibly impressive. We love that our company celebrates handcrafted techniques and can share them with our customers.

MPG: When I went to visit and was watching how they work, hand-cutting the leather and sewing, they were also doing wear tests—seeing how much can actually fit into this bag. I came from a corporate background and there were crazy testing standards. But to see that standard tested by the people who made the product was amazing. We also offer up to one year of wear-and-tear use and we’ll replace the product for you. That’s just another step we put in line to make sure that we’re supporting our products’ durability.

Are there unique challenges that come with your business model?

KL: As a Certified B Corporation and as a Fair-Trade Federation member, we are held to a higher standard. So we must meet these recertifications and transparency thresholds. That guides us throughout the rest of the year and informs our daily decision-making.

We’re also intentional in choosing what we design for a particular artisan partner in terms of their technique—preserving the traditional craft that they're practicing. We honor what materials can be regionally or locally sourced before we design the products that they will create for us. This takes more time and patience on our part in terms of prioritizing regular communication with them to ensure that orders are on track, shipping will be on time, and so on. It just requires a lot more production planning.

As you continue to grow and look ahead to where Raven + Lily is going, what are some of the values that you won’t compromise?

MPG:  For me–working on the product, merchant, and client side–it’s ensuring that our artisans and our team are taken care of, and that we're not doing anything that will compromise relationships or what those studios stand for. We're never going to push the artisans or our team to a place that isn’t healthy. We’ve been FTF certified (Fair Trade Federation) since 2013 and a Certified B Corporation since 2014, so upholding those extremely high standards has become part of our day-to-day. I don’t think those will ever go away for us. Those values are foundational to who we are.

KC:  Creating products with people who carry the same values we do—who take the environment and social impact into consideration and respect each other across the board—is important to us. And being able to maintain that healthy relationship with our artisan partners is really important to us. They are the soul of the business. I don't see us compromising in that area. It feels like we're on the same team.

KL:  With our B Corp certification, we made commitments–—it’s part of our charter and legal structure, so those are things we can’t stray away from. But our commitment also includes economic opportunities for women and using natural and locally sourced or upcycled materials. We have a 1% give back that supports the communities in which we work. Those commitments are very much a part of our brand and our business model.

What are some of the advantages of having artisan partners all over the world?

KL: Growing up in a small town, I always wanted to see the world. I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively and live in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the UK. When I think about how that has enriched my life and impacted my point of view, I want to be able to bring that to the team so that as a brand, we can keep broadening our horizons. From the beginning, our business was built on this global concept where there are so many interesting perspectives at play. Even just seeing the different perspectives within our own team—over half of our headquarters team is from underrepresented social groups. We have such a beautiful story to tell because of that, and our story continues to unfold.

KC: When the three of us started working together, we wanted to expand the diversity of our artisan partners and creative collaborators. We wanted more people who shared our passion but from a variety of backgrounds, countries and ethnicities. As soon as we shared that, many people started to approach us and wanted to work with us. It felt like a natural step for us to invite this evolving and diverse group of artists and creators who held fresh perspectives and brought with them a wealth of experiences.

MPG: We’ve all lived abroad at one point in our lives and appreciate the value of diving into other cultures and perspectives. For the sake of the brand and for our customers, we want to keep pushing ourselves forward—to keep that fire of curiosity alive.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

shop raven + lily at magnolia