Compassionate designers have for years donated a portion of their proceeds to nonprofits near and dear to them. But what was once a small philanthropic gesture has blossomed into an all-encompassing altruistic pursuit not only to help organizations, but also to teach individual beneficiaries design skills that lead to living wage employment. Jewelry designer Amanda Sterett hired refugees through Catholic Charities of Dallas to make her earrings and necklaces. Paula Minnis, founder of Dallas-based Gaia Empowered Women, teaches refugees and victims of domestic violence how to cut and sew her line of repurposed cloth napkins and glue agate stones to napkin rings. She then hires them as independent contractors. “Unlocking a woman’s potential is crucial to the prosperity of a community as a whole,” Minnis says. Other designers employ villagers in Africa and Asia. “Our products are handmade start to finish in Kenya,” says jewelry designer Ashley Pittman. “All artisans receive a fair and living wage for their work, allowing them to build better homes and living conditions, and to create educational opportunities for their children,” the Hockaday alum says. University of North Texas graduate Kimberly Hartman, creator of JadeTribe, couldn’t agree more. Hartman hires Thai, Laotian, and Cambodian women to produce her textile-heavy handbags and jewelry. “I was so touched by these women, and I wanted to help them have financial freedom,” Hartman says. The right accessory can make an outfit. It can also make a difference in someone’s life.

(clockwise from top left)
1. Ashley Pittman brass stud bangle in light and dark horn, $395 each; matte bangle in light and dark horn, $190 each; gemstone and stud bangle in light and dark horn, $825 each. All available at Neiman Marcus, NorthPark Center. 

2. Amanda Sterett Julia red garnet necklace, $90; Rachel purple amethyst necklace, $455. All available at Elaine Turner, NorthPark Center; Stephanie Ann, Highland Park Village; and Melanie Gayle, Snider Plaza. 

3. Gaia napkin rings, four for $46. Available at Madison, Highland Park Village. 

4. JADETribe Elizabeth Messenger bag, $298. Available at Cabana.

To learn about these design companies and the people they help, visit their websites: gaiaforwomen.com , jadetribe.com , ashleypittman.com , and amandasterett.com .