Brave Collective offers beautiful clothing, sense of community
With the opening of Brave Collective in Kruse Village, Jennifer Riker has brought a whole new retail experience to Lake Oswego.
Like other women's clothing stores, Brave Collective offers women's clothing and accessories, as well as cards, books and other gift items. But the similarity stops there. Riker has brought a fresh new component to the store: a sense of community.
The Kruse Village shop is Riker's second; the original store was opened two and a half years ago in Bend, where Riker lives. The store specializes in carrying products made for women by women, and its vendors — such as Sudara and Bronwen Handcrafted Jewelry — promote social well-being around the world.
"My intentions are always about women first," Riker says. "I want to help women designers and artisans succeed, and that all starts with community."
New store focuses on making shopping more meaningful
Sudara founder Shannon Keith had visited India and heard many stories of women who were sold into sex slavery. The women lacked education and the resources and skills to have a choice.
Knowing that safe, steady and living-wage employment would be a pathway to freedom for the women, Keith formed a small team of family and friends in 2006 and partnered with a sewing center in India to teach women to sew a pattern for Punjammies, or loungewear pants. Now, a dozen years later, multiple sewing center partnerships have been made and hundreds of women have found freedom through living-wage employment. Many of the women have graduated from the training programs and started their own tailoring business, others have taken technology or cosmetology courses (also offered at the center) and found jobs in those fields.
Sudara creates clothing for women, men and children, all made by the women at the sewing centers.
Bronwen Handcrafted Jewelry is the brainchild of Bronwen Lodato, a Bend resident who has been making jewelry for as long as she can remember. As an Outward Bound instructor, she says she began fielding requests for jewelry that was "strong enough to withstand the rigors of the outdoors but still be delicate enough to feel sexy."
She launched the "active jewelry" line 12 years ago. Lodato herself is fueled by outdoor adventure to stoke her creativity and world travel to inform her collections. On the website bronwenjewelry.com, the company says it believes it is its responsibility to use fairly traded materials that support local economies. Environmental and social equity is not a marketing strategy, the company says, but a responsibility of conducting business.
Riker says that sense of responsibility and community carries forward in the events Brave Collective hosts. Recently at the Bend store, a fundraiser was held for a mother with cancer and 400 people attended. Riker says photos were taken of the attendees so that the woman could see who came to the event. Riker said the woman recognized the support she had from the community, even though she didn't know many of those pictured.
At another event, a team of Brave Collective employees volunteered to teach fourth- and fifth-grade students at a Bend school the difference between refugees and immigrants, then asked them to create art that could be sold to benefit Mercy Corps. More than 500 pieces of art were donated to the project.
"This was all on their own," Riker says. "It wasn't a school project. The children went home and told their parents about what they had learned and they created the art. Things come out of things, and I know the Lake Oswego store will continue that trend of community support."
When shoppers enter Brave Collective, Riker hopes they will feel welcomed, supported and celebrated. Personal shopping assistance is available, and Riker says items in the store are accessibly priced.
"We want to make every woman's day better," she says. "If her day is better, she'll make her husband's day better, and her children's. It all impacts life at home."
To introduce the community to Brave Collective, a trunk show of Sudara and Bronwen clothing and accessories will be held from 2-6 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, at the store, located at 4835 Mercantile Drive, Suite 143, in Lake Oswego's Kruse Village.
A third Brave Collective will open in Cedar Mill's Timberland Town Center later this spring. For more information on all the shops, visit shopbrave.com.