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Summer accessories that give back

May 28, 2010 |  3:16 pm

I stopped by a cute party at the Rose Café in Venice on Wednesday night for a pop-up store with an ethical bent.

The event was called A Night of Ethical Shopping, and there was jewelry for sale from Hands Up Not Handouts,  an initiative started last year by the Sager Family Foundation, which partners with women around the world in the design, production and marketing of handmade goods. (The Sager Foundation was founded in 2000 by Bob Sager after he resigned from Gordon Brothers, one of the world’s largest liquidation firms, and resolved to spend his fortune traveling the world with his family and practicing “eye-to-eye” philanthropy. Guess that’s what the liquidation business will do to you.)

The goal of Hands Up Not Handouts is to generate income for women in need. All of the proceeds from goods sold through the initiative support women and their families. The effort has led to new computers, bedding, eyeglasses, lamps and play yards for communities.

Products under the brand include a collection of disc-shaped sweet grass earrings with spiral designs, made by a women’s cooperative in Rwanda and woven cuff bracelets made by a cooperative in Palestine. 

Tessandlauren“Our travels took us to Palestine and Rwanda, where we met these cooperatives full of incredible women,” said Tess Sager, a co-founder of the initiative, who lives in Boston and plans to attend NYU in the fall. “They were making pillowcases, tablecloths and baskets, and we adapted their traditional designs for an international audience.”

In the Rwandan cooperative, “women who are wives of murderers in the genocide, or widows, are coming together and creating a better future for their children. They get 100% of the profits,“ she said.

Her experience in Palestine has been difficult in a different way. “I’m Jewish, so working  with Palestinian women is hard for a lot of other people to understand. When you first try and get to the cooperative, you have to go through this huge 20-foot wall, and it’s frustrating. It feels very forbidden and it aggravates me.”

At the party, guests were snapping up the $50 earrings and bracelets at a good clip, and a grand total of $8,500 was raised at the event, which next moves to London, Paris and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. (You can order the goods online here.)

Also on offer: tote bags from Lauren Bush’s Feed Projects, which raises funds for school-feeding operations around the world. “We started about 3 ½ years ago and since then have been able to raise enough funds to provide over 55 million school meals,” Bush said at the event. “Going forward, we’re looking to expand our product line and support different causes.”

FEED bags are available all over, including Whole Foods stores. Bush also recently launched a limited-edition series of summery totes for Lord and Taylor in New York. The amazing-looking ikat-print totes are made by artisans in Guatemala and a portion of proceeds from the $35 bags go to support UNICEF’s nutrition programs in Guatemala. You can buy them here.

--Booth Moore


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Top photo: Bracelets and earrings sold through the Hands Up Not Handouts initiative. Credit: Jesse Grant/WireImage

Bottom photo: Tess Sager, left, and Lauren Bush. Credit: Jesse Grant\WireImage